Somebody get me some canteen and my Nalgene water bottle because, come Aug. 4, I’ll be bingeing Netflix’s second revival of the beloved and wildly raunchy summer-camp rodeo, Wet Hot American Summer. I suggest you do the same, beginning wherever you so please: With the original film/cult classic from 2001, the prequel (WHAS: First Day of Camp, with its Israeli sexpot) or, come August, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, which follows the gang at a camp reunion in 1991.
The first time I saw the original WHAS movie will be forever cemented as one of my favorite camp memories. Crammed into the staff lounge at a summer camp in Illinois, the normally rambunctious cabin transformed into our proxy movie theater. “Fraya!” a fellow counselor yelled jokingly, comparing the neglectful “arts and farts and crafts” teacher of fictional Camp Firewood to Camp Ben Frankel’s own arts director (and his sister). Shushing ensued. Then we paid rapt attention to Molly Shannon’s hilariously inappropriate tearful confession to a camper about her divorce.
Though the original WHAS takes place in 1981, its spot-on satirical impressions of hyper-sexual counselors, fear-inducing camp cooks, and completely oblivious senior staff will, I imagine, continue to be apt for years to come. It holds an especially special place in the hearts of Jewish campers because, well, it pays homage to the utterly unique, unequivocal culture of Jewish summer camp. Tablet’s Josh Lambert described its Jewishness in 2015, referencing the aforementioned scene of Shannon. The camper-turned-therapist responds to her venting by asking her “to ‘excuse the Yiddish’ before admitting that men are ‘insensitive schmucks.’ ” Lambert also suggested you maybe need to be part of Wet Hot’s target audience to “get it,” citing how critics gave it one star and one reviewer wrote, “‘It was so depressing I almost started to cry.’ ” Contrary to what some may argue, Wet Hot American Summer is the defining summer camp movie of a generation. So I don’t care if the famous comedians (who are coming out again in droves for August’s series) are masquerading as their younger selves. I can’t wait to watch it, straight through, as fast as my fellow campers after a call for seconds. I’ll be first in line.
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