9 Priceless Jewish Moments From ‘Wet Hot American Summer’

A look back at the star-studded cult classic ahead of its return as a Netflix miniseries on July 31.

Andrew Tobin
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The crowd reacts to the comic stylings of the camp talent show MC in a scene from 'Wet Hot American Summer.'
The crowd reacts to the comic stylings of the camp talent show MC in a scene from 'Wet Hot American Summer.'Credit: Screenshot
Andrew Tobin

JTA - Welcome back to Camp Firewood! “Wet Hot American Summer,” cult classic movie from 2001, will soon be a Netflix miniseries, premiering July 31.

Camp Firewood isn’t an observant place, but it’s chalk full of Jews — there’s even a camper named David Ben-Gurion. The movie is reportedly based on director David Wain’s childhood experience as a camper at Jewish Camp Modin in Maine.

Whereas the movie follows the impossibly eventful and dramatic final day of camp in 1981, viewers will this time arrive with the campers on day one.

The same star-studded staff will be there to welcome them, including Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Rudd. Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Jason Schwartzman are among the new hires.

As a generation of Jewish summer campers will recall, the movie isn’t afraid to get weird and raunchy — with pubescent tongue mashing, talking canned vegetables and triumphant refrigerator humping being just a few examples.

But many of the best moments are good old-fashioned Jewish jokes.

1. Men can be real 'insensitive schmucks'

Precocious camper Aaron helps Gail deal with being left by her husband. "The truth is: A lot of the time men can be real, and excuse the Yiddish, insensitive schmucks," he explains. Even more healing than Aaron's words are his "magic" massages.

2. 'Well, she might be. She's got a pretty big nose'

After landing his dream girl, Gerald "Coop" Cooperberg calls to tell his parents they can stop worrying about his love life. Asked the inevitable Jewish-parent follow-up question, he says, "I don't think so. Well, she might be. She's got a pretty big nose."

3. Calling camper 'David Ben-Gurion'

Roll call by camp director, Beth, is heavily Jewish. "Amanda Klein, Jessica Azaria, Ira Stevenberg, Saul Zimmerstein, David Ben-Gurion."

4. The girls from Bunk 10 are 'really horny this summer'

Determined to get their closeted gay friend McKinley "the ultimate," J.J. and Gary, go down the list of potential girls: Debbie? Debbie Debbie? Tall Debbie? Debbie Freeman? "She's in heat!"

5. 'So then Rabbi Rothstein says...'

Camp talk-radio personality and resident dirty kid, Arty "The Beekeeper" Solomon, has the comedic repertoire of an old Jewish man. He stays sharp during the year on Jewish day school radio.

6. 'I love it that sometimes for no reason you're late for shul'

When Katie breaks off a morning-long romance with Coop, he professes his undying love. "I love the way you laugh, and I love the way your hair smells, and I love it that sometimes for no reason you're late for shul," he wails.

7. 'I went to sleep-away camp so long ago, it was the Stone Age'

Talent show MC Alan Shemper brings down the house with a monologue about how he attended Jewish summer camp during the Stone Age. "For breakfast, we had to eat scrambled pterodactyl eggs and raptor bacon," he quips, drawing howls of laughter from the audience.

8. 'Let's pray this works' - in Hebrew

With a piece of NASA's Skylab space station hurtling toward the camp rec hall, the science geeks say a Hebrew prayer that their deflector — powered by a Dungeons & Dragons dice — will save the day.

9. 'I don't think so, Ronald von Kleinenstein'

When Gail's husband Ron shows up at the talent show to win her back, she finds the strength to tell him she's "sick and tired of being sick and tired." In '80s movie fashion, the main characters resolve their problems in the movie's final moments – with the notable exception of poor Coop.

If you can’t wait for the premiere, check out the trailer for a quick fix (afternoon-away-from-camp style). Fair warning, though, it will only leave you craving more.

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