Higher And Higher: Inside The Brilliant Mind Behind The Music Of ‘Wet Hot American Summer’

The Wet Hot American Summer franchise, both the film and its corresponding First Day of Camp series, is a comedic tour de force due largely in part to its incredible cast (Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, etc.) and the talent behind its script (David Wain, Michael Showalter). But there’s another character at play that keeps the whole thing — each and every scene — together in more ways than one… the music.

From the “Wet Hot American Summer” theme song, to “Higher and Higher” – the original song that soundtracks a montage in the movie and whose creation is a major plot point in the series, to even the shortest 30-second background arrangement, each musical piece is straight out of the mind of Craig Wedren, a veteran songwriter/composer who’s scored such films as Role Models and School of Rock, as well as TV shows like Reno 911!, Hung, and Stella. After watching the movie and bingeing the prequel on Netflix, we picked Wedren’s brain and dug up some fascinating tidbits, including who is favorite characters are, how one of Paul Rudd’s songs was partially inspired by Tom Waits, and why years of karaoke with the cast has paid off. He also imagines Wet Hot set in the year 2100, and let’s just say there are a lot of saggy tits. Read on below.

Fourteen years later and Wet Hot American Summer lives again! Did you ever think you’d see a comeback? Was that even in the realm of possibility back in 2001?

In 2001, we thought we were making something super special, only to be sorely disappointed when virtually nobody came to see Wet Hot in theaters; and many of those who did see it, didn’t like it. But slowly, surely, Wet Hot found its audience, and its popularity continued to grow on a grassroots level, which was a thrilling and strange thing to witness. Over the years, there had been talk of a sequel, a prequel, and other various revisitations. I think most of us had a ‘believe it when we see it’ attitude, which is often the case with movies and TV shows, because they’re so tough to get made, and even the most bulletproof-seeming projects can go away in a heartbeat.

When it finally happened with Netflix, it happened very fast; it was like, “Okay, people. We’re back IN!”

So, the answer to your question is “Yes,” then “No,” then “Yes!”

Much like the film itself, the music you composed for First Day of Camp sounds so embedded in its time period. Was the songwriting process easier this time around? Or, perhaps harder, because so many years had passed between projects?

The writing came fairly naturally for both the movie and the series, but the sheer volume of music that needed to be created for the show was unprecedented for me.