Explaining 'Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp' '80s References, aka The Source Of Its Funniest Jokes
We already know that Netflix's show Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp exists in a moment of space and time unto itself, where "By the end of August, everyone will feel like they're 15 years younger!" With the film set in 1981, the Netflix series was crafted with tongue firmly in cheek to make plenty of jokes about the bizarre timeline, both as a prequel to the 2001 Wet Hot American Summer film and with ‘80s-tastic references.
As if the feathered hair, now-vintage clothes, nostalgic camp vibes, and music weren’t ‘80s enough, there were plenty of jokes in the recent Netflix show that alluded to specific pop culture from 1981. But, many fans of the film, made 20 years after it was set, weren’t alive in the early ‘80s, and even fewer fans of the new series can personally recall references from 1981. Somehow, the jokes still land. (Though, to be honest, I had to look up who Larry Wilcox was to get a joke from the show.) So, to help you get all the references, here’s a guide to eight of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp's most 1981 jokes that were hilarious, self-aware, and so WHAS.
1. References To Dated Commercial Jingles
Try harder? What is this? The latest ad campaign for Avis Rent A Car? — Beth, Episode 3
We’re like Burger King here on CFW: You can have it your way. — Artie, The Beekeeper, Episode 4
2. Popular ‘80s Movie Tropes
With the Gonzo journalist who got too close to the story, the underdog attorney, the toxic neon green ectoplasm, Lampoons-esque preppies at Camp Tiger Claw, and a sex bet (a la 1980 camp-film Little Darlings), First Day of Camp is ripe with ‘80s plotlines and film nods. The summer camp genre itself was huge in the ‘80s. Well played, WHAS.
3. The Not-So-Subtle Reference To Watergate
You may have just uncovered the biggest government conspiracy since Watergate … which was about seven years ago. — Jim Stansel, Episode 5
Love the timestamp they had to give.
4. There’s An iPhone In The Courtroom
And, Greg isn’t so sure about it, because, of course, no such thing existed in the '80s.
5. The Dated Celebrity References
With name-dropping of Marla Gibbs, Larry Wilcox, and Gower Champion, I can’t be the only one who was reaching for my iPhone to do a quick search. I mean, it’s not every day you hear a Gower Champion reference. FYI: Marla Gibbs was on The Jeffersons, Larry Wilcox starred on CHiPS (with Chris Pine’s dad, actually), and Champion was a prominent theater actor.
6. President Reagan
A hilarious portrayal, for this timely reference to the setting.
7. The Music
Lindsay’s magazine, Rock'n'Roll World, debates writing a piece about Grandmaster Flash and the art of deejaying in general. Bradley Cooper’s character Ben is not-so-secretly DJ Ski Mask. A huge series plot is the edgy ‘80s musical Electro City. And, we get to see the hair band origin story of “Higher and Higher.” It’s all just so 1981.
8. Coop’s New Outfit
That hat? One earring? The silk shirt and vest? Coop looks like a character straight out of a John Hughes film, and it's perfect.
Images: Saeed Adyani/Netflix (4), Giphy (1), Screengrab/Netflix (1)