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Pitchfork Music Festival Sat Jul 17 2010

Review: Michael Showalter @ Pitchfork, 7/16

Because I don't have cable television, I rely on my small movie collection to get me through those times when PBS doesn't deliver. A few weeks ago, I hauled out my copy of Wet Hot American Summer, the 2001 comedy masterpiece written by former The State members David Wain and Michael Showalter. As I watched it, I thought how great it was that Showalter and many of his talented former State castmates have had steady work in the industry (Party Down, Stella, Reno 911).

When Pitchfork announced its comedy lineup for this weekend's festival at Union Park, I was excited to see Showalter on the bill. I made my way through the crowd, found a nice place to watch the set, and for the next 30 minutes, I watched a surprisingly painful and embarrassing performance that made me wonder if after all the brilliant ensemble work he's done, Showalter works best in a scripted, more controlled setting.

Onstage, Showalter was unprepared, combative, and seemingly scared and overwhelmed by both the venue and the expectation to make the audience laugh. He brought a laptop, and in the first minutes threatened to do a DJ set in lieu of his material, playing snippets of Hall and Oates' "Rich Girl" to a near-silent audience. He reached further into his unamusing bag of tricks, telling promising yet half-baked bits about sex on airplanes, being called a "smelly hipster," and the slow pace of World Cup soccer games. People started leaving.

Nervous from the weak audience reaction, Showalter started getting desperate and began asking for requests from the audience -- a weird tactic, as he's known for his sketchwork, which doesn't translate well in the rambling environment of standup. Several people yelled for his "Doug" character from The State days, which he angrily refused to do; he also got into a pissy exchange with another audience member who asked for his Wet Hot Borscht Belt comic Alan Shemper -- a character that Showalter has done live before. It was obvious at this moment that the audience was trying to coax Showalter into more familiar territory in order to see a good show, not the tense and awful display before us -- but Showalter gave up and politely ended his set 15 minutes earlier than scheduled, concluding that he was going to go "drink himself to death." Cry me a river, dude.

Click here for more interviews and coverage from the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival.

Photos by weeklydig.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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  Chicago Music Media

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