These days, MTV rarely even plays videos or music related programming at all. Instead, the station has opted to place their focus on terrible reality shows about knocked-up underprivileged teens and self-involved over-privileged teens. This downfall started back in 1992 with the premiere of The Real World, which, in turn, helped to spawn the reality show craze that continues to poison television programming and culture at large. It might be easy to forget now, but 120 Minutes and Liquid Television weren’t the only MTV original programs that were not complete trash throughout the 90s. In fact, around the same time that The Real World first aired, the music channel was also taking a stab at launching a handful of now-historic comedy programs. The original version of The Ben Stiller Show began with MTV, but later moved to the FOX network where it grew into a full-blown sketch comedy show, featuring the writing talents of Judd Apatow and future Mr. Show creators, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. It ran one season before being canceled. Jon Stewart also hosted a talk show on the network, but it was later syndicated out, replacing the old Arsenio Hall time slot. That had an even shorter run. Of all the shows that came out during this time period, however, my favorite was probably the sketch comedy show THE STATE. The program starred a comedy troupe of the same name that had found previous work recreating the details of viewer letters in MTV‘s You Wrote It, You Watch It, also hosted by Stewart. Like the other programs, The State didn’t last very long, but the talent involved went on to create such shows as Viva Variety, Stella Comedy, Reno 911, and Michael & Michael Have Issues, as well as to be involved in Adult Swim programs like Super Jail and Childrens Hospital. Sure, not all of those subsequent ventures by THE STATE troupe were necessarily “successful” hits either, but that doesn’t make them any less awesome. Perhaps one of the most simultaneously unsuccessful and awesome attempts by the gang came with the 2001 film, Wet Hot American Summer. Coincidentally, it’s also one of my favorites.
Wet Hot American Summer is set at a Jewish summer camp in 1981 and, as you could probably tell by the trailer (above), it parodies such movies as Meatballs and Little Darlings, from that time period. Starring and co-written by David Wain and Michael Showalter, the film also features other cohorts from The State like, Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, and Joe Lo Truglio. Further contributing their improv/sketch comedy talents are Molly Shannon (SNL), Amy Poehler (UCB, SNL), Janeane Garofalo (The Ben Stiller Show), and A.D. Miles (Dog Bites Man, Late Night w/Jimmy Fallon, ). Rounding out the cast are future 30 Rock cast members, Judah Friedlander and Elizabeth Banks, as well as a varied selection of actors that range from Paul Rudd (Anchorman, 40yr Old Virgin) and David Hyde Pierce (Frazier) to Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) and Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU). It was an all-star cast, before they were all stars, and, while the ensemble is undeniably impressive and the film was great, it was still a critical and commercial wreck. There was no surprise there, everything else that I ever seemed to like tanked just as hard. The Big Lebowski was also considered a failure when it was first released but, unlike the Coen Bros‘ cult classic, I was never fully aware that so many others were so fully aware of the summer camp comedy, or had even heard of the film at all. Now, with 2011 marking it’s 10 year anniversary, the folks behind Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles are finally giving the film the recognition that it deserves in the form of a WHAS-themed group art exhibit.
You may recognize the name Gallery 1998 from other art exhibits from them that we’ve posted about in the past. Focusing on pop-culture-centric artwork and emerging talent, the gallery has consistently managed to curate one impressive exhibit after another, while drawing from a pool that consists of some of the finest contemporary pop artists in the game. Along with their growth came an additional Los Angeles location, affording them the ability to run two completely separate exhibits simultaneously. The “Camp Firewood” group show will bring together over 65 individual artists to contribute their own unique interpretations of Wain and Showalter‘s classic, Wet Hot American Summer. The opening night will be held this Friday night, June 10th, and will take place at the Venice location. Among the participants are names like Augie Pagan, Brandon Schaefer, Jeremy Tinder, Ian Glaubinger, Dave MacDowell, Dave Perillo, Derek Deal, Rich Pellegrino, Phantom City Creative and many others. The show will continue to run until the 29th, but we recommend making it out for the opening night to anyone that has the ability to do so. Director/co-writer, David Wain will be hosting the event and there should be plenty of more surprises on hand.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Wet Hot American Summer”
June 10 – 29, 2011
Hosted by David Wain
Friday, June 10th from 7-10 PM
214 Pier Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Gallery 1988 graciously sent over a sample of some preview images for the event that we’ve posted below for your viewing pleasure. We’re sure that those of you who are familiar with the film will agree that it appears to be shaping up rather nicely, with another standout piece by New York-based painter, Casey Weldon. Still haven’t seen the film? Well… there’s a related event being held this Thursday at the Los Angeles film school, which will include a free screening of WHAS and a Q&A with Wain and podcaster, Jeff Goldsmith. You can find out more about that event HERE.