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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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Grow TFU

Adulting Like You Mean It

Commuters makes its debut on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Jared Warner, Nick Ciavarella, and Tim Dean were once a part of Murderfist, a group of comedy writers, actors, producers, parents, and reluctant adults. Together with InstaMiniSeries’s Nikki Borges, they’re making their IFC Comedy Crib debut with the refreshingly-honest and joyfully-hilarious Commuters. The webseries follows thirtysomethings Harris and Olivia as they brave the waters of true adulthood, and it’s right on point.

Jared, Nick, Nikki and Tim were kind enough to answer a few questions about Commuters for us. Here’s a snippet of that conversation…

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

Nick: Two 30-somethings leave the Brooklyn life behind, and move to the New Jersey suburbs in a forced attempt to “grow up.” But they soon find out they’ve got a long way to go to get to where they want to be.

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

Jared: It’s a show about how f*cking stupid people who think they are smart can be.

IFC: What’s your origin story? When did you all meet and how long have you been working together?

Jared: Nick, Tim, and I were all in the sketch group Murderfist since, what, like 2004? God. Anyway, Tim and Nick left the group to pursue other frivolous things, like children and careers, but we all enjoyed writing together and kept at it. We were always more interested in storytelling than sketch comedy lends itself to, which led to our webseries Jared Posts A Personal. That was a show about being in your 20s and embracing the chaos of being young in the city. Commuters is the counterpoint, i guess. Our director Adam worked at Borders (~THE PAST!!~) with Tim, came out to a Murderfist show once, and we’ve kept him imprisoned ever since.

IFC: What was the genesis of Commuters?

Tim: Jared had an idea for a series about the more realistic, less romantic aspects of being in a serious relationship.  I moved out of the city to the suburbs and Nick got engaged out in LA.   We sort of combined all of those facets and Commuters was the end result.

IFC: How would Harris describe Olivia?

Jared: Olivia is the smartest, coolest, hottest person in the world, and Harris can’t believe he gets to be with her, even though she does overreact to everything and has no chill. Like seriously, ease up. It doesn’t always have to be ‘a thing.’

IFC: How would Olivia describe Harris?

Nikki:  Harris is smart, confident with a dry sense of humor but he’s also kind of a major chicken shit…. Kind of like if Han Solo and Barney Rubble had a baby.

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

Nikki:  I think this is the most accurate portrayal of what a modern relationship looks like. Expectations for what your life is ‘supposed to look like’ are confusing and often a let down but when you’re married to your best friend, it’s going to be ok because you will always find a way to make each other laugh.

IFC: Is the exciting life of NYC twentysomethings a sweet dream from which we all must awake, or is it a nightmare that we don’t realize is happening until it’s over?

Tim: Now that i’ve spent time living in the suburbs, helping to raise a two year old, y’all city folk have no fucking clue how great you’ve got it.

Nikki: I think of it similar to how I think about college. There’s a time and age for it to be glorious but no one wants to hang out with that 7th year senior. Luckily, NYC is so multifaceted that you can still have an exciting life here but it doesn’t have to be just what the twentysomethings are doing (thank god).

Jared: New York City is a garbage fire.

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

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C'mon Fellas

A Man Mansplains To Men

Why Baroness von Sketch Show is a must-see.

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Mansplaining is when a man takes it upon himself to explain something to a woman that she already knows. It happens a lot, but it’s not going to happen here. Ladies, go ahead and skip to the end of this post to watch a free episode of IFC’s latest addition, Baroness von Sketch Show.

However, if you’re a man, you might actually benefit from a good mansplanation. So take a knee, lean in, and absorb the following wisdom.

No Dicks

Baroness von Sketch Show is made entirely by women, therefore this show isn’t focused on men. Can you believe it? I know what you’re thinking: how will we know when to laugh if the jokes aren’t viewed through the dusty lens of the patriarchy? Where are the thinly veiled penis jokes? Am I a bad person? In order: you will, nowhere, and yes.

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Huge Balls

Did you know that there’s more to life than poop jokes, sex jokes, body part jokes? I mean, those things are all really good things, natch, and totally edgy. But Baroness von Sketch Show does something even edgier. It holds up a brutal funhouse mirror to our everyday life. This is a bulls**t world we made, fellas.

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Oh Canada

After you watch the Canadian powerhouses of Baroness von Sketch Show and think to yourself “Dear god, this is so real” and “I’ve gotta talk about this,” do yourself a favor and think a-boot your options: Refrain from sharing your sage wisdom with any woman anywhere (believe us, she gets it). Instead, tell a fellow bro and get the mansplaining out of your system while also spreading the word about a great show.

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Dudes, that’s the deal.
Women, start reading again here:


Check out the preview episode of Baroness von Sketch Show and watch the series premiere August 2 on IFC.

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Happy Tears

Binge Don’t Cringe

Catch up on episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia.

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Photo Credit: GIFs via GIPHY

A brain can only take so much.

Every five minutes, all day, every day, ludicrously stressful headlines push our mental limits as we struggle to adapt to a reality that seems increasingly less real. What’s a mind to do when simple denial just isn’t good enough anymore?

Radical suggestion: repeal and replace. And by that we mean take all the bad news that keeps you up at night, press pause, and substitute it with some genuine (not nervous, for a change) laughter. Here are some of the issues on our mind.

Gender Inequality

Feminist bookstore owners by day, still feminist bookstore owners by night, Toni and Candace show the male gaze who’s boss. Learn about their origin story (SPOILER: there’s an epic dance battle) and see what happens when their own brand of empowerment gets out of hand.

Healthcare

From Candace’s heart attack to the rise of the rawvolution, this Portlandia episode proves that healthcare is vital.

Peaceful Protests

Too many online petitions, too little time? Get WOKE with Fred and Carrie when they learn how to protest.

What Could Have Been

Can’t say the name “Clinton” without bursting into tears? Documentary Now!’s masterfully political “The Bunker” sheds a cozy new light on the house that Bill and Hill built. Just pretend you don’t know how the story really ends.

Fake News

A healthy way to break the high-drama news cycle is to switch over to “Dronez”, which has all the thrills of ubiquitous adventure journalism without any of the customary depression.

The more you watch, the better you feel. So get started on past episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia right now at IFC.com and the IFC app.

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