“The State” initially received horrible reviews then kind of grew on people and developed an audience. What do you attribute to its success? Or lack of success? ^ Just like Wet Hot, “The State” seemed to polarize viewers. Especially those who didn’t “key in” to our comic sensibility. Most people who stuck with it beyond their first impression grew to like it, which is why it was so well suited to MTV, which endlessly reran our episodes during that time.
I never caught your play, “Sex, a.k.a. Wieners and Boobs,” which you wrote with your partner Michæl Showalter. It played in New York and LA and I imagine it somehow involved sex. Just a guess. Can you tell me about it? ^ It was a western of sorts, about a Jewish sherrif named Jack Greenberg (played by me) who comes to a small town to restore justice, standing up against the evil bad guy, played by Joe Lo Truglio. Showalter played a number of characters including Mayor Gerard Depardieu (not the famous French film star, just a small town mayor who happens to have the same name.) About half way through the play, we did a scene from David Mamet’s Glengarry Glenn Ross. “Sex” was one of the more out-there (and I think one of the funniest) projects we’ve done.
Wet Hot American Summer is in many ways, a tribute to those cheesy teen sex romps made in the 80s. Can you tell me what films inspired yours? ^ Of course it is inspired by all the 80’s classic comedies (“Meatballs,” “Caddyshack,” “Fast Times,” etc…) but it’s also just as much a tribute to the real experiences Mike and I had at summer camp during that time.
When Phoebe Cates took her top off in slow-motion in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” it marked a milestone in teen sex cinema. Can you pinpoint a favorite of yours or were you doing what Judege Reinhold was doing in that scene as well? ^ Weren’t we all? We had a pool in our backyard growing up and that scene hit home for me in ways I shouldn’t admit. Also the “I’m really sorry, Frank” makeout/fondling scene in “Animal House” and the sex scene in “Caddyshack” were major moments for me, personally.
Obviously 80s movies were a big influence on the film, but what real personal experiences from your teenage years did you bring to the project? ^ The story of the guy who left campers at a campsite so he could drive back to see a girl he just made out with the night before, then crashed the van on the way back, that happened to me. All of the stories in the movie are inspired by real camp stuff – there always seems to be a crazy chef, an unstable arts & crafts woman, an uptight drama counselor, etc.
What were your own experiences as a camp counselour like? ^ I went to Camp Modin in Maine for seven summers, as well as other camps before that. When I was 19 I formed a rock band for the purpose of touring 25 summer camps in New England. It was called “The Rockin’ Knights of Summer”! (This is not a joke.)
The film’s sense of humor is like an acquired taste, but once you get into it, it’s hilarious. What would you say to someone who takes the film too seriously? ^ Read some of the more intelligent reviews we’ve gotten (Newsweek, EW, New Yorker, Voice, NY Times) and watch it again, giving it the benefit of the doubt. Also DO NOT watch it alone, without an audience.
Get the whole interview in part three of WET HOT AMERICAN: DIRECTOR DAVID WAIN>>>