Writer-director David Wain’s cult 2001 send-up of teen sex comedies, Wet Hot American Summer, was playfully revived in late July as a Netflix TV prequel, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. The entire original cast has returned to reprise their roles, with many of them now at least 25 years older than their teenaged camp-counsellor characters: Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, (co-screenwriter) Michael Showalter, and more, along with Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, David Hyde Pierce, and Christopher Meloni playing adult characters.
Of his next broadcast of “The Freak Power Ticket” (Monday, September 14), producer / host Ted Coe explains:
“My love for Wet Hot American Summer has brought me back, time and again, to rewatch its low-brow, zany, and absurdist spoofing of raunchy youth cinema in general, and summer-camp movies in particular.
For me, the feature film was already funny for casting several actors at least ten-years older than their parts as frantic teens with raging hormones — and now, here we are 15 years later, watching them reprise their roles in the four-hour long limited series First Day of Camp, and it’s supposedly three months before the events of the original. The premise and execution makes my head spin a bit.
While strongly influenced by the frame-breaking satire of MAD Magazine, and the vaudevillian sketch comedy of the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, early Woody Allen, and Monty Python, I personally think the cooperative, multi-character template for Wet Hot American Summer is a contemporary flowering of collegiate and countercultural humor honed during the 1960s-early 1970s.
The Generation X’ers behind both projects have their deepest ties to The New Group, a free form, democratic comedy collective from NYU. The New Group eventually evolved into the eleven-member troupe The State, which had a 28-episode sketch comedy program on MTV in the early-to-mid 1990s.
Along with Amy Poehler’s equally innovative Upright Citizen’s Brigade, the ensemble’s key influences can be traced to American comedy standard bearers like The Harvard and National Lampoon, The Firesign Theatre, the Off-Broadway Channel One Theater (which birthed The Groove Tube and Saturday Night Live’s early video work), Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker’s Kentucky Fried Theater (from the University of Wisconsin), Del Close‘s ImprovOlympic Theater in Chicago — plus the “school” of low-budget genre cinema closely associated with Roger Corman‘s American International Pictures / New World Pictures.With these those philosophical links in mind, I trace the projects’ roots from free-form sketch comedy — exemplified by the National Lampoon: Lemmings stage production and offbeat motion pictures like The Groove Tube, Tunnel Vision, and Kentucky Fried Movie — to a particular form of narrative I’ve taken to calling “anarchic ensemble comedy.” I divine the spirit of three ensemble comedy classics from the mid-to-late 1970s — The Bad News Bears, Car Wash, and Rock N Roll High School — as much as the youth narratives Wet Hot American Summer more openly channels, National Lampoon’s Animal House, the low-budget summer-camp hit Meatballs (directed by Ivan Reitman of The Montecito Picture Company), Caddyshack, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Revenge of the Nerds (starring Santa Barbarans Anthony Edwards and Robert Carradine), Porky’s, and Real Genius.
Monday’s broadcast will sonically unpack this genealogy with music, audio samples, and trailers from those aforementioned inspirations, influences, and kindred works. I’ll also recap highlights from my 2012 interview with Wet Hot American Summer’s director and co-writer David Wain.
Mainly, today’s show will celebrate the Do-It-Yourself values and even punk-rock sensibility of the sprawling creative team behind an obscure indie-film project that simply refused to go away.”
“The Freak Power Ticket” airs on Mondays in the summer from 11am-1pm PDT.