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The Best Inside Jokes from the New 'Wet Hot American Summer' Netflix Series

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Photo: Netflix

Wet Hot American Summer, the 2001 David Wain-directed camp flick, is the ultimate cult classic. A commercial and critical flop upon its release, it didn't take long for obsessive fans -- those of us who immediately felt that the deeply absurdist, gleefully nonsensical universe in which Camp Firewood is situated was home -- to turn the film into the stuff of legends.

Yet while WHAS might be this gang's best-known work, die-hard fans of Wain, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, et al. know the movie is just one small part of their ouevre. Originally formed as a comedy collective at NYU in the late '80s, MTV's The State is still probably the weirdest (in a good way) thing to ever air on the station. In the decades that followed, Stella, Wainy Days, Reno 911!, the podcast Michael & Michael Have Issues, and a slew of Wain's more commercially successful fare (Role Models, They Came Together) have all kept the crew tight.

Accordingly, First Day of Camp is packed with references that reward not only hardcore fans of the movie, but devotees of Wain's universe at large. Here are the best callbacks and inside jokes for those of us who have been paying very close attention.

Jim Stansel




Michael Cera's boy-wonder lawyer character in First Day of Camp is named Jim Stansel. Not only is this a callback to the first movie (see above), David Wain has named a character Jim Stansel in nearly all of his movies (see below). Asked about it during a Reddit AMA a few years ago, Wain had this to say:

Jim Stansel was the name of a guy who used to work with my dad when I was like 10 years old. We have a super-8 movie of him up in a hot air balloon for a radio station promotion in Dallas, and my dad’s going “That’s Jim Stansel! That’s Jim Stansel!” and the name has always stuck in my head. I just love the name!

The Gang's All Here

Once you belong to Wain's World, you're in for life. He's always bringing comedian friends along for the ride (like eternally underrated The State and Reno 911! alum Kerri Kenney-Silver as the real estate agent in "Auditions").  But for First Day of Camp, the writer/director was so committed to bringing back as many actors as possible from the original movie that the Netflix series is stuffed with blink-and-you'll-miss-'em cameos. Remember the "indoor kids" -- misfits and baby goths -- that worked with David Hyde Pierce's astrophysicist character in the original film? Check out the punks that give Jon Hamm's secret agent a hard time in the liquor store.




If you're not a State fan, this might sound like the dumbest thing -- okay, scratch that, it is the dumbest thing. It's also the best thing. The aforementioned sketch comedy show had a character named Louie, played by Ken Marino, whose catchphrase was "I wanna dip my balls in it!" He said this all the time. It was stupid. The point of the sketch was that it was stupid.

You know what is not stupid? The sheer amount of joy we felt upon hearing Ken Marino yell this catchphrase, briefly, while unseen, in a scene that otherwise has nothing to do with him, in Episode 7, "Staff Party." We can't embed it here for various legal reasons but if you care -- you know exactly how much you care -- it's about four and a half minutes in. Listen for this:

Bonus treat: Listen to Marino talk about how his kids have picked up on his inappropriate catchphrase here.

Well? What are we missing, superfans? If we have to watch it again, well, so be it. WHAS is like an onion, you see: You just keep peeling back layers to see what's inside. And it stings your cheeks and it makes you cry, but it tastes so good on a sandwich.

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