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Back to Camp

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Wet Hot American Summer

Go back to camp with Wet Hot American Summer this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Studios/Everett Collection

It’s been 15 years since Wet Hot American Summer graced American cinema and basically changed comedy. Since then, almost everyone’s become a star and the film has become an underground favorite. Not too shabby for a movie with a talking can of vegetables. As you revisit Wet Hot American Summer on IFC this month, here are some facts you didn’t know about the alt-comedy cult classic.

1. Critics Hated It

Universal
Universal

Despite going to Sundance, no one picked up Wet Hot American Summer for distribution and the paltry deal the filmmakers eventually got only had the film showed on 30 screens nationwide. The critics did not help matters. Most cult favorites have a couple of bad reviews, but Wet Hot was called “a model of how not to make anything” and the Washington Post wrote, “This is supposed to be funny? It was so depressing I almost started to cry.” The late Ebert wrote his scathing review as a parody of the summer camp standard “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda.” Though a parody of an already 40 year old novelty song isn’t the best way to criticize something for being unfunny, the critics’ hatred was real and halted any success the film could have had in theaters.


2. It Launched Bradley Cooper and Elizabeth Banks

Universal
Universal

Despite the tiny opening, Wet Hot became a huge cult hit on DVD and helped to launch several careers. Elizabeth Banks had only had a bit part in Shaft and a role in Surrender Dorothy, a film sadly with nothing to do with The Wizard of Oz and lots to do with heroin. Bradley Cooper had just finished school at the Actor’s Studio and had to miss his graduation because he was on set. Hopefully he enjoyed making out with Michael Ian Black more than hearing James Lipton drone on at a commencement ceremony.


3. Even the Can of Vegetables is Famous

Universal
Universal

The can of mixed vegetables (the role is officially credited as can of mixed vegetables) was voiced by H. Jon Benjamin. If the voice sounds familiar, it’s because Benjamin is a voiceover superstar. Currently, he stars as the voice of Sterling Archer in Archer and Bob Belcher in Bob’s Burgers, plus many other roles.


4. It Was Filmed in a Real Life Camp

Universal
Universal

Camp Firewood wasn’t a set — it was a real summer camp in Pennsylvania called Camp Towanda. And the cast didn’t just film there. David Wain, Michael Showalter, Janeane Garofalo and the rest of the Wet Hot gang all lived in the camp for the whole month of filming. Bonded by the nasty weather, the cast got back to their childlike roots and constantly partied. According to Amy Poehler, “All we would do all day is talk about what we were going to drink and smoke at night. All. Day. Long.”


5. Wet Hot was Wet and Cold, All of the Time

Universal
Wet Hot American Summer

Though the cast got along famously, the shoot was not easy. Filmed in May, the crew expected warm weather and instead got constant rain. Though reports vary, it rained between 21 to 24 out of 28 days of shooting and it was always cold. Not easy when half of your scenes are outdoors and all the costumes are either cut off jean shorts or bikinis.


6. Hank Azaria Went to Camp Towanda

Universal
Universal

During filming, Janeane Garofalo saw a bunk plaque inscribed with the name “Hank Azaria.” It turns out Azaria, known for his voices on The Simpsons and many other roles (like IFC’s upcoming comedy series Brockmire) went to the real life Camp Towanda from ages 6-15. Garofalo honored his time there by adding his last name to her roll call list in the cafeteria scene.


7. The Original Cut Had More Christopher Meloni Screaming

In a couple of short cut scenes, Gene (Christopher Meloni) screams at a camper to just eat her corn. It makes sense why it was cut — the scenes are short and not important to the story. But now everyone can see the glory of Christopher Meloni screaming at a vegan.


8. The Crashing the Van into a Tree Scene Actually Happened

A lot of the script was based on David Wain’s experiences at a summer camp in Maine. The scene where Victor is driving the van back to camp in order to make out with Abby played out exactly the same way in real life. As a camp counselor, Wain was so excited to make out, he hurriedly drove the van back to the main camp ground and wound up crashing into a tree. Hopefully Wain was singing “Danny’s Song” as sweetly as Ken Marino at the time of the crash.


9. The Original Script Had More Murder

Universal
Universal

In the film, Andy throws the swim buddies of the kids that drowned into the forest to cover up his crime. Though a dark concept, the scene is played super goofy and light. In the original script, Andy would take the kids to the woods and shoot them in the head. It was so brutal, David Wain’s dad said he would disown him if it was kept in the film.


10. There’s a Documentary, Prequel and Sequel to the Film

Hurricane of Fun is a documentary compiled from hours of behind the scenes footage shot in the spring of 2001. You see the cast living in crappy bunk beds, drinking and playing a mysterious game called SNAPS. Last year, Netflix released an eight episode prequel, Wet Hot American Summer: The First Day of Camp, and has just ordered a sequel, 10 Years Later. The sequel should arrive in 2017, when we’ll see if the grown up counselors made it their beeswax to show up for a reunion.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

via GIPHY

IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

via GIPHY

IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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