Wet Hot American Summer: ahead of its time while set twenty years in the past.
Somewhere in the middle of Michael Showalter and David Wain’s cult classic, two peeping Toms (played by Zak Orth and A.D. Miles), hoping to catch some heterosexual action from behind a massive tree instead stumble upon the same-sex union of Ben and McKinley (Bradley Cooper and Michael Ian Black), officiated by Beth (Janeane Garofalo) while Ben’s beard Susie (Amy Poehler) plays the recorder. As Cooper and Black shared an onscreen kiss (which, I hate to spoil it for ya, had been preceded by a pretty raunchy outhouse gay sex scene) I wondered had Chris Kyle ever seen this movie and if so, what would he have thought if someone had said that Cooper would play him in the bio pic American Sniper?
That may have been the greatest pleasure of watching Wet Hot American Summer yesterday afternoon, fourteen years after it was first released, in 2001. When the film first came out cast members Cooper, Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, H. John Benjamin, all were still in the early stages of their careers–my criteria for “early stage” being that I’d never heard of them in 2001 and now I have in 2015. And I’ll admit, I’d never seen Wet Hot American Summer until yesterday, but I was delighted to hear Benjamin’s seductive voice piping from that can of mixed vegetables. And I’m even more delighted to see that he is now prominently featured in Netflix’s miniseries Wet Hot American Summer: The First Day of Camp, not just as a can of old peas and carrots, but as the camp director Mitch, who happens to stress-eat canned vegetables.
Obviously we all knew Paul Rudd as the hunky step-brother in Clueless, so who would have known he had it in him to play the kind of camp counselor who could tonsil-box Elizabeth Banks while one of his campers drowns? I like to think that I’m one of the few first-time viewers to even notice the Confederate flag adorning his bunk. See? Wet Hot American Summer is still relevant!
But apart from having an all-star cast before the cast were stars, what has allowed Wet Hot American Summer‘s popularity to endure fourteen years? It’s certainly not the funniest thing David Wain and Michael Showalter have ever done–that would be the sketch comedy trio Stella, which stars Wain, Showalter, and Black. Indeed, Wet Hot American Summer is very much reminiscent of Wain and Showalter’s preferred medium of sketch comedy, though by setting all the skits at sleep away camp the writers are restricted to a few quickly well-worn jokes–because let us never forget that sleep away camp is incredibly raunchy and violent and gross. Unfortunately, to be set at sleep away camp, Wet Hot American Summer has to be populated with children.
How many child actors make good comedians?
Answer: Kenan Thompson and he’s 37.