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The more we thought about it, the more it seemed obvious that we should do a prequel — the actors were getting older and older and it was a ridiculous thing to do. Does that negativity bug you — does any part of you crave critical approval? Not because I don’t want to read them, but because they all so often say the same thing over and over again, and I get so bored. But clearly, if you’re writing, “Wet Hot American Summer has not a single funny moment in it,” or, “It’s so bone-dry, so unfunny from top to bottom that it’s shocking,” the only conclusion one can make is that you didn’t get it. But once they get their bearings, they tend to enjoy it. I wouldn’t say that the group of people can be described in any particular demographic way, but it just seemed like there was a certain comedic wavelength that a lot of people were turned on by.
We had to come up with all these backstories, figure out how all these details coalesce into the first movie, which was already obviously done and can’t be changed. [laughs] My whole history has always been a combination of really excited reviews and truly scathing, hostile reviews. That’s nice to hear and it helps to explain why it never made any money or wasn’t a mainstream success. I think [other] people saw this movie that was a failure, but had some actors that they knew in it, and checked it out. Even my father, who’s 87, still watches it regularly and shows it to his friends.
Of course, being a David Wain movie, Wet Hot is today considered a magnum opus by an ever-expanding number of fans who flock to midnight screenings and spout its eminently quotable lines.
Thanks to that scattered but devoted fan base — and a culture that’s suddenly Juicy-tracksuit-deep in early-aughts nostalgia — Netflix is now reviving Wet Hot, airing an eight-episode prequel to the original film that takes place on the first day at Camp Firewood.
It certainly helps that it stars an embarrassment of comedic talent (Poehler, Cooper, Banks, and Rudd are returning, plus newcomers like Jon Hamm, Chris Pine, Lake Bell, and Kristen Wiig) and that the conceit — fortysomethings playing randy, sweaty teenagers — is delightfully insane.
But First Day Of Camp also marks a real first for Wain: unadulterated, widespread attention and anticipation, a project that doesn’t need to hide out inside a musty cabin for several years, fondling its sweaters, to find an audience.
I’m one of those guys that’s weirdly — I’m a big fan of everything I’ve done. If somebody sat down and watched all this stuff together, I think it does feel like a body of work.
It was 12 hours of shooting, and then 12 hours of drinking after that, then going back to shooting. I would tell you that your assumption is probably wrong. I’m 45, and I feel like my sense of humor pretty much locked in somewhere around age 10 or 11.We caught up with Wain a week before First Day Of Camp’s premiere to talk about what happens when the king of outsider comedy suddenly finds himself approaching the inside (and, naturally, all the women he made out with while making the original). It seems like the oddest and most unlikely choice you could make.We always wanted to do some sort of follow-up, just because it seemed like it’d be fun to work with the same people and go back to that world. And the people who love it are wrong.” From a practical point of view, though, so many people have come up to me and said, “I saw Wet Hot American Summer and I hated it and somebody forced me to watch it a second time and by the end it was my favorite movie.” I think people don’t know what to make of it at first.But that did make it really fun and really inspired, [and led to] things that wouldn’t have come up if we had just had an unlimited budget to do whatever we’d first thought of. You’ve said that fame and money aren’t your goals, but clearly fame has found you, at least to a certain degree. But I know very famous people, and none of the downsides of being famous have ever come into my universe. More than that, it’s how to get the sense of humor out onto screens more consistently, or more efficiently.Which is to say, you get stopped on the street so often that it becomes an annoyance, or people are bothering you about things — my level of fame is so, so tiny that I just have a certain recognition within my peer group or my industry or among a small but loyal group of fans. That’s about the best I can say for my “evolution.” I’m always trying to better myself or push myself or do better or improve.