Over 15 years since debuting as MTV's first foray into sketch comedy, "The State: The Complete Series" is finally a reality. After more than a decade of starts and stalls, the cult-classic will be available 14 July 2009 as a five-disc DVD set, complete with full cast commentary, un-aired sketches, outtakes and interviews. The often witty, occasionally absurdist, always irreverent show had a brief, storied run on MTV before the 11 members went on to create and star shows like "Reno 911!," "Viva Variety" and "Stella," to name a few.
We had a chance to speak with founding member David Wain, whose numerous credits include writing and directing "Role Models," "The Ten" and "Wet Hot American Summer." We talked about the impending DVD, its long wait and upcoming projects with him and the rest of the gang.
David Wain: Hi, this is David Wain
Cool Hunting: How are you?
I'm good. [Muffled] I'm eating a piece of sushi. I'm almost done with it too, so we can begin.
So the State DVD is finally coming out after a notoriously long wait. Is it strange to revisit this material after 15 years?
It's kind of cool. Like going back through your old high school photos, but in this case they're sketches. It's great because all of us in the group are still friends and we still work together.
The new DVD comes with an insert explaining how you couldn't license some of the original songs, so there was an involved process of changing them. Is that what took so long?
No, that had nothing to do with it. The licensing of the songs took two months. The rest of the 10 years was just the classic sort of bureaucratic bullshit. One group came in charge of MTV Home Video and we got started with the project. Then they shipped it to corporate entities, and the other one comes in and says "What is this? Why would we want to do this? Who would want to watch this on DVD?" Then its goes under [and] stops for six months. It's not an interesting answer, just classic red tape.
Would you work with them again?
These corporations are so gigantic, one department has nothing to do with another. To say I wouldn't work for Viacom [MTV's parent company] again is to say that I wouldn't work for one-third of the entertainment industry.
Did you and the rest of the group have an active hand in the song licensing process and with any changes that were made?
Very much so, they were great about that. They let all of us be very hands-on with everything about making the DVD. So we were very involved in all the mastering, the music stuff, doing the commentary, choosing the extras and everything.
Was there any music that you couldn't license that was particularly hard to part with?
There definitely was. Probably the most heartbreaking was "Cannonball" [the Breeders' 1993 single, which accompanies the infamous "Pants" sketch]. That was an example of one of the sketches that was built around a song. I directed that piece and edited it, and when we were in the edit room, I found that song and thought, "Let me just create this piece around that stock piece of music." So it is a shame, I'm not going to lie. However, I will say that we really did work hard to find replacement music where we had to that worked and really maintained the rhythm and humor of the sketches. And I think we did a decent job with it. People who have seen the DVD who didn't know the original music have commented to me about how good the music is.
Read the rest of the interview after the jump.
Aside from The State, you work as a writer, actor, producer, director, even a voice-actor. Is there one venue that feels like the most natural fit?
You know, starting with the State I've always kind of done it all at once, and that's sort of what feels the most natural to me. I think that all of those things you mentioned are parts of the same job. To me, it's like asking a tennis player, "Would you rather just do forehand, or backhand or serve?" I feel like it's all part of the same thing.
The DVD comes with an advertisement for a new show with Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black [the other two members of "Stella"]. Does mean that Stella is a thing of the past?
No, it doesn't mean that at all. There's a Stella movie in development. We might tour as early as the fall or winter.
Is there truth to the State making a feature film?
There's always internal development of various State-related projects because we've always stayed friends and always kept working together. The logistical and scheduling hurdles of a large-scale project like that are touch, but I would never say never. We did do an hour of brand new material on stage in San Francisco this past January.
And the same goes for the "Wet Hot American Summer" prequel?
That's another thing I would love to do. There's many things in the works, it's anyone's guess which ones will come to reality.
For some younger generations, the DVD will be their first exposure to the State. Is there a sketch that best sums up your brand of humor?
That's an interesting question, but I don't. By nature—almost by definition—sketch comedy is just these little slices, and [the State] is a compendium of eleven different personalities, so I don't think there can be one sketch that sums up who we are. But that's why it's so great to have the complete series on DVD. I would suggest the younger generation buy the DVD and watch the whole thing.
Thanks, David. Enjoy the rest of your sushi.
The State: The Complete Series will be available 14 July 2009 for $42 on Amazon, along with numerous other retailers.