Ask Me Another
9:48 am
Thu October 3, 2013

David Wain: Notes On Camp

David Wain is part of the comedy troupes The State and Stella, and directed the films Wanderlust, Role Models and the forthcoming They Came Together. But he is perhaps best known for creating one of the quintessential summer movies, Wet Hot American Summer, an absurdist chronicle of last-day shenanigans at a Jewish camp in the 1980s.

For Wain, this movie sprang directly from his deep well of experience attending camp in Maine. When he was too old to be a counselor, he spent his late teens with a band created for the sole purpose of touring summer camps. And when he was too old for that, he wrote Wet Hot American Summer with his friend, actor and comedian Michael Showalter.

Fans of the film have been champing at the bit for any details regarding a much-rumored sequel/prequel, and Wain confirmed to Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg that one is indeed in the works — just as soon as they can get the massive cast (which includes Amy Poehler, Janeane Garofalo and Paul Rudd) together again.

Since no summer camp session is complete without Color Wars and Capture the Flag, we figured Wain would be game for our own twist on an outdoor challenge in Central Park. In a round called "New York, You're the Star," we aimed to replicate the feeling of being on one of those double-decker tour buses in New York City. Only this time, we "visited" the locations from famous New York-centric films, such as Do the Right Thing and Ghostbusters.

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Transcript

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Let's welcome to the stage our next special guest. He's the writer and director of the films "Role Models," "Wanderlust," and "Wet Hot American Summer." Please welcome David Wain.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Hi.

DAVID WAIN: Hi.

EISENBERG: Welcome to Ask Me Another, David Wain.

WAIN: I am so happy to be here in Central Park. This is so cool.

EISENBERG: How does it feel to be a cult leader? That is my question.

WAIN: A cult leader?

EISENBERG: Yes. You wrote one of the quintessential summer movies, "Wet Hot American Summer."

WAIN: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

EISENBERG: About summer camp. That has made you a cult leader. I'm sure people come up to and they're like sign my tent or whatever. What do they do?

WAIN: I don't think I'm a cult leader. That's such a negative connotation.

EISENBERG: Oh, really? I like it.

WAIN: I think Michael Showalter and I made a movie that has become definitely a cult movie and that's very gratifying.

EISENBERG: How about cult hero? Would you like that?

WAIN: Yes. Cult icon.

EISENBERG: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

WAIN: Cult god. Sex icon.

EISENBERG: Now, I'm right to assume that not only did you like summer camp in real life but you became obsessed with summer camp?

WAIN: Well, I - yeah. It's just because I was such a loser the rest of the year. And so I romanticized the two months a year that I was - could reinvent myself. And when I was 19 I formed a band for the purpose of touring summer camps because I was too old to be a counselor.

(LAUGHTER)

WAIN: And then when I was too old to do that, I wrote a movie about it.

EISENBERG: I get the sense, though, right now you have a lot of projects on the go. And one of them is writing the prequel to "Hot Wet American Summer"?

WAIN: That is one of them.

EISENBERG: Seriously?

WAIN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: What's the scoop on that? People are going to want to know.

WAIN: It's a slow but steady writing process and we're going to put it together just as soon as we can get that cast together again, which will be very difficult. But we're doing it.

EISENBERG: All right.

WAIN: It's in motion.

EISENBERG: Have you ever gone on one of those New York double decker buses for a tour?

WAIN: I never have.

EISENBERG: You're about to have a chance.

WAIN: Oh, no.

EISENBERG: David, we found a worthy opponent for you. Let's welcome to the stage Eric Larson.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Eric works for the New York City Ballet as assistant lighting director. And Eric, have you ever been on the double decker New York tour buses?

ERIC LARSON: I have not.

EISENBERG: This is going to be fantastic. Because we are going to do a game right now called New York, You're a Star.

WAIN: What?

EISENBERG: Yes. We're going to replicate the feeling of being on one of those double decker buses.

WAIN: OK.

EISENBERG: That tour New York City. Just without the bus; this takes place in your mind.

WAIN: Mm-hmm.

EISENBERG: And this story is entirely about movie moments set in New York. And your job is to name the film.

WAIN: Oh, lord.

EISENBERG: Yes, exciting. So here we go. We're heading up the side of the park to West 65th Street where you'll see the art deco peaks of 55 Central Park West. This is where the Sumerian god Gozer entered our plane of existence.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Eric.

LARSON: My favorite movie of all time: "Ghostbusters."

EISENBERG: Correct.

(APPLAUSE)

WAIN: I knew it too.

WILL SHORTZ: All right. On to Brooklyn. We'll soon be rolling down Stuyvesant Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Can't you almost feel that heat wave? Right here is where Mookie threw a trashcan into the window of Sal's Pizza.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SHORTZ: David.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIRENS)

WAIN: Uh-oh.

SHORTZ: Hello, New York.

WAIN: Fight the power. "Do the Right Thing."

LARSON: That's correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Let's cross the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island. What a view. At the ferry terminal we see throngs of big-haired commuters wearing big shoulder pads and white sneakers taking their orange boats to their demanding Manhattan jobs accompanied by the dulcet strains of Carly Simon's "Let the River Run."

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: David.

WAIN: I'm going to guess "Working Girl."

EISENBERG: You're going to guess correct.

WAIN: Yes!

(APPLAUSE)

WAIN: I mean, you're doing great too.

LARSON: Thanks.

EISENBERG: That was a victory dance halfway through a game. I like it.

SHORTZ: All right. It's time to get back to Manhattan so let's go straight to Times Square. This place throbs with energy and people except for now when it is eerily deserted. And look; there is an increasingly frantic Tom Cruise sprinting down Broadway.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SHORTZ: David?

WAIN: "Vanilla Sky."

SHORTZ: That's right.

EISENBERG: Although I believe increasingly frantic and Tom Cruise is redundant. I think you only have to say one of those words.

(LAUGHTER)

SHORTZ: He also does a lot of sprinting just even in his general...

EISENBERG: He loves sprinting.

SHORTZ: Just in his regular life. He's always sprinting from place to place.

EISENBERG: Let's head north on Central Park West to the American Museum of Natural History where a 2005 indie divorce drama starring Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney ended in the Hall of Ocean Life pondering a massive diorama of two sea creatures locked in combat.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: David.

WAIN: Thank you.

EISENBERG: David.

WAIN: That movie was "The Squid and the Whale."

EISENBERG: Exactly correct.

(APPLAUSE)

WAIN: Thank you. And it's a great movie.

SHORTZ: Winding back towards Central Park we find ourselves at 52nd Street and Lexington Avenue and the world's most famous subway grate. You don't recognize it? Well, maybe if a train passed by and you were wearing a skirt it would blow your skirt up like a certain blonde bombshell.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SHORTZ: Eric.

LARSON: "Some Like it Hot"?

SHORTZ: No. I'm sorry.

EISENBERG: I know exactly why you said that. That's a different one.

SHORTZ: David, do you want to - do you know which one it is?

WAIN: Yes.

SHORTZ: Do you want to say it out loud?

WAIN: It is "Marilyn Takes the Subway."

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I love that movie.

WAIN: I can't remember the name of the movie.

SHORTZ: Is it "The Seven Year Itch."

WAIN: "The Seven Year Itch."

SHORTZ: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SHORTZ: No points awarded.

EISENBERG: And our last stop is the intersection of 58th and Sixth Avenue. If you nearly get hit by a taxi while crossing the street, just smack the hood and give the driver your best "I'm walking here!"

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Eric.

LARSON: Is blanking. No, I lost it. Sorry.

EISENBERG: No, not sure? David, can you steal?

WAIN: "Midnight Cowboy."

EISENBERG: Yes. "Midnight Cowboy"...

WAIN: Yeah!

EISENBERG: ...is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Will, I turn to you.

SHORTZ: Eric, valiant effort but you went up against a pro. David is the winner.

EISENBERG: Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

WAIN: I had a great time.

EISENBERG: Eric, thank you so much.

LARSON: Thank you.

EISENBERG: David Wain, you are going to be moving on...

WAIN: Ooh.

EISENBERG: ...to our final showdown at the end of the show. You might become...

WAIN: I'll take the car.

EISENBERG: ...an Ask Me Another grand champion. How about a hand for Eric and our VIP David Wain?

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.