Review: WHAS First Day of Camp ‘Auditions’

“I was thinking about watching you ride a horse later. Is that cool?” -Andy

First Day of Camp leaves camp again to explore Henry Newman’s back story when the “Auditions” episode opens, showing David Hyde Pierce’s character struggling to make tenure while his life unravels – his wife leaves him, he gets into a fist fight and loses to nemesis Broadfarb Gilroy (Rob Huebel) and has a public meltdown telling off Dean Fairchild (Richard Schiff) in the faculty dining room.

On a tip from his colleague Amelia (Aisha Hinds), Newman contacts a real estate agent about summer rentals and winds up taking a house right near Camp Firewood, which brings us back to camp and the auditions in the episode’s name. It turns out the two Electro City leads were not hurt when they fell off the stage – Abraham Mendel broke their fall – but Ben and Susie decide to recast the two parts anyway – they made a mistake and “mistakes aren’t tolerated here” – and Ben agrees to fill in for Abraham as half of the zoot suit with McKinley. The part gives Ben an opportunity to explore his “creativity” with McKinley.

Calling back (forward) to when the campers all boo an incredible performance at the talent show, Claude Dumet (John Slattery) lays into Lisa from Freehold, N.J. after she beautifully sings “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The joke is Lisa is played by Rozzi Crane, who was the first artist signed to Adam Levine’s record label. “Your audition stunk up this room like an empty wet fart,” Claude yells. “You don’t have it!” The auditions that follow get progressively worse – ventriloquists, a break dancer, etc. – before Katie (Marguerite Moreau) impresses and Logan St. Bogan (John Early) puts himself in contention with a masterful performance, both in the show’s world and beyond. Early, a comedian by trade, is quite hilarious, especially when he gives an acceptance speech right before Andy (Paul Rudd) steals the part away from him with his acoustic performance of a song called “Champagne Eyes.”

firstdayofcamp1x04jonhammpunks

The Falcon (Jon Hamm) shows up again in a scene straight from Mad Men, where he walks into convenience store to buy a container of Skoal and two combs. Where it takes a Wet Hot u-turn is when a group of punks – one wearing a Cure shirt to clue you in that it’s the actress who played Cure Girl in the movie – come into the store causing trouble. The Falcon makes quick work of them and tells them to stay in school before setting the whole place on fire. Hamm’s scene isn’t the only reference to Mad Men in the episode. Gail (Molly Shannon) goes to Waterville to investigate Jonas (Christopher Meloni) and learns from records clerk Jeff (Randall Park) that Jonas took on the identity of a friend who died in a plane crash during the war.

Kevin Applebot (David Bloom) makes progress with his love interest Amy (Hailey Sole) when he teaches her how to play tether ball and saves her from the ridicule of Drew (Thomas Barbusca) when she gets hit on the head with the ball. It’s a silly scene that unfortunately doesn’t occur more in the show – interactions between campers are scarce, after all. Drew does get one more scene in the episode when he calls dibs on almost every girl, Amy included, in the mess hall.

Kennebec County’s No. 1 hypnotist Jackie Brazen (Weird Al Yankovic) is the entertainment for the day. “Are you ready to get unconscious and uncanny?” he says to a crowded mess hall. J.J. (Zak Orth) is the first to volunteer and Brazen makes him act like a turtle. When Greg and Beth talk to him afterward, Jackie Brazen starts to act strange and when Beth makes a comment about having fun at his next performance at Camp Snowledge and Jackie says he will, Beth realizes something is up. That something is The Falcon, who is disguised as Jackie Brazen. Beth and Greg run (in slow motion) and Reagan’s No. 1 assassin misses his point blank kill shot just before the credits roll.

“Auditions” picked up the pieces of a weak third episode while squeezing a ton in for a half-hour show. It also includes only one reference to the Coop and Donna love story – someone tells Coop he looks like a doink with the hat Donna gave him – so that counts as a win and sets up what promises to be a strong (and ridiculous) final three episodes as the sun begins to set on the first day of Camp Firewood 1981.

Notes:

-Arty sure does love his abbreviations of bands. In this episode, he spins some Bachman Turner Overdrive, or BTO as he likes to call them.

-Jonas mixes up the song that he saw Gail dancing to when they first met at the Portsmouth Marriot. He says she was doing “The Hustle” but Gail corrects him. It was “The Electric Slide.”

-Henry quotes Shakespear’s Hamlet when he says “I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.”

-Katie reads from the 4th edition of Monologues for Ingenues to prepare for her audition. The book doesn’t exist. The lines she reads also appear to be made up: “That was my Mama’s scarf. The scarf she wrapped around her neck. It was given to her by her aunt Margaret who lived in Boston.”

-Dean Fairchild is also the editor of The Astrophysics Quarterly Review.

-Claude Dumet name-drops Jerome Robbins, Gower Champion and Jack Hofsiss in a pointless story. All three are famous real-life Broadway directors/producers.

-Logan says his favorite actor is Ben Vereen, a Broadway actor who was nominated for a Tony for his performance in Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972 and won for his performance in Pippin in 1973.

-The Camp Tiger Claw guys pass the time tearing up money and discussing Ayn Rand when Kristen Wiig makes her first cameo as snotty and suggestive counselor Courtney.

-A TV comedy isn’t complete without a Rob Huebel appearance. “I hope your writing is better than your left hook, Newman.” his character Broadfarb Gilroy says after beating up Henry Newman.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

Leave a Response