By Shawn McKenzie 07/04/2005
Sometimes you have to warm up to a new show, especially when it is something a little too odd. Comedy Central’s “Stella” might be one of those shows.
I’d like to say that this is a sitcom, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet. It stars Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain, all playing themselves, as three goofballs who always dress in suits and who all appear to not have jobs. In the premiere episode, they have ticked off their landlord, Mr. Don Mueller (Peter McRobbie), whom they called a Nazi. After an argument between Showalter and Wain over what they want to listen to that night…funk or funk rock…Black suggests that they listen to funk rock instead of funk rock (one of the many odd occurrences that has no explanation, like the fact that Black gets them into an accident not once but twice…on purpose.) Anyway…their downstairs neighbors, Karen (Rashida Jones), Jennifer (Andrea Rosen), and Stacy (Heidi Neurauter), complain that the noise is too loud, so Mr. Mueller has them evicted. They live on the street for a night, sharing a kidney bean sliced in three pieces and served with toothpicks (complete with a full array of condiments) until the downstairs neighbors suggest that they find another place. They find a nice apartment that they want, and the co-op broker, Libby Green (Laura Interval), tells them that they have to convince the co-op board that they are suitable tenants. All the while, Wain has fallen in love with Libby, who loves him too, and is willing to leave her husband, Edward Norton (as himself), and their kids, for Wain. At the board meeting, the three guys put on a weird dance routine (reminiscent of Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” music video), wearing skunk tails, for the co-op president (Justin Lord) and the other two board members (Ron Gordon and Linda Miller.) It impresses them, and they ask for the three million-dollar purchase price fee. Realizing that they can’t afford that, the guys put on fake mustaches and pretend to be business tycoons in order to try to get their old apartment back. Mr. Mueller is about to let them take the apartment, when he sees that the guys are actually the trio in disguise, and he has a heart attack. In a really gross scene, the trio perform open-heart surgery on their landlord, using a butter knife and a straw. They predictably kill Mr. Mueller, but a stranger named Elliot Morgenthal (Zak Orth) from the Leventhal Foundation arrives not long after and informs them that Mr. Mueller was the famous Nazi physician Dr. Josef Mengele (who had actually died in 1979.) To show the Foundation’s appreciation, they agree to pay the trio’s rent for three months, plus they give them a toaster, a wicker laundry hamper from Pier One, and some fleece pullovers.
In the second episode, the trio are bored, so they want to do fun stuff, like ride their skateboards in front of their apartment building and have clothes fights with other people’s clothes in the laundry room. When the residence board president, Bob Feldman, comes down on them for doing their fun things, they decide to run Black for residence board president in the building’s upcoming election against him. Black asks Showalter to be his campaign manager, and they both assign Wain to the position of intern. Wain feels underappreciated in his position, but when Bob invites him to dinner at his family’s apartment, Wain starts to feel valued. It is at this time that Bob asks Wain to do something underhanded to stop the Black campaign. Wain has to decide whether or not he will go through with it. Meanwhile, Showalter has noticed that power has gone to Black’s head, and he tries to convince Black to think about the little people…namely Wain.
Stella is the name of a three-man comedy troupe from New York City that has performed together in nightclubs since 1997. All three of them were in The State, an eleven-person comedy troupe who had a hilarious sketch show on MTV (airing 1993-1995), but have since gone their separate ways. Black was best known as the annoying Phil Stubbs on the NBC show “Ed” and as the voice of the dog puppet on the Pets.com commercials; Showalter has appeared in the movies Kissing Jessica Stein (2001) and Signs (2002); Wain seems to have had more success behind the camera than in front. In 2001, Wain directed and co-wrote (with Showalter) the summer camp parody Wet Hot American Summer. Showalter and Black starred in it (Wain’s scenes were deleted), along with other members of The State, and it has become a cult hit, if not a hugely successful movie. I personally thought that it was just okay…but its one of those movies that I’d have to check out again (I always thought that it was weird that they decided to parody a comedy, most notably 1979’s Meatballs.)
That’s one of those things that you as a viewer will have to do as well with this show. At first, “Stella” will confuse you as you try to figure it out, but with repeated viewings, you will get to like it (the show repeats several times during the week on Comedy Central.) The second episode is a little less confusing than the first one, but it is still just as absurd. The press materials for the show describe the trio as a modern Marx Brothers trio, which is actually accurate when you watch it (I don’t know if that is true or just the power of suggestion, but I would agree with it.) Give it a shot…it currently airs after “Reno 911” (another show that has several alumni from The State.)
DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!
Try to catch this show every week...
If a better show is on, tape this one...
If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...
If this show is on, change the channel immediately!