Inspirations #001: Wayne’s World

Inspirations…what are they? They are things we love so much they make us want to make something. They have such a pull on us we’ll examine them to death, pouring over every nuance, wanting to know what makes them so good, partly in the hope that if we do work out what the magic ingredients are, we can trap them and recreate them in our own work.

These are some of my inspirations (in no particular order).

waynesworld1

Wayne’s World 1 & 2

Comedy is a tricky beast. We live in a world seemingly swamped with it. Hollywood regularly throws out chuckle-flicks and TV schedules are packed full of sit-coms (both US and home-grown). The problem is, so much of it is gag-free. I mean, some of them are so bad, I actually feel more depressed after seeing them, having been savaged by canned laughter and subjected to jokes so bad even the dudes who write Christmas crackers wouldn’t use them.

Good comedy is rare. Timeless comedy rarer still. Timeless comedy sequels are so rare Green Peace have them on an endangered list. Wayne’s World 1 & 2 tick all these boxes, and what’s more, they are both PG certificates. Sure, the films are a bit blue in places, but there’s no nudity, no fart gags, and no swearing. Which flies in the face of so much modern ‘say fuck and fart’ comedy. (Hmm, nice term. I should trademark that.)

I saw Wayne’s World when I was about ten and loved it.Twenty-odd years later, I still love it. That either means I live in a state of arrested development, or that the film taps into something transcendental. I don’t want to get too ‘Media Studies’ on it, I just think that’s an interesting point. I mean how many things did you still find funny now that made you cry with laughter as a kid? And for that matter, once you hear a joke, how many times can you re-hear it before it stops being funny? Jokes aren’t like songs, you can’t cover it and put a new spin on it, once the joke has hatched, well…that’s it, you’ve heard it. That’s why so much comedy is disposable and doesn’t date well. I mean, think how many comedies you could name that came out in the last ten years? For every one you remember, how many are good? And for that matter, how many did you forget? So much of it is disposable. The Wayne’s World films included, only somehow they break out of black hole.

Part of their success is their approach. They never take themselves too seriously. Character’s break the fourth wall often and talk to camera. There’s surreal asides too (Wayne opens a door in the diner to reveal a group of commando’s fighting like the end of Roger Moore Bond movie). There’s even deliberate attempts to derail the viewer by reminding them they are watching a film (the second film jokes about them using bad body doubles. By the way Garth’s double in that London scene is in fact Rich Fulcher, who would later go on to be Bob Fossil in the BBC’s Mighty Boosh. Geek fact).

But, back to Wayne’s World.

The films also lampoon Hollywood and product placement. Garth’s speech about ‘people only doing things because they get paid,’ whilst dressed head-to-toe in Reebok gear is a delicious swipe at the commercial conventions of the film industry. They films take risks too from having love scenes in Cantonese to having multiple endings. Something that I doubt would fly now as Studio Execs would fear it would confuse the audience. Furthermore, when it comes to the final third of a script, most other comedies are normally knuckling down and trying to close the story. Wayne’s World 2 waves two fingers to that and stops a chase scene to give us a cameo from Charlton ‘Gordon Street’ Heston. Not only that, they even moan about an actor not being very good for the part. (I often wonder what happened to that guy, and if he got any other work after that, saying ‘I was the bloke in Wayne’s World they said couldn’t act’. It will twist your melon if you think about it too much, because if he was so good at being a bad actor was he in fact a good actor playing bad actor well…and I’ve lost myself)

Each film is awash with good ideas and great characters who make their mark with just a few lines. The owner of Stan Mikitas donuts gives the best opening line I’ve ever heard for a bit part character. You instantly want more of him. On top of that the film is educational too. It taught me the word ‘sphincter’ as well as ‘haiku’, not to mention some Cantonese (I have no way of knowing whether ‘Zang’ is ‘excellent’ in Cantonese, but I’m happy to live in ignorance). The films delivered everything the poster promised. I laughed. I cried. I hurled.

Well, I didn’t actually hurl. And the crying…well…alright. I just laughed. A lot. But that’s good enough. And if that wasn’t enough, the cherry on the cake has to be getting ‘Danny’ from Withnail and I into Wayne’s Word 2. Sure, he’s called ‘Del Preston’ but that’s the only difference.

The films are total fun, and I want to capture that in everything I write. They are inventive too, but most importantly tough, the films never sneer at the audience, they welcome you into the fun. I’m avoiding using the word post-modern, but they are. And they invite the audience to come along for the ride. It’s party-time. It’s excellent. I just hope the money men don’t tempt them into making a third. The bar is set too high.

This video doesn’t even begin to cover all the good bits, but still…enjoy.

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  1. Pingback: GUMBI VS THE WORLD – AMERICAN FILM LOCATIONS | dot gumbi

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