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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

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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.