What We Learned From Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
The prequel gets us up close and personal with our favorites at Camp Firewood. (And we finally learn the story behind the talking can of vegetables.)
Wet Hot American Summer came and went without much fuss during its 2001 theatrical release, grossing barely anything of note. Over time it gained cult clout (like Arrested Development, post-cancellation) and—just like Arrested Development—Netflix swooped in to resurrect its legacy with a reboot. The product is Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp, an eight-episode prequel to the film. The short series explores the early drama at Maine’s Camp Firewood before the campers and counselors were wild with boldness, not to mention horniness, before packing their bags to return home the following day.
Amazingly, First Day of Camp managed to wrangle all the original’s stars, including those who later rose to notable, mainstream celebrity like Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, and Amy Poehler. It’s hard to imagine the reunion of former colleagues and State alum wasn’t a whole lot like camp—an excuse to see old friends and goof off. There’s also Easter egg cameos from folks like Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Michael Cera, and others.
It’s a solid ride through the teen sex comedy parody campgrounds. We also learned a lot about the characters that we didn’t necessarily have time to get to during the original, 97-minute-long movie. Here’s what we gleaned about all the Camp Firewood folk in the reboot. There are some spoilers, so you may want to save this for after your binge-watch:
Beth (Janeane Garofalo)
Beth rose to her place of power during a series of unfortunate events—including sleeping with head boys’ counselor, Jason Schwartzman. She undergoes a dramatic makeover after playing witness, by the suggestion of attorney Jim Stansel (Michael Cera) to a heinous government crime, which in true State style involves an extra hair braid.
Most memorable quote from the original: “Well guys, we’ve made it to the end of the summer in one piece, except for a few campers who are lepers.”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “Isn’t that the public urination case of a lifetime?”
Henry (David Hyde Pierce)
Henry—the brainy astrophysics professor— is struggling at the university where he works but is barely recognized. He makes Henry makes a woodsy escape in the wake of a breakup, and there, on the outskirts of camp, he leases out a cabin from an overly chatty Kerri Kenney.
Most memorable quote from the original: “Oh, fuck my cock!”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “You back-stabbing, booze-swilling, glad-handing fuck dick of a shit butt!”
Coop (Michael Showalter)
Coop gallops into the prequel with a gopher who doubles as a Pantene Pro-V model spectacular perched upon his head. Of all the bad fake wigs in the prequel (and there are a lot), his has got to reign king. He starts his summer with smokin’ hot “girlfriend,” Donna (Lake Bell), who dresses him in increasingly ridiculous outfits that don’t do much to hide Showalter’s new dad bod situation.
Most memorable quote from the original:“I love sluts. Sluts rock.”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “What an…odd way to wrap a present.” [Coop mutters this when opening a gift from Donna. It’s in a simple box wrapped so the lid may be removed without ripping the paper. It’s a popular way to wrap presents (at least in television and film) but in no way makes actual sense.]
Andy (Paul Rudd)
Andy makes heroic efforts to win Katie’s affection by starring alongside her in the play and dishing out some serious negs. Rudd looks exactly the same, honestly, and if he doesn’t start capitalizing on his ability to never age soon, I’m going to jump into a volcano.
Most memorable quote from the original: “You taste like burger. I don’t like you anymore.”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “Trees look weird if you squint at ‘em.”
Katie (Margeurite Morea)
Katie entered Camp Firewood with a preppy boyfriend, Blake (Josh Charles), at the ritzy camp across the lake. She takes a good while to cave on Andy’s advances, giving us false reason to believe all women can see through that negging garbage.
Most memorable quote from the original: “So that’s where my priorities are right now. Sex. Specifically with Andy and not with you.”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “We made it to second base twice so that adds up to fourth and he’s so good at lacrosse.”
Gene (Christopher Meloni)
Gene, like Don Draper, is revealed to have absorbed the identity of dead man following a tragic plane crash. He starts (with another awesomely bad wig) as a clean-cut, upbeat, slightly dim chef engaged to the arts and crafts teacher (Molly Shannon), under the guise of Jonas Jerguson. A little probing reveals his true identity, a Vietnam vet named Gene, lending further to his “own yourself” fridge-humping ways in the original.
Most memorable quote from the original: “Be proud of who you are.”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “Oxy oxy oxen freeze!”
McKinley (Michael Ian Black)
We don’t learn much here, other than McKinley’s sewing prowess and early embrace of his sexual preference—which, of course, goes on to help Ben (Bradley Cooper) learn of his own. The word “creative” is used as a clunky metaphor for “homosexual.”
Most memorable quote from the original: “You’re covered in dirt. Take a shower.”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “Visor, man. That’s just improv!”
Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks)
Lindsay, the original’s minx with poor motor skills, has the most interesting backstory. She plays a very uncouth undercover reporter for a hip music magazine, attempting to pull off 16 at age 24. At 41 in real life, she’s still believable and thus should go on to fund the whole Tuck Everlasting sports drink franchise with Rudd.
Most memorable quote from the original: “You’re not so bad yourself, Mr. Man.”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “Do you wanna touch a boob for the first time in your life or not?”
Susie (Amy Poehler)
Susie and Ben rule the theater as a totally sexless power couple. That is, until hotshot drama vet Claude Dumet (John Slattery) steps in and seduces her. And Ben learns he’s “creative.”
Most memorable quote from the original: “Before we start, I’d just like to say the campers you’re about to see suck dick! But nevertheless, please welcome them.”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “We have four hours to the show, Claude, and these guys suck dick.”
Ben (Bradley Cooper)
It’s less funny and more painful to watch Ben come to terms with his buried “creativity,” which is the reason he refuses to bang Susie on the picnic table despite camp pressures.
Most memorable quote from the original: “For serious, OK?”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: “My parents fought all the time. Until my father killed himself.”
Talking Can of Vegetables/Mitch (H. John Benjamin)
The can of vegetables, in fact, started as the original camp director who transfigured into such when he fell into a puddle of very green toxic sludge left by the government in the forest. He and Beth had a sexual relationship when he was in human form which suggestively continues after the metamorphosis.
Most memorable quote from the original: “If you wanna smear mud on your ass, smear mud on your ass—just be honest about it.”
Most memorable quote from the prequel: I know about cans—believe me. I am one.”