Much like its filmic predecessor, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp is full of deep references. While the original movie winked at everything from Meatballs to ’70s fonts, the new Netflix series takes things further, referencing not only era-appropriate media and clothing, but also dropping in little Easter eggs that shout out the original Wet Hot American Summer. Earlier this summer, The A.V. Club looked at the original movie’s send-ups and layers, but why stop there? Today and tomorrow, we’ll be plowing through all the references in every episode of the Netflix series, from “Campers Arrive” to “Day Is Done.” Grab a cold can of refreshing Tab and strap in as we tackle episodes one through four below. We’ll be back with five through eight tomorrow.

Episode 1, “Campers Arrive

0:08: Campfire opening credits


From the opening notes of Jefferson Starship’s “Jane” and the classic ’80s Cooper Black font, the credits foreshadow the next eight weeks at Camp Firewood. Both the movie and TV version of Wet Hot American Summer begin with a late-night campfire party, but the first minute and a half of First Day Of Camp introduces Mitch (H. Jon Benjamin), who Beth (Janeane Garofalo) already seems to be tiring of, and Greg (Jason Schwartzman), a bit of loner listening to his own Walkman. Plus Ben (Bradley Cooper) and Susie (Amy Poehler) seem to be on the rocks, Coop (Michael Showalter) sings into a marshmallow on a stick, and then the camera turns to Guitar Dude, who once again provides the segue into Camp Firewood. [Laura M. Browning]

2:11: Even Alan Shemper’s name gets the counselors excited


The last day of camp ends with the requisite camp talent show, and while the theater kids, after a summer of being pushed hard by tightly wound Ben and Susie, put on a pretty professional show, they’re booed mercilessly by the campers. But that same tough crowd softens up immediately for Alan Shemper (Showalter, in a dual role), a Catskills-type comic whose shtick is so hacky and rambling it’s hard to tell where the punchline are supposed to land. Yet improbably, the kids eat it up, laughing hysterically at jokes like “farts and crafts.” Turns out, Shemper’s appearance was hotly anticipated, as in episode one, we can hear campers murmuring excitedly that Shemper will be there to crack them up by summer’s end. [Mike Vago]

2:56: “She’s so funny. She’s like Marla Gibbs-level funny.”


All of the junior counselors are more than enamored of Girls’ Head Counselor Beth, who Showalter’s Coop tells Zak Orth’s J.J. is “like Marla Gibbs-level funny” during the roll call scene. In 1981, when the movie takes place, Gibbs was well known for playing Florence Johnston, the wisecracking maid on The Jeffersons. [Marah Eakin]

5:41: Camp Tiger Claw preppies

Every camp needs an antagonist, and our guttersnipe friends at Camp Firewood are being watched by the evil rich campers at Camp Tiger Claw. This follows a long line of evil rich groups attacking underdogs, like the nasty Omega house taking on the lovable louts from Delta in Animal House, or the Tri-Lambda nerds facing off against the Alpha Betas in Revenge Of The Nerds. (You can tell they’re evil by their pointy upturned collars.) As with these other frat villains, Camp Tiger Claw, led by Josh Charles’ formidable Blake, has no redeeming factors, only snobbery and an unending desire to destroy our heroes, mainly just because they’re there. Blake also has the constant monitoring of his girlfriend Katie in mind, but she smartly shuns Camp Tiger Claw’s Gatsby-themed formal to light up the stage as the lead in Electro City. By the end of summer, Camp Tiger Claw and Camp Firewood can’t even be bothered to face off against each other in a softball game. [Gwen Ihnat]


6:20: “The buses, the buses… who are you Mitch, Tattoo?”

As Wet Hot American Summer absolutely takes place in 1981, with teens from 1981, it absolutely makes sense to reference the pop culture of that era. In this case, that would be Fantasy Island, which aired from 1977 to 1984. The most memorable line of the show, of course, would be “The plane, the plane!” (“Ze Plane! Ze Plane!” or “Da Plane! Da Plane!” depending on how much you want to put the accent into words) from the character Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize). Tattoo would say it every time guests showed up to Fantasy Island, in his own iconic voice. [LaToya Ferguson]


7:10: Samm Levine returns as the voice of Arty “The Beekeeper” Solomon

Podcast villain Samm “The Ma’am” Levine originally lucked into playing the voice of The Beekeeper in a roundabout way, with David Wain calling him during post-production and saying he’d hired “the wrong kid.” This time around, Levine’s appearance was more pre-meditated, with the former Freaks And Geeks star being called on to voice a kid cast simply because he looks like the original Beekeeper. Fifteen years later, it seems like Wain may have pitch-shifted Levine’s grown-up voice a bit to keep the tone right, but it’s as seamless a transition as anything else happening on First Day Of Camp. [Marah Eakin]

8:30: Coop adopting the curly-haired outsider camper is a direct plotline from Meatballs

The camp movie is not really a major genre, with Bill Murray’s Meatballs the gold standard before the Wet Hot crew took the trope and ran away with it. So far Camp Firewood’s most obvious nod to that source material is Coop’s relationship with new curly-headed camper Kevin. Meatballs spends a lot of its plot time with head counselor Murray befriending misfit Rudy (Chris Makepeace), coaching him to defeat the evil other camp by winning a race through the forest. Things turn out okay for Kevin as well; even though Amy brushes him off not unlike the way Katie would treat Coop by the end of the summer, he finally fits in with the fucking burp king of Westchester and his friends. [Gwen Ihnat]


9:04: Meet “Cooperberg”

In the original Wet Hot, Coop’s real last name wasn’t revealed to be the comical Cooperberg until almost the end of the film. This time around, First Day At Camp drops that bomb nine minutes into the first episode, slapping the awkward moniker on the back of the character’s jersey T-shirt. [Marah Eakin]


13:30: “He is a card-carrying member of Actors’ Equity.”

For Susie, theatre (Susie would certainly spell it at that way) is the ultimate art and the mark of master in their craft is entry into Actors’ Equity, as is the status of Claude Dumet (John Slattery), lecherous director extraordinaire. Equity is the main union that reps more than 50,000 actors and stage manager. Equity, like SAG-AFTRA that reps film and TV actors, negotiates pay, makes sure that working conditions are safe and provides health and pension benefits to its members. [Molly Eichel]

14:00: Claude Dumet takes a very cinematic fall

Gene Wilder agreed to take one of his most iconic roles—that of the title character in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory—on one strict condition: that when we first see Wonka, he hobbles out of his factory with a cane. As the concerned crowd looks on, he wobbles, loses his balance, falls… and then somersaults into a triumphant leap to his feet. That sort of misdirection is a classic actor’s trick—demonstrating to the audience that they have no idea what’s real and what’s a put-on. Wilder said he was so insistent on the move because, “from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.” So it makes sense that Claude Dumet, Slattery’s self-important dramatist, would attempt the same entrance. He hobbles into Camp Firewood’s theater, eliciting the requisite audience concern… and the muffs the somersault, collapsing in a heap and worrying the campers even further. Acting! [Mike Vago]


14:50: Victor and Neil’s Little Darlings sex bet

Victor and Neil start off their summer with a bet to see who will lose their virginity/get laid for the millionth time, but they were hardly the first to do so. Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal beat them to the V-card punch in 1980’s Little Darlings. Other than also being camp-based, the two movies don’t appear to have too much in common until the very end: Victor, who still hasn’t had sex, says that he has, while Neil, who finally has nanosecond-sex with his girlfriend Shari (Beth Dover), says that he doesn’t, to protect his girl’s virtue. This tosses back to O’Neal’s character Ferris saying that she had sex with the camp swimming instructor but didn’t, while McNichol’s Angel goes all the way with Matt Dillon’s Randy, but doesn’t tell, even though that means she loses the bet. [Gwen Ihnat]


18:26: The Beekeeper brings his own carts

While the Beekeeper is filling in McKinley (Michael Ian Black) on how he’ll run the camp’s radio station, he unloads his own Fidelipacs, a format better known as “carts” in the radio world. A cartridge that’d let stations pre-record short ads or station identifications, carts haven’t been used in radio since the late ’90s. It’s a dumb little prop joke only people who have spent time working in radio would notice, but that’s the kind of stuff Wain and company live for. [Marah Eakin]


26:00: Toxic waste as a very ’80s plot trope

Toxic waste—and its close cousin, transformative or radioactive slime and ooze—was a common plot presence in ’80s films across multiple genres: horror (e.g., The Toxic Avenger, C.H.U.D.), sci-fi comedy (Val Kilmer’s “I <3 Toxic Waste” shirt in Real Genius), and kid-geared action (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). First Day At Camp plays up the decade’s hysteria around toxic waste, which was no doubt inspired by fears of nuclear annihilation, by making glowing neon-green sludge dumped by mysterious workers a looming threat to the camp. [Annie Zaleski]


Episode 2, “Lunch

0:39: Elizabeth Banks has barbecue sauce on her face (again)

We originally met Elizabeth Banks’ character Lindsay as she sauntered up to Paul Rudd’s bad boy Andy, all cool confidence and hot girl trope. She doesn’t lose that swagger after the camera reveals a mess of barbecue sauce on her face—far from being embarrassed about it, Lindsay points out how shallow Andy is by reminding him, “It’s just barbecue sauce. Come on, I want to make out.” Her one-dimensional character is given a compelling background in First Day Of Camp, as we find out she’s actually an undercover reporter for a Rolling Stone-type magazine. She’s introduced as the scrappy young journalist hungry for a big story… with barbecue sauce on her face, again. She’s more concerned about getting a scoop and making out with Andy than the mundanity of a clean face. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]


5:09: Katie says Blake is a total fox, like a “younger Larry Wilcox.”

Larry Wilcox would undoubtedly be glad to hear this assessment by Katie. On the TV Show Chips (which stood for California Highway Patrol and ran from 1977 to 1982), he usually got the shaft in favor of his cheeky partner with the dazzling smile, Ponch, played by Erik Estrada. But Wilcox’s Office Jon Baker was no slouch, although much more of a rule-follower than that renegade Ponch. In real life, however, no member of the Chips team could hold a fricking flashlight to Josh Charles, who is as foxy as it gets, even with all those polo shirts. [Gwen Ihnat]


6:20: David Wain as an unlikely ladies’ man

Anyone familiar with Stella or Wainy Days knows that, despite being ridiculed by friends like Showalter and Black for his social ineptitude (never mind that they’re pretty inept themselves), Wain usually gets the girl. He takes this one step further in First Day Of Camp by casting himself as Yaron, an Israeli soccer coach who seduces Coop’s girlfriend with his broken English, new-age platitudes, and impressive devil-stick skills. [Dan Caffrey]

23:41: Even those shitty shorts are a reference

First Day Of Camp fills in a lot of its own mythology, but it also addresses a mystery in They Came Together, Wain and Showalter’s 2014 rom-com send-up. Roland (Christopher Meloni) craps his pants at a Halloween party and has to improvise, putting the other guests onto the scent, so to speak. “You mind telling me why your superhero costume is on the bathroom floor filled with shit?” ask Teddy (Kenan Thompson). Roland says the only possible explanation is that someone else pooped in his costume, but unfortunately he didn’t have the good fortune to have Miss Patti Pancakes swoop in to take the fall. [Joshua Alston]


Episode 3, “Activities

0:44: A sign on the wall of WCFW advertises “Rick Dees’ Greatest Hit.”


Best known for hosting the Rick Dees Weekly Top 40, Rick Dees also had exactly one commercial radio hit, “Disco Duck,” a novelty track that was released in 1976. Given that the camp radio station’s been boarded up for a few years, that poster was probably put up right before the whole thing got shut down. [Marah Eakin]

1:44: “Try harder? What is this? The latest ad campaign for Avis Rent A Car?”

Avis Rent A Car used the slogan “We try harder” for 50 years, from 1962 to 2012. [Marah Eakin]


5:57: “I know he’s got a pair of duck boots jammed in his butthole.”

In just one sentence, Andy sums up Katie’s snobby boyfriend Blake. Duck boots, a type of waterproof footwear made popular by preppy New England companies like Sperry and L.L. Bean, were important clothing signifiers of wealth in the early ’80s, right alongside Izod shirts and Guess jeans. [Marah Eakin]


9:01: Gail’s crayon surplus

By the last day of camp depicted in Wet Hot American Summer, there are hundreds of colored markers in the arts and crafts barn, but there’s only one crummy brown crayon. It’s the inciting incident that sends arts and crafts counselor Gail into an emotional spiral, but the audience soon learns that a Crayola drought is the least of her concerns. At the beginning of the summer, things are looking much rosier: During “Activities,” Gail is seen transporting a green basket overflowing with crayons. (Underneath the basket: a box labeled “Pottery Clay,” hence that ubiquitous sound effect.) Unfortunately, her crayon-and-romance-based bliss will be short-lived. It’s during this supply run that Gail learns of her fiancé’s hidden past, a brown crayon of emotion that kicks off one of the busiest romantic days in human history. [Erik Adams]


21:34: The Rockin’ Knights Of Summer

The legendary Rockin’ Knights Of Summer have a real-life inspiration, but their leader didn’t become the Boo Radley of Camp Firewood—he wound up helping to create Camp Firewood. According to an interview with Vanity Fair, when Wain was too old to be a counselor, he hatched a plan that would allow him to return to his al fresco alma mater. “I formed a rock band just to go back and tour different summer camps around New England. We were called the Rockin’ Knights Of Summer.” The group would arrive at a camp in the afternoon, crowdsource a set list from camper’s favorite songs, put on the show, and do a workshop the following day. “It was an enterprising way to achieve two goals,” Wain told VF. “One was to go back to summer camp, and the other was to be in a touring rock band.” And now the legacy of that band lives on in the legend of Eric (Chris Pine) and his ultimate ode to friendship. [Erik Adams]


25:57: Michael Showalter unconvincingly plays another older character

The great Catskills comedian Alan Shemper gets foreshadowed in the first episode of First Day Of Camp, but we never get to see him. We do, however, get another purposely half-assed and unconvincingly made-up older character played by Showalter: a supervillain version of Ronald Reagan. With his slapped-on wrinkles, overly raspy voice, and inability to eat jelly beans, Showalter’s not believable for a second as the president—and that’s the point. [Dan Caffrey]


Episode 4, “Auditions

4:39: “We’re like Burger King here on CFW: You can have it your way.”

Commercial tag lines abound on Wet Hot American Summer, especially from Beth, who can’t help but make an Avis rent-a-car crack even when faced with a toxic-waste disaster. But it’s Artie The Beekeeper who throws in a nod to Burger King’s revolutionary ad campaign. The legendary number-two burger chain went after the fascist McDonalds juggernaut by offering more freedom in ordering options: “Hold the pickle / Hold the lettuce / Special orders don’t upset us” went the jingle, implying that you could not get such easy flexibility at McD’s if you tried to get a Big Mac without special sauce. Meanwhile the mom in this 1974 commercial is over the moon thanks to some extra ketchup on her Whopper. [Gwen Ihnat]


7:20: Wet Hot American Summer’s “indoor kids” make a new appearance

While it’s impressive enough that much of the adult cast of the original Wet Hot American Summer movie came back for the series, it’s even more impressive that Wain and Showalter managed to track down some of the then-kids from the same film. Four of them make an appearance as Jon Hamm’s Falcon stops by the country store for his tin of Skoal and two combs. Raising all kinds of hell before they get all kinds of blown up, the gang of kids includes actor Madeline Blue—who played “Cure Girl” in the original movie and wears a Cure T-shirt in First Day—as well as Gabriel Millman, who played Keith, the kid in the cape. [Marah Eakin]


11:06: “One night I was having drinks next to the brilliant Jerome Robbins while he was having drinks with the late great Gower Champion. And do you know who else was in the restaurant that night? Jack Hofsiss.”

In order to impress Susie with his theatrical majesty, director Claude Dumet talks about his magical night next to, rather than with, theatrical greats. Jerome Robbins was a five-time Tony Award-winner and Kennedy Center recipient who had directed or produced Broadway mainstays including Fiddler On The Roof, West Side Story, and Gypsy. In Dumet’s world, Robbins was having drinks with fellow director and choreographer Gower Champion, who was behind Hello, Dolly! and Bye Bye Birdie. In the 1981-set world of Wet Hot, Champion would have died the summer before in 1980 of blood cancer. Who else was there? But another famed theater director, Jack Hofsiss, who is perhaps best known for directing The Elephant Man (Bradley Cooper, who plays Ben, would later go on to garner a Tony nomination for his own portrayal of The Elephant Man, but this time directed by Tony-nominated director Scott Ellis). [Molly Eichel]


12:02: “What’s your major malfunction?”

Drew’s quoting Full Metal Jacket when he taunts Kevin, never mind that the film won’t be released until 1987, a full six years after First Day Of Camp takes place. Anachronistic pop-culture references are a staple of the Wet Hot universe. [Dan Caffrey]


20:20: “He’s like my father when he gets into the planter’s punch.”

Planter’s punch is a cocktail that originated in Jamaica but is big among the patrician south. It’s boozy and sugary, including dark rum (hence the West Indian roots), fruit juices (orange, pineapple, lemon), syrup, grenadine, and Angostura bitters. WASP Courtney (Kristen Wiig) compares the object of her affection Blake to her father when he’s had too much of the stuff, and then stares off with a look of such concern that is both disconcerting and hilarious. [Molly Eichel]