“It was surreal how much it felt like we were putting on a shoe we took off 15 years ago and it fit perfectly. It was a wrinkle in time. Just sitting there creating that look again and doing these kinds of jokes together with this exact grouping of people although some of us have seen each other over the years, and it was wild. And all the specific memories of making the original movie were jogged, and its hard to describe but it was a real blast.” -David Wain on revisiting Wet Hot American Summer.
David Wain, director of Wet Hot American Summer, and its brand new prequel Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp stopped by SiriusXM’s Bennington show to talk with hosts Ron Bennington and Gail Bennington about the big Netflix release.
The first film, Wain told the Benningtons was set in a narrow part of the world that not everyone experiences- predominantly Jewish sleep-away Summer Camps in the North East– but that was okay, he said because the themes in the films are universal: heart and soul, dreams, and the teenage experience. “Things are dramatic and crazy when you’re a teenager,” he said, “and the only thing that can possibly matter is, can you make out with that girl. I think everybody relates to that,” adding about his own teenage years, “I felt like every day was a three act story of drama happening and that was so heightened so to me it was the most natural place to set a movie because it already was like a drama.”
For many of the performers, the original WHAS was their first feature, which may be part of the reason everyone felt so connected. Or maybe it had something to do with the way the original film was made. Wain said, “We really were at a camp; living there in the bunks eating camp food. And it was pouring rain every day. We had nowhere to go so it was a lot of bonding, a lot of drinking. It was the first movie that most of us had ever worked on. So it was definitely, the line between being at a summer camp and filming a movie about one was very gray.”
In the years since the film was released, Wain said, the cast has stayed in touch. “We’ve stayed connected in varying degrees to every member of this giant giant cast over all the 15 years in between, so when we called them a couple of years ago and said hey we want to do this as a Netflix series, no one was like ‘who are you?’ everyone was ‘okay good.’
The fans and press have held on to the movie as well. Wain said that he couldn’t do anything without having WHAS come up. “I’d do a Q&A for some project, tv show or movie and usually the first question is, ‘When’s the Wet Hot Prequel coming out?’. It used to be ‘when is The State going to come out on DVD?’ until that happened. So now somebody has to come up with a new question.”
Because of all the love for the original, it was important to Wain that any follow up be done properly. “I know we’ve had such amazing fans of this movie that have kept it alive well beyond any expectation over all these years. It was really important to me that we serve those fans and people who love the movie have a satisfying follow up that isn’t a retread but is very much a connector and a companion piece and references the movie in the way that you want it to.”
Making a comedy isn’t easy, let alone a comedy that references and does justice to a classic. Wain talked about where his comedy sensibilities developed. “I was funny and doing things before I met the State but clearly those years were when we all developed and learned together as a group and very much as a one celled, eleven headed being for very crucial beginning years of our career,” he said, “so its impossible to even conjecture what it would be like had we not all met at that time.”
Making comedy, Wain said, is of course subjective. “Once you start dissecting and quantifying it and writing rules for it, it gets really tricky. Even though we do sometimes have to do that.” But he said, “our taste, mine and Michael’s [Showalter] as well as the rest of the group has just veered toward that sort of what ever you want to call it- absurdist, breaking the fourth wall, commenting on itself kind of comedy and just enjoy it. And coming from loving Steve Martin and Woody Allen and loving Monty Python and SNL in the early days and taking our own spin on it and following our heart. And coming up together in a bubble. We were not part of the Groundlings Scene or UCB or second city or anything like that. We were just teaching each other everything from those crucial years age 18-25.”
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is available now on Netflix. You can binge watch all eight episodes to your hearts content any time, all of the time. Then go back and rewatch the original.