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Shaker Heights' David Wain Honors Chagrin Falls' Doug Kenney in 'A Futile and Stupid Gesture'

Shaker Heights native David Wain is best known for his cult classic about a fictional summer camp,  Wet Hot American Summer.  But this week Wain is at Sundance premiering his new film based on a true story,  A Futile and Stupid Gesture.

It's about another guy from Northeast Ohio, Chagrin Falls' Doug Kenney, co-founder of National Lampoon magazine and writer of comedies Animal House and Caddyshack

"We started this journey of discovering how this guy who most people don't know his name was actually one of the architects of modern comedy," Wain said.

Being from Northeast Ohio, Wain realized he had a lot in common with Kenney.

"We had a similar path.  He grew up in Ohio as I did.  He went to the East Coast to try to try to be part of that society as I did.  And then he stuck around with his college friends and made jokes for a living instead of getting a real job as I did," he said.

Will Forte as Doug Kenney and David Wain on set of "A Futile and Stupid Gesture" [credit: John P. Fleenor]

At the heart of the film is the relationship between Kenney and National Lampoon co-founder Henry Beard.

"Clearly they were a yin and yang to each other.  The film is as much a story of their friendship and its ups and downs as it is about comedy," he said.

Cast as Kenney is Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte while Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson plays Beard.

"It's a beautiful performance.  The two of them together is for my money worth the price of admission," he said.

One of Wain's favorite parts of making the film was recreating scenes from Kenney's two comedy classics,  Animal House and Caddyshack.

"It was a blast especially since these were movies I loved and grew up on and studied as a fan as a kid," he said.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture premieres at Sundance this week before it debuts on Netflix this Friday.

David Wain comes to home to Cleveland, Friday, March 2, for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.

Listen to the full audio:


Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.