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The casting wet dream that is "Wet Hot American Summer"

Nearly a decade has passed since practically no one saw Wet Hot American Summer in theaters. Thankfully, the film lives on, having achieved cult status with the “drunk and/or high college kid” market. Wet Hot is an absurd, twisted look at summer camp in the 80s, written by comedians David Wain and Michael Showalter (of underground favorites The State and Stella Comedy); Wain also directed. Hilariously over the top and eminently quotable, the film’s biggest strength is its cast. But while the credits read like an all-star cast now, it wasn’t that way back in 2001. Here’s a breakdown of the ensemble into a few, uh, camps.

Already Famous

  • Janeane Garofalo: A star of stand-up, TV and film since the mid-90s, Garofalo was no stranger to audiences as camp director Beth.
  • David Hyde Pierce: Pierce had logged nearly 200 episodes of Frasier when he took the role of Henry, the nebbish professor who helps save the day.
  • Molly Shannon: Shannon was already a Superstar, having dominated SNL during its late 90s resurgence before playing the weepy Gail.
  • Christopher Meloni: While not as well known by name when WHAS was released, Meloni had been a standout on HBO’s groundbreaking Oz and had just began his run as Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU. With roles as a bisexual, sociopathic killer and a tough-as-nails sex crimes investigator, Meloni isn’t known for his comedic timing, which is a shame.

Breakout Stars

  • Paul Rudd: The Ageless Wonder had achieved some level of success before WHAS, including roles in Clueless and The Cider House Rules, but was still a few years from emerging as part of the Judd Apatow Frat Pack with scene-stealing roles in Anchorman, The 40-Year Old Virgin, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He was reunited with director David Wain in Role Models.
  • Amy Poehler: Like Rudd, Poehler had been around (as part of sketch show Upright Citizens Brigade), but her role in WHAS predates her SNL breakthrough and headlining gig on Parks and Recreation.
  • Bradley Cooper: Cooper is a relatively minor character in WHAS (his major appearance a hilariously tender gay sex scene with Michael Ian Black). Like Rudd, a supporting role in a Frat Pack film (the yuppie mook Sack in Wedding Crashers) would lead to starring roles in The Hangover and The A-Team.
  • Elizabeth Banks: Banks put the “wet hot” in the movie’s title, spending most of her screen time in a bikini and making out with Paul Rudd. Since then, Banks has played major baby mama roles on Scrubs and 30 Rock, in addition to starring in Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

Members of “The State”

  • Michael Ian Black: Arguably the most famous member of MTV’s classic sketch comedy show, Michael Ian Black is a television mainstay thanks to Ed, various VH1 specials, and Sierra Mist commercials.
  • Michael Showalter: The third member of Stella, Showalter collaborated with MIB on the short-lived Michael and Michael Have Issues; his film The Baxter is an underrated romantic comedy.
  • AD Miles: Miles shows up on screen occasionally (as in Dog Bites Man), but he’s making a name for himself as the head writer on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
  • Ken Marino: Marino has done a ton of television, all of it funny. Notable roles include Vinnie Van Lowe on Veronica Mars and Ron Donald on Party Down.
  • Joe LoTruglio: One of the lesser known State members, LoTruglio is also a Frat Packer, appearing in Superbad, Pineapple Express, Role Models, and Paul.

Comedy cameos

  • H. Jon Benjamin: Known for his voice work on Archer, Home Movies, and Bob’s Burgers, Benjamin delivers his finest line of dialogue as the can of vegetables: “Look, Gene, I’ve never told anyone this before, but I can suck my own dick, and I do it a lot.”
  • Judan Friedlander: Stand-up comedian / 30 Rock‘s Frank shows up for one scene as Gail’s deadbeat husband, Ron von Kleinenstein.

While some of the creative team behind Wet Hot American Summer has (jokingly) mentioned doing a prequel or sequel, this is really a once-in-a-lifetime cast. Unless everyone involved is willing to work for scale, fans are probably left with the fake “ten years later” scene from after the credits.