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What I Learned About ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ at the Tenth Anniversary Screening

I lied about the first time I saw Wet Hot American Summer. I told my friends in college that I had seen the movie, directed by David Wain, who also co-wrote with Michael Showalter (two thirds of comedy group Stella), years before in high school, intentionally trying to trump myself as one of those cool teens who watched cult classics when they were only 15 years old.

It wasn’t true. When I was 15, I was watching Billy Madison and Mrs. Doubtfire for the 12th time, rather than giving Wet Hot a chance, let alone MTV’s The State, where much of the movie’s cast, including Michael Ian Black (the other third of Stella), Ken Marino, and Joe Lo Truglio, first worked together.

In my sophomore year of college, after fibbing about how funny Paul Rudd was in that scene (y’know, the scene with the thing?), I finally gave the film a shot — and I’ve seen it about 10 times since in the past 5 years. That may sound like a lot (call it delayed gratification), but it’s nothing compared to some attendees of Tuesday night’s Stella-hosted Tenth Anniversary Wet Hot American Summer Celebration at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, who quoted the film with the same passion as Trekkers do for Star Trek and Sex Cauldrons for The Simpsons.

Here’s what I learned about Wet Hot American Summer last night:

-Michael Ian Black’s (McKinley) favorite memory from the movie: “Taking Bradley Cooper in the pooper,” and that during the infamous wall-mounting scene, Cooper, as Ben, had a giant whitehead on his back, and told Ian Black that he’d be disappointed if he didn’t pop it.

-David Wain’s favorite memory: “Fingering Christopher Meloni’s butthole.” Wain tried to help Meloni (camp chef Gene) find his missing Swatch Watch, suggesting that maybe he left it in his “butthole.” It was “empty, but both of our hearts were full.”

-Christopher Meloni has lobster hands.

-Marguerite Moreau (Katie) and Showalter (“I LOVE YOU, COOP” was heard throughout the evening) haven’t seen each other since the movie finished filming in 2001. But she saw him on an episode of Sex and the City once and enjoyed his performance. Turns out, however, she’s been sleeping with Ian Black, while also seeing Wain, who likes taking his women from behind, on the side.

-In the fantastic montage scene where Meloni teaches Showalter and A.D. Miles (Gary) how to dance, the song that they actually moved to on set was Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time.” If you sync up the track with the clip, the two work together beautifully.

-On an on-stage screen, scenes were shown throughout the evening, including screen tests for a goofy and charming Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler (sounding, as Susie, like a breathless, teenage version of Leslie Knope), and surprisingly, Naomi Watts, who tried out for Katie. She played the character as more sultry than Moreau, and very easily could have won the role.

-Janeane Garofalo came out as camp director Beth, and told everyone what she’s been up to these past 10 years. After camp, Beth was the comptroller of the currency of Dutchess County, then after leaving politics, she began designing End of Days wear, including shirts and hoodies, for the Rapture. She’s still with Henry (David Hyde Pierce), who received his tenure (yay!). The two had a baby, and Beth hopes “he or she is doing well” wherever he or she is.

-This has nothing to do with the movie, per se, but Beth and the Stella trio held a sweater-fondling contest, where five lucky contestants (who were chosen ahead of time, and picked because they had EXTREMELY Jewish names, i.e. Joshua Richbergstein, Sarah Gurstenblatt, etc.) had 30 seconds to grope and ride and straddle and hump a sweater to the delight of the crowd. The girl with the cat sweater totally owned, for what it’s worth, and walked away with a signed poster, worth “$1 million.”

-The one and only Alan Shemper, who punctuated every punch line with a stomp of his foot, performed, and he’s still going strong, even though he’s so old, “the goddamn cavemen looked at me and said, ‘This guy is old.’” He’s so old, “they hadn’t even built the pyramids yet.” The last time he did a show, “the Vikings existed.” Does Alan still follow politics? You bet. “The debt ceiling? I need a ceiling!” He also went off on the warm weather, claiming, “It’s so hot that my sweat sweats.” He’s still got it.

-J.J., played by Zak Orth, reminisced, while wearing a green cape made out of a bed sheet, about his time at Camp Firewood and more specifically, “I remember fondly the first time I got banged.” He loved the “way it made my erection feel,” and then proceeded to hand out the award for Weirdest Video of a Kid Jerking Off. It, naturally, went to Silas (Jake Fogelnest, who looks a frailer Stephen Merchant).

-Roger Ebert really hated Wet Hot American Summer. Like, really despised it. And David and the Michael’s haven’t forgotten. Ebert wrote his review to the tune of Allan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp),” and the trio performed it to the crowd. Choice line, “Wow, I hate it/Something fierce/Except the astrophysicist/David Hyde Pierce.”

-A.D. Miles held an Intimate Conversation Series with Wet Hot’s true star, Can of Vegetables. As voiced by H. Jon Benjamin (who began off-stage, until he got tired of that and appeared to the crowd, greeted by loud applauses and a few screams of “Archer!”), the two had a lengthy conversation, where we learned that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Can. For instance, he’s actually a can of beans. “They just put that sticker on me for the role,” he claimed. What kind of bean? “Black bean.” What about his father? “He was an R&B singer…Lionel Ritchie.” Have you ever been addicted to anything? “Recreational chemo…[but] I won’t be doing that any time soon again, unless I get cancer.” Favorite curse word? “Suck your own dick.”

-Amy Poehler, Joe Lo Truglio (Neil), and Paul Rudd (Andy) weren’t able to attend, but they all sent video messages discussing how proud they were of Wet Hot, and in Rudd’s case, were joined by Judd Apatow, who was surprised he had nothing to do with the film.

-Victor (Ken Marino) has been wearing the same cut-off jeans and white muscle t-shirt outfit for the past decade, and he’s together with a visibly-pregnant Abby (Marisa Ryan). They haven’t had sex in over a year, but he stills believes the baby is his, and he sang an “original song” for his lady, one that sounded a lot like “Danny’s Song” by Kenny Loggins. Because it was “Danny’s Song” by Kenny Loggins.

-After the show, I waited around the stage for a few minutes, collecting my belongings, when I saw Marino come back out, no longer wearing his disgusting jean shorts. He gave them to a “lucky” audience member, and for the next 20 minutes or so, signed autographes for everyone who wanted one (thanks, Ken!) and even left Voicemail messages for people who weren’t able to attend. After thanking him for showing up, I asked if he was going to attend last night’s Party Down festivities at The Bell House in Brooklyn. His response, “You never know.” From one cult hit to another, and we all made it together—except for the lepers.

Photo by Nadia Chaudhury.

Josh Kurp loves going to town.

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