Wet Hot American Summer creators break down that can-tastical ending of Ten Years Later
Plus: David Wain and Michael Showalter on the odds of more 'Wet Hot' adventures
SPOILER ALERT: This story contain plot details from the Netflix comedy Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, which began streaming on Aug. 4.
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later gave us the 10-year reunion that had been teased 16 years prior in Wet Hot American Summer, and this regathering of the Firewood counselors was campy and crazy: A nuclear crisis turned out to be a harmless confetti bomb that Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton used to teach the gang a lesson about the spirit of Firewood. But that very last scene of this eight-episode series begged a very good question: How crazy was it, really?
There, sitting happily on the beach, were the two camp directors, Mitch (H. Jon Benjamin) and Beth (Janeane Garofalo), with Mitch eating that hitchhiking, sex-having can of vegetables — yes, the same one that he was transformed into after falling into a nuclear goo puddle in 2015’s prequel First Day of Camp — and with Beth reading the book Wet Hot American Summer by Gerald Cooperberg. So, what exactly was this one-year-later scene implying? Did all of those nutty camp adventures actually happen, or did Coop (Michael Showalter) simply imagine them to make his book more interesting? Or maybe the events at Firewood in the summer of ’81 happened, and only the reunion high jinks were fabricated? Or did something even more wondrous happen in that year that transformed Mitch back from can into man? One big clue seems to lie in Coop’s conversation with his book editor, Laura (Melanie Lynskey), who, after reading his camp reunion memoir, asks him if these adventures really happened. “Well… ” he answers. “I mean, what if I told you that I just went to my camp reunion and saw some old friends and had a few laughs, and that was it? Would that be more believable? But not as compelling, right? So, you tell me: Which story do you want to hear?”
Well, maybe the one right from the creators’ mouths. “We ourselves actually haven’t really talked about it,” Showalter tells EW. “It’s just fun to continually turn it on its head, but we never decided what it was. But I do like that you don’t know. … I think that we would probably have that conversation if we were to do some more stories about it. I think we purposefully made it very ambiguous: Was all of it — including the movie — fictionally a story that Coop wrote, when in reality all that ever happened were garden-variety summer camp experiences? I think it would be sort of un-fun to try to answer it. I’m as curious to know the answer as anyone else would be, and I think maybe one day we’ll find out.”
Wain, meanwhile, addresses the theory that it was all in Coop’s head. “It’s funny, because to be completely honest, that interpretation didn’t come to my mind until after we already shot it,” he shares. “Once we realized that that’s what it felt like, then we leaned into it, and we changed the dialogue in the scene with the book editor to include references to things like the can of vegetables. We rejiggered that scene just the tiniest bit so that you would feel like it’s a little bit of a question as to what the whole thing is. … [But originally] in my head, it was a little more straightforward, which was that the whole crazy stuff that happened at the reunion was the part that was made up. But the can of vegetables, which long predates the reunion, of course, is part of reality.”
“I know Mike and I have always shared an enjoyment of the notion of like, ‘Wait, is this real?’ or ‘Is this the real story?’ — pulling back out the camera further and further,” Wain continues, while dropping a reference to the ending of The Life of Pi, which leaves you to decide which version of the story to hold onto. “All those layers are fun, and yeah, of course, it’s however you want to interpret it. The truth is, so much of it makes no sense in so many ways. In fact, one of the things we’re going to do is a Facebook Live event where President Clinton, President Bush, and President Reagan are going to sit down with some of the counselors and explain and answer all of their questions about how they pulled it off that they didn’t have time to answer before they had to have pizza. Because every single thing that happens does have an explanation — regardless of how much of a hula hoop we have to go through to get there.”
Speaking of not having enough time, where did McKinley have to be at 11 a.m.? Here is Wain’s response in full to that burning question: “I know. Totally.”
And given that we’re asking things, you also may be wondering if there will be any more Wet Hot adventures in the future, near or far. While no official decisions have been made, it sounds like Showalter and Wain have both interest and material. “We always have ideas percolating, and I have confidence that it will come back,” says Wain. “But Mike Showalter [who just directed The Big Sick] is the new hottest filmmaker in Hollywood, and I’m pretty busy, too [Wain is directing A Futile & Stupid Gesture], so I think we’ll probably do some other stuff, and then we’ll come back to it.”
Showalter seems to have plenty of that can-do spirit as well. “These characters are totally in my bones at this point, so purely from the standpoint of being a writer, I could probably go on endlessly,” he seconds. “I feel like it’s about gauging how this season is received and how we feel about it — if we want to tell more stories about these characters, and if so, what and how and where and when. But my enthusiasm level is the same.”
Wet Hot American Summer