Stella is a comedy trio consisting of Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, and David Wain (all three of whom are alumni of the comedy troupe, The State). The group formed in 1997 as a weekly nightclub comedy attraction, performing at a New York City nightclub from 1997 until 2005. Stella soon gained a wider cult following after a series of self-produced shorts were released in limited quantities on DVD. Now known for their unique blend of potently mainstream comedy and surrealist humor, Stella has garnered a small but dedicated fanbase.

A noted aspect of Stella’s stand-up routine involved the members arguing with each other on stage. Michael Ian Black once referred to it as, ‘professional bickering,’ which some have compared to a ‘postmodern Smothers Brothers.’ Michael Showalter once said of their onstage bickering, ‘When people aren’t sure if what they’re watching is real or not, it kind of creates a tension. We have a certain amount of tension that’s very ripe comedically.’

Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, and David Wain met at New York University where they all participated in the school’s improv comedy club, ‘Sterile Yak.’ Other members of Sterile Yak include Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Robert Ben Garant, and Joe Lo Truglio (all of which would later star in Reno 911) who would all become members of the MTV series, The State. After The State ended, Black, Showalter, and Wain decided to join together and form a stand-up comedy troupe. The group originally performed under the name Midnight Expressions. They changed the name to Stella when they got their first gig at the New York City nightclub, Fez, because the manager who hired them was pregnant at the time, and Stella was to be the name of her daughter.

From 1998 to 2004 the troupe produced, wrote, and starred in 27 short films, originally intended for screenings at the group’s live stage shows. They quickly became popular after being hosted on the internet through CollegeHumor and have since been distributed freely online by fans on video sharing websites such as YouTube and Dailymotion. Some of the actors to guest star in the shorts include Sam Rockwell, Paul Rudd, and Elizabeth Banks, as well as several members of Stella’s alma mater The State, such as Joe Lo Truglio.

Before ever appearing on Comedy Central, Stella made a pilot to VH1 called ‘Every Night.’ It was a late night talk show that included sketch comedy, improv, and material from their shortfilms. The show was not picked up by VH1. Stella had two brief stints on Comedy Central, the first as a one-time Comedy Central Presents adaptation of their stage show in 2004. And in 2005, the network commissioned ten half-hour episodes from the group, as the television series ‘Stella.’ The resulting episodes were a blend of jokes and vignettes from the Stella shorts combined with new material. Each episode had a story arc, a change of pace from their short films which would frequently derail themselves entirely from any semblance of a storyline and make little effort to resolve or arc. As well as starring in the series, the troupe wrote every episode, with Wain directing three.

Though Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black and David Wain have yet to appear in a feature film as their Stella alter-egos, the three have frequently collaborated on a number of feature films, including: ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ (2001) – Directed by Wain, co-written by Showalter and Wain, starring Showalter and Black, and ‘The Baxter’ (2005) – Written, directed by and starring Showalter. Black and Wain both have supporting acting roles. The three have also appeared in the movie ‘Reno 911: Miami.’


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