Wet Hot American Summer is an absurdist comedy that is funnier in memory then it is to actually watch. It feels like I continue to return to the franchise because of two reasons: A. I used to be a summer camp counselor, and B. it is chalk full of some of my favorite comedic and non-comedic actors pretending to be 20 to 30-years younger than they actually are.
The newest in the series is Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. The brand new series was released on Netflix on Aug. 4, and like most of the other properties in the series it is enjoyable enough to watch, but sort of leaves you feeling hollow.
I mean sure it is a funny enough concept, but most of the gags are pretty forgettable, and the series feels as if it was written by a stoned teenager in his parent’s basement. Which I suppose is part of the charm.
It isn’t that I hated the show, and this really was the logical next step in the franchise, but really I’m not sure I need anymore after this.
The series is actually the third part of the franchise. The first part being the film Wet Hot American Summer. Which was about a number of teen camp counselors at the imaginary Camp Firewood. It starred several big name actors and actresses. It was a a before they were stars sort of film.
Its current iteration, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, all of the camp counselors are living their lives as adults, and all are way more successful at 26 than I am currently at 29.
Maybe it was the 90s, or maybe the creators of the series forgot what it was like to be living in their mid-20s, but I felt like the only person I had a leg up on in life was the Paul Rudd character Andy. Coming of age during the financial crisis was a son of a bitch, so my perspective is probably a little skewed.
Supposedly, what makes this series great is that it is an anti-comedy comedy, meaning the jokes are so absurd and surreal that they come full circle from not being funny to funny again. This is not my interpretation of the material, but is something I read once, meaning this is the comedic answer to the Dada art movement. I’m not really sure that is the case, rather these types of jokes simply aren’t as fashionable as they once were.
In fact, I’m more convinced the original movie success stems from the fact that 2001 had only a few really good comedies to come out that year. Next to Josie and the Pussycats, Wet Hot American Summer becomes a movie worthy of an Oscar. It was hardly the best of 2001. That was the same year that Super Troopers came out. Which is still quotable to this day.
With all my negative I’ve written, that isn’t to say I hated the new series or even the franchise. I don’t hate it at all. I just can’t understand exactly why I like, it other than the reasons I gave in the first few paragraphs I wrote.
Most of the jokes largely fall flat, and the writers don’t really give a shit about plot, instead the T.V. show tries to be self-referential, and make fun of 90s movies and T.V. tropes. Arguably the best character of Ten Years Later was a can of talking vegetables played by H Jon Benjamin. Seeing that scenario written out in words really makes this show sound stupid, and it is. It has no problem making fart, poop, and pee jokes; and never mind the logistics of how a can of vegetables can have sex with a truck stop restaurant waitress (which does happen).
Similarities to Summer Camp
It really helps if you’ve worked or attended a summer camp. While working as a camp counselor I never had a rivalry with the cool rich kid camp, but I can identify with the stupid camp rituals and made up stories that are part of the fun of Camp Firewood. The camp romances are also a very real thing, the shows and the movie take it to the next absurd level of course. The will they won’t they drama between Coop and Katie is something that really happens at summer camps.
So for me it is a halfway fun trip down memory lane, it wasn’t exactly my experience, but the strength of those camp friendships can be pretty strong. Just about every year I go home and reconnect with several of the people I used to work with.
Then there is the celebrity factor. The franchise continues to cram people into it, and it is fun to see so many people working together on one project. This is rare, with the exception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Guys like Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter really only continue to be relevant because of these shows. But Paul Rudd, Adam Scott, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pine are still famous. Bradley Cooper, who sadly couldn’t make it for the reunion, is perhaps the biggest of all coming out of the franchise.
So it is fun to see these people all interacting with one another.
The show works, but barely. It is a unhinged mess that is only sort of kinda of funny. Which I guess is more than enough to get me coming back, and sadly says a lot about me and what I’m willing to endure.
So in conclusion I liked the show. I just have no clue why.