The Camp Obsession That Wouldn’t Die: Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later

After Wet Hot American Summer: The First Day of Camp premiered on Netflix on July 31, 2015, one perhaps wrongly assumed this would be the end of its revival. But the devotion to Camp Firewood (both from the fans of the now cult classic and the characters themselves) simply couldn’t die without yet another eight-episode exploration of the gang’s lives ten years after the last day of camp. With most of the crew living out their semi-dreams in 1991 New York (called out specifically by Neil’s [Joe Lo Truglio] ex, Shari [Beth Dover], when she shoves a box of his personal effects in his face and ultimately says, “…and here’s some other stuff from 1991”), everyone has made it a point to prepare themselves for the big weekend-long reunion. The one promised in the final scene of The First Day of Camp that finds them all agreeing to meet at 9:30 a.m. on this day ten years from now, when they’ll all be in their late twenties and surely able to be somewhere on time.

Coop (Michael Showalter), the sensitive sometimes “leader” of the gang when Andy (Paul Rudd) is too busy fucking off on a motorcycle or in another girl, is now trying his hand at being a writer, but can’t yet find the perfect ending to his novel (a coming of age story about Camp Firewood, obviously) to get published. But, of course, what better inspiration than returning to the source of the material itself?

Elsewhere, Victor (Ken Marino) is working with Neil as a male version of a Coyote Ugly bartender on the Upper East Side, and still hopelessly trying to lose his virginity. Neil is the only one who won’t judge him for it, insisting that he’s “the man” to Shari as she gets picked up by her douche bag of a professor boyfriend, Brodfard Gilroy (Rob Huebel), who invites Neil to his dinner party in the country with clear intentions to mock him should he decide to show up. And mock he does by asking Neil, “What’s your metier?” When Neil clearly has no idea that this means “profession,” Brodfard balks, “Are you monolingual?” This is just one of the many instances of Wet Hot American Summer‘s adeptness at straightforward humor in addition to its signature brand of nonsensical campness (no pun intended)–e.g. an elaborate plot to destroy Camp Firewood involving George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan all somehow traces back to the camp legend about Willie Shits His Pants from the 1920s.

Susie (Amy Poehler) seems to be the most successful out of everyone, rolling out of bed just in time to make it to the airport with her up and coming actor boyfriend, Garth MacArthur (Jai Courtney), dressed a little behind the times in her Madonna Like A Virgin-era getup. Poehler’s longtime collaborator in Parks and Recreation, Adam Scott, fills in Bradley Cooper’s role as Ben, a now successful architect who lets McKinley (Michael Ian Black) act as the housewife. Even so, he still enlists the help of a nanny named Renata (Alyssa Milano) for their reunion so that McKinley can fully enjoy himself on the trip. Only problem is, Renata “just happens” to be replacing the original nanny they had hired, immediately arousing McKinley’s suspicions–further stoked by Claire (Sarah Burns), who insists that Renata fits the classic bill of hot psycho nanny that ingratiates herself with “the dad” while making “the mom” look crazy. Claire is dealing with her own issues as well, suddenly all too aware that Mark (Mark Feuerstein) has been cheating on her all these years–with J.J. (who makes fun of people for trying to rent When Harry Met Sally from Kim’s Video) all the while admiring her from afar as her best friend (hence the irony of him chastising When Harry Met Sally).

Understated running jokes like people who shop at B. Dalton Bookseller are paired with the over the top brand the Wet Hot American Summer “franchise” has now become known for–like Kristen Wiig as Courtney of Camp Tigerclaw playing the washboard while Coop and Katie (Marguerite Moreau) beg Blake of Camp Tigerclaw (Josh Charles) to buy the camp from Beth (Janeane Garofalo) so that the anonymous super corporate source (Reagan) that’s put in an offer for ten million dollars can’t.

As the plot gets typically zanier and more incongruous, at the core of it all is the campers’ unwavering love for Camp Firewood, a place where dreams can come true just as easily as they can be dashed. And, of course, creators David Wain and Michael Showalter care not if you “understand” their absurdist humor or not. Either you run with it or you don’t. Like Andy in a potato sack competing for the King of Camp title.