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Stella is 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 New York City nightclub Fez from 1997 until February 2005. Stella soon gained a wider cult following after a series of self-produced short films became available online at CollegeHumor. Now known for their unique blend of potently mainstream comedy and surrealist humor, Stella has garnered a small but extremely dedicated fanbase.
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 (Reno 911) who would all become members of the MTV series, The State. (The History of Stella, Stella: Season One DVD)
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. (www.davidwain.com), (The History of Stella)
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.
On December 15, 2008, Stella premiered "Birthday", their first new short since 2004, on My Damn Channel, the website on which cast member David Wain had achieved much success with his show Wainy Days.
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 the 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.
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 plenty of new material, with each episode having an actual plot or story arc holding it all together, a change of pace from the 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. Comedy Central released the complete series on DVD in 2006 which included the complete half-hour Comedy Central Presents special, The History of Stella, and other supplemental features.
Additionally, Showalter and Black are set to return to Comedy Central in July 2009 in a new show entitled Michael and Michael Have Issues.
Shout! Factory will release this series in an uncensored format in August 2009.
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
The Baxter (2005) - Written, directed by and starring Showalter. Black and Wain both have supporting acting roles.
The Ten (2007) - Directed by Wain, co-written by Wain and Ken Marino, starring Showalter, Black and Wain in supporting roles.
The three have also appeared in the movie Reno 911: Miami.Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black as tattoo artists while David Wain played a plumber.
The group filmed their December 11, 2008 performance in Boston at the Wilbur Theatre for a future DVD release.