Getting oral from Wet Hot American Summer’s cast and crew

Friend of the site Julie Seabaugh put together an oral history on Wet Hot American Summer for this week’s Variety, just in time for the launch of the prequel miniseries this Friday on Netflix.

Would you believe they tried to make a Wet Hot TV series way back in 2003? Check this amazing excerpt from Seabaugh’s interviews, to see how it evolved from that idea to nothing and then to something very special a dozen years later.

David Wain: We wrote a pilot version of “WHAS” for FOX about 12 years ago. Their idea was, “No one saw this movie, but maybe it’s a good idea for a TV show.” So we wrote the script; it was “Wet Hot,” but it was also a 22-minute FOX sitcom with commercials and nothing Rated R, so it was a little bit odd.

Michael Showalter: Television was very episodic then, so there would not have been any kind of arc or sort of larger story being told. It was much more “What’s the adventure this week?” The idea wasn’t going to be something where if you didn’t know the movie, you wouldn’t get the show. It was really just a TV show about summer camp.

Wain: In addition, they were like, “We can’t do a show that takes place only during the summer! It’s a network show! It’s all year long!” We’re like, “Well, why not? And why did you order it if you can’t do it?”

Showalter: That was very much a false alarm, I suppose. It really didn’t go anywhere. For me, it’s always just been creatively something I’ve wanted to continue to work on. It really was just a matter of having an opportunity to tell more stories about these characters at camp. I’d always seen this “Wet Hot” group of characters in the vein of “Little Rascals” or Archie’s Gang, that each of them is sort of a different archetype, but there were countless stories to tell about them.

Wain: Michael and I tried to develop a lot of things after “Wet Hot.” We started doing “Stella” together. In the summer of ’05 we shot and aired that show on Comedy Central. Then that didn’t work out, and we started working on other things separately, even though I was in his movie “The Baxter” and he was in my movies “Wanderlust” and “The Ten.”

Craig Wedren: Over the years, of course, “Wet Hot” has mushroomed into this weird, great phenomenon.

Joe Lo Truglio: As the stars of the movie started to break out into huge, successful careers, suddenly it became something bigger than it originally was.

Janeane Garofalo: I think [Wain and Showalter’s] hard work and continual support of the movie is what brought it back to life and what gave it its second life on DVD and with live screenings. Every time I would go to one of those things, I remember the crowds were bigger and bigger.

Wain: This movie that we made for very little money – and that basically bombed – little by little it just kept becoming a thing that people talked about and loved and had ownership of and cared about. And we loved it too, so more and more we thought, “We’ve got to do something else again.”

Read Julie Seabaugh’s whole oral history piece on Wet Hot for Variety.

Things took off in 2011 for the film’s 10th anniversary, and the oral history mentions a packed screening in Manhattan, which The Comic’s Comic happened to be at! Director Jason Reitman, whose short film paired with Wet Hot‘s Sundance premiere, talks with Wain and Showalter and Jake Fogelnest — who made his own movie debut in Wet Hot and served as a writer for the Netflix series, which launches this Friday.

Excuse the lack of HD in this video, for TBT sometimes is a cruel reminder of how far handheld video technology has had to come in just a few short years.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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