Comedian, actor, director, and writer Michael Showalter is probably best known for starring in the 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer; his participation in the comedy troupe, Stella; and from the ’90s, his role in the MTV show The State. But he’s also written a memoir and recorded its audiobook, and will host the Audies Gala and Awards Presentation at the New-York Historical Society. We caught up with Showalter recently to chat about audiobooks, his experience in the recording booth, and his latest projects.
Can you tell us how you got into the audiobook world?
I wrote a book that came out a year ago or so, and it’s now just recently come out in paperback, called Mr. Funny Pants with Grand Central Publishing. And we did an audiobook for it that was a lot of fun and people really liked it. Now I’m a veteran.
Was your narrating the audio edition of Mr. Funny Pants your idea or the publisher’s?
I think my book is really humor writing. In a lot of ways it has the feel of almost a standup comedy routine. My book is written very much in my own voice and with my own vernacular, so it was pretty much a no-brainer that I would do the audiobook myself rather than having, like, Sam Elliott do it.
What was the recording experience like? Was it different from the kind of acting and performing you’d done before?
It’s different because you have no audience. You’re in a recording booth, you’re in a pretty cramped sound-proof room, and it’s just you and your own voice. So you don’t have the benefit of an audience giving you laughter to help you with the rhythm of the performance. But it’s really fun. By the same token you get to really dig in and, because it’s the audio format, it allows you to get quiet and you don’t always have to be projecting outward. It’s intimate in that way.
Was it more difficult than you thought it would be? What were the biggest challenges?
It was [more difficult]. It’s grueling. You get tired. Your voice gets tired. You can get a little bleary eyed. You’re just reading and reading and reading and reading. I really thought I’d be able to do this in a couple hours, and it took three days and we were working the whole time.
Do you have any plans to narrate audiobooks again?
I would love to do it again. I am working on another book for Grand Central—that won’t be out for a while. But when we finish it, I would absolutely love to do it again.
Aside from finishing up the book and your Audies hosting duties, what are you working on now?
I’m working this summer on a feature film that I wrote with my frequent collaborator David Wain—it’s a romantic comedy and we’re shooting it in New York City.