When the film Wet Hot American Summer premiered, it was a flop. It was released in fewer than thirty theaters; Roger Ebert hated it. And yet, since its debut in 2001, the ode to 1980s summer camp has developed a cult following. One reason? Many of the film's stars (such as Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler), who were not quite household names at the time, have gone on to hugely successful careers.

And that was one of the hardest things about bringing back the film in the form of an eight-episode miniseries on Netflix: navigating celebrities' schedules. "We made it our business to say to every member of the original cast, 'Come whenever you can, and we will figure it out,'" director and creator David Wain (joined by actor David Hyde Pierce) told Ophira Eisenberg on the AMA SummerStage in Central Park. "And we did."

Why bring back a story about teenagers working at a summer camp fifteen years later? "We all loved doing it and wanted to do it again," Wain explained. "And it seemed like now that it's 15 years later, we should do a prequel, because the actors at the time were already 10 years too old." That's right — the series takes place on the first day of camp — two months earlier than the original film took place.

Hyde Pierce plays a physics professor living near the camp. In the film, he goes to the cafeteria and asks where he can find some "indoor kids" to teach. Said Wain to Hyde Pierce in Central Park, "The 'indoor kids' has become a thing that people call themselves out in the world now. Because of you."

"And yet here we are outdoors," Hyde Pierce replied.

For our Wet Hot American Summer VIP game, we invited cast members Judah Friedlander, AD Miles, Zak Orth, and Ken Marino to play a game about classic '80s toy commercials.


On the property where the original film was shot

The owner of the camp was not happy that we'd turned his property into a giant mud pit right before camp started. We [told him], "We are so sorry. We don't have any money, and we certainly have no way of fixing this — hopefully [the movie will] be a cult hit and you'll get back in touch with us in 15 years."

On the original shoot's accommodations

David Wain: We lived in the cabins. We ate the camp food until the crew revolted. It was camp food, it was disgusting.

David Hyde Pierce: It was like Valley Forge.

Heard in Wet Hot American Summer: Batteries Not Included

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Welcome back to ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia, I'm Ophira Eisenberg. And from the Netflix series "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp," please welcome writer and director David Wain and actor David Hyde Pierce.




EISENBERG: All right, I'm so excited to have you guys here.

WAIN: Thank you, we're glad to be here.

EISENBERG: I watched the new series. It is hilarious. I just - you know, when the 2001 movie came out, it became a cult classic. What made you decide this needs a prequel, David?

WAIN: The movie was so much fun to do and even though it was a commercial disaster, the group of people that worked on it, like my friend David Hyde Pierce right next to me and all the rest of them, we all loved doing it and wanted to do it again in some way. And we talked about it for years and years. And it just seemed like now that it's 15 years later, we should do a prequel because the actors at the time were already 10 years too old to play teenagers. And so now it's another 15 years. The series takes place on the first day of summer camp, whereas the movie - it was the last day of that same summer - so it's two months earlier.

EISENBERG: Two months earlier but 15 years in the future.

WAIN: Fifteen years, yeah.

PIERCE: And you can't tell.

EISENBERG: You can't tell.

PIERCE: You cannot tell. We all look the same.

EISENBERG: Well, it's amazing that you assembled everyone from the original cast.

WAIN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Plus added all kinds of other fantastic people, Jason Schwartzman, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig. I mean, with the first time round, David Hyde Pierce...


EISENBERG: ...You were doing Frasier. You did not have to take this job.


EISENBERG: It's not like you were like, I needed the work.

PIERCE: That's right.

EISENBERG: How did they convince you (laughter)?

PIERCE: It was a huge mistake. No, you know what, I read the script. Two things I did, I read the script, and I thought, oh, this is really funny if it gets done right and then I got to see, back then, videos of "The State," of David's sketch comedy, yeah.


WAIN: Thank you.

PIERCE: And that was it 'cause I saw he knew how to do this right, so that's why I did it. And I had such a good time and I got to say dirty words.

EISENBERG: Right, so it was a different kind of humor, too, from what...

PIERCE: Yes, it was, although, you know, it was the only kind of humor 'cause it was based in reality, stretched beyond belief.

EISENBERG: Were you shooting just around everyone's crazy schedule and putting people in different...

WAIN: We made it our business to say to every single member of the original cast, come whenever you can, and we will figure it out and we did.


PIERCE: They did, yeah.

EISENBERG: So what was the most high-pressure situation with dealing with any one of these stars that you had?

WAIN: David Hyde Pierce was a real jerk.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

PIERCE: I was the only one.

EISENBERG: You were the only one?

PIERCE: Everyone else - Bradley Cooper - everyone else was really nice, but I was holding out.

EISENBERG: And when you shot the movie in 2001, it was actually at the summer camp in Pennsylvania...

WAIN: Yes.

EISENBERG: ...And you guys camped there.

WAIN: We lived in the cabins, everyone did. It was our first movie for so many of us, both behind and in front of the camera. We ate the camp food until the crew revolted and then we had to get in food from the local restaurant.

EISENBERG: Why, what were you being served?

WAIN: It was, like, camp food. It was disgusting.


PIERCE: It was like Valley Forge.


WAIN: Like, when you have...

PIERCE: And it was that cold.

WAIN: When you have canned food that has expired already, like, it must - it means it's been sitting there for 10 years and it's bad.

EISENBERG: So the cast revolted.

WAIN: The owner of the camp was not happy that we turned his property into a giant mud pit right before camp started.

EISENBERG: And what did you do to make that better?

WAIN: We said, we are so sorry. We don't have any money and we certainly have no way of fixing this, it's impossible, so we're really sorry and hopefully it'll be a cult hit and you'll get back in touch with us in 15 years.

EISENBERG: And did he?

WAIN: Yeah.


WAIN: When we started talking that the Netflix show, he was like hey, come on back.

EISENBERG: That's hilarious.

WAIN: So all was well.

EISENBERG: But you didn't shoot this series at that Pennsylvania camp.

WAIN: No, we shot it on the West Coast in California because that's where many of us have migrated to since then, but the - we did shoot actually one shot at the original summer camp location in Pennsylvania, which was David Hyde Pierce's house exterior.


PIERCE: Yeah, I wasn't there. It was just the exterior. But you felt like I was there, that's how good he is.

WAIN: The magic of editing.

EISENBERG: Now, in addition to all these stars and the stars that came back to do the series, obviously you had to cast a lot of kids. David, did you interact with the kids and explain any of the rules of life to them?

PIERCE: I didn't explain any of the rules of life to them 'cause I still don't know them. But, yeah, I had a great group of kids that I sort of worked with. I was kind of the physics teacher at camp, right, astrophysics?

WAIN: Yeah, well, you - the indoor kids, where it's your whole domain.

PIERCE: Yeah, yeah.

WAIN: And, you know, the indoor kids has become a thing that people call themselves out in the world now.

PIERCE: Oh, really? Well, that's cool.

WAIN: Because of you.

PIERCE: That's cool. And yet, here we are, outdoors.


WAIN: That's the final irony. Just think about how deeply ironic that is.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Well, you brought a ton of cast members with you from the movie. We are very happy to have that. So you guys get to relax for the game portion...

PIERCE: Right.

>>EISENBERG. But thank you so much for joining us and...

PIERCE: Our pleasure. Thanks for having us.

EISENBERG: ...Everyone has to watch it. It's so funny. Our VIPs, David Wain, David Hyde Pierce.

PIERCE: Enjoy.

WAIN: Thank you.

EISENBERG: And from "Wet Hot American Summer" we have our cast members playing in two teams. One team is Zak Orth and A. D. Miles, and our other team is Judah Friedlander and Ken Marino.







EISENBERG: We're so happy to have you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We're so happy to be here.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's great. We crafted a quiz for you guys that is '80s themed. What is your favorite toy from the '80s?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Let's go for the Atari 2600



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Good answer, good answer, good answer.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That was a good answer.

EISENBERG: That was a good answer. 'Cause when we think of the '80s, we think of those long summer afternoons where you didn't want to spend it outside. Why, in the heat and humidity? You wanted to spend it inside.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I actually played my Atari outside. I like - I prefer to be outdoors and sweat with the elements.

EISENBERG: So your quiz is all going to be about toys.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: This game is called Batteries Not Included. We're going to reenact some classic '80s toy commercials and you have to tell us the products that are being advertised, you ready?

EISENBERG: And you get to ring in.


EISENBERG: They said it wasn't humanly possible, but now you can have all the power and excitement of Nintendo.

COULTON: Right in the palm of your hand.

EISENBERG: It's portable.

COULTON: It's in stereo.

EISENBERG: And its games are interchangeable.

COULTON: Plus it comes with the outrageous new game...

EISENBERG: "Tetris."



ZAK ORTH: Game Boy.

COULTON: I think Ken Marino was first.

ORTH: He buzzed. I forgot to buzz. Game Boy, though. Game Boy, right?

EISENBERG: Yes, A.D. and Zak, you got it. You're correct.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Did you say Game Boy?

ORTH: I did, but I forgot to buzz in.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You didn't buzz in so it doesn't count. You didn't buzz in.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Doesn't count, doesn't count. I buzzed in, you didn't buzz in. We buzzed in, we get the point, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I don't care who wins, but we definitely buzzed in.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I love the '80s!


EISENBERG: She's as lovely as a flower, but she has a secret power.

COULTON: A magic sword in one stroke and she's got the strength of a tower.

EISENBERG: The fate of the world's in the hands of this beautiful girl.

COULTON: This is Princess Adora, sister of He-Man, and her gentle horse, each sold separately.



JUDAH FRIEDLANDER: With the assistance from Ken Marino.


FRIEDLANDER: My answer is She-Ra.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Yes, your answer is correct.


EISENBERG: Did you have a She-Ra, by any chance, Judah?

FRIEDLANDER: No, I didn't have any toys.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) You were not allowed? How about you, Ken?

MARINO: Yes, I had many.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Did you have He-Man?

MARINO: I'd like to leave it at that.

EISENBERG: OK, very good, very good.

MARINO: I had many She-Ras.

EISENBERG: She's teaching her brother, B-R-O-T-H-E-R.

COULTON: That is right.

EISENBERG: They're learning new words, but don't tell them they're learning. They just think they're having fun.

COULTON: New from Texas Instruments.



A.D. MILES: Hooked on Phonics?

EISENBERG: Did you say Hooked on Phonics?

MILES: I did. No, no, no, come on.

EISENBERG: That is a great answer, but that is incorrect, but I love it.


MARINO: Speak and Spell.

EISENBERG: That is right, Ken Marino.

MARINO: I still use Speak and Spell when I get into a difficult situation.


COULTON: Each of these kids is different and you can pretend to adopt them.

EISENBERG: My baby has a real diaper.

COULTON: They're each one-of-a-kind and you can give them all your love.

EISENBERG: You're the only one for me. I love you.

COULTON: Each doll comes with a pretend birth certificate and adoption papers from Calico.



FRIEDLANDER: Cabbage Patch Kids.



EISENBERG: I'm sorry, I know you guys got - you were - you had - sometimes - just the buzzer

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I know, we started buzzing in, like, 1982.

EISENBERG: All right, this is your last one.

COULTON: Who's on the watchtower?

EISENBERG: That's jungle trooper, codename Recondo.

COULTON: And manning the howitzer?

EISENBERG: That's the flamethrower, codename Blowtorch.

COULTON: And who's by the bivouac?

EISENBERG: That the dog handler, codename Mutt and his dog, Junkyard.

COULTON: Well, they've not seen the last of Cobra.

ART CHUNG, BYLINE: Watchtower, howitzer and bivouac each sold separately.


EISENBERG: What are these things? Please, Ken Marino, tell us.





MILES: I think if you check the records, it's Hooked on Phonics.


EISENBERG: I don't understand why the dog handler is named Mutt and the dog is called Junkyard. It should be the other way around, but whatever. Puzzle guru Art Chung, how did our VIPs do?

CHUNG: Ken and Judah, you guys win (laughter).


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do they really? Do they really win? I don't think so.

EISENBERG: Let's hear it for our VIPs, Ken Marino, Zak Orth, A.D. Miles and Judah Friedlander.





UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Wow, you went for it.

(LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

300x250 Ad

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.