Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts

Liquid Nostalgia #18

Wayne's World: A Look Back

 

I tried thinking of all the pop-culture one-liners that emerged form Wayne's World. I was planning on starting the article with some "Ways" and "Schwings" and "Party Ons.." Then it expanded further into "That's what she said," "...NOT!" and "She'd give a dog a bone" and "Exsqueeze me...baking powder?" and "Sheah, right" and "Extreme Close Up!" and...

Well, you get the idea. Wayne's World wasn't just a part of pop culture in the early 1990s, it absolutely defined it.

It was popular amongst all agegroups, not just the Gen-Xs it appealed to. It was a pretty broad comedy, but had a tone that felt small and personal rather than lavish and over-the-top. It pulled in numerous comedy styles, had an amazing sense of self-awareness and offered us a smart, witty comedy that surprised everyone because, let's face it, movies based on Saturday Night Live skits are more hit than miss.

What really made Wayne's World such a fantastic movie was its characters and the cast. They know exactly what kind of movie it is, as though everyone else is on the joke and we're the idiots trying to figure it all out as we strap ourselves in. Myers as Wayne and Carvey as Garth were a part of the pop-culture scene for years. Their one-liners, catch phrases, style and attitude toward everything from awesome rock music to "hot chicks" could be found everywhere and in everything. In fact, they still are. I can't really put my finger as to why, perhaps its their personalities and dialogue which is pretty timeless - let's face it...cool "dudes" will always be around. 

Watching Wayne's World again for this article, I began to notice a small thing: while the story is simple its far from straightforward. In fact, the script is actually pretty brilliant. What Wayne's World does is have what appear to be random skits and individual comedic scenes, but look closer and you'll see that 90% of these supposedly "random" scenes are actually contributing to the story. A discussion about sponsors leads to shameless promotion with Pizza Hut and Reebok, a simple drive to the bar unleashes a sing-along with Queen, a concert with Alice Cooper which you might think comes out of nowhere is a result of Benjamin Kane wanting Wayne and Garth distracted and at the same time leads the two to become aware of Frankie Sharp of Sharp Records (through a hilarious cameo by Chris Farley) and the fact that Alice Cooper knows a great deal about the history of Milwaukee. Do you have any idea how difficult that is to write? To have a linear story told through sketches and comedy bits and have those contribute and be relevant rather than random and distracting is not an easy thing to do. 

Much of that has to contributed to Myers, who co-wrote the script, and the director, Penelope Spheeris, who was known for rock-themed films and even rather acclaimed for them (Suburbia and The Decline of Western Civilization being in her credits). She knew exactly who Wayne and Garth were and who the audience for this film was.  Her ability to handle the material and comedy is subtle and superb and balanced against over the top and outrageous. (You saw a massive decline in quality with a different, less experienced director in the sequel so easily much of what makes the film work is thanks to her). It you want a good comparison, look at the Scary Movie films. Watch those to see how not to handle this approach.

Then watch Wayne's World. It, too, is centered on skits, but it never forgets its characters and doesn't sacrifice a clear and linear story to do so as the story of Wayne and his show is always present and always prevalent with clearly defined acts. Like my previous articles focusing on friends in situations, such as Bill and Ted or Beavis and Butt-Head (or Sam and Al), much of what to love about Wayne's World is how we find ourselves as the two characters involved. We relate to them and appreciate them and not only route for them, but in a way route for ourselves as its us they are representing - especially the generation that grew up with them.


 

A Brief History of Wayne's World 

 

-In 1986, "Wayne" (Mike Myers) first appeared on an episode of It's Only Rock and Roll, a sketch comedy show on CBC Television in Canada. It first began as Wayne's Power Minute, which soon became one of the more popular sketches on that program. Live shows also featured the character.

-In 1989, Mike Myers made his debut on Saturday Night Live. He brought with him the character of Wayne, and developed Wayne's World alongside another newcomer, Dana Carvey, who would be Wayne's friend Garth and the two would host a show similar to the Power Minute - focusing on pop culture, rock music and "babes." They set it as a public access show shot in Wayne's basement. 

-Both characters were smart in their own way, but often lacked common sense as the two were focused on parties, women and music and little else. Wayne was level-headed but seemingly oblivious, always looking for a punchline, and Garth, though highly intelligent, was arguably bi-polar and often had to take his Ritalin. They first were high-schoolers but evolved as grown men living with their parents. The sketches consisted of Top Ten lists, special guests, random observations and strange dream sequences (including the classic Madonna parody).

-The success of the sketches, combined with Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels looking to adapt material into film, naturally brought the duo to the screen. Mike Myers co-wrote the script with Bonnie and Terry Turner (who had just written Coneheads) and Penelope Spheeris, a relatively unknown director, was attached to direct. It had a budget of 20 million, at the time pretty standard amount.

-The film featured numerous cameos, such as Ed O'Niell (who reprises his character from an old SNL sketch), Alice Cooper, Robert Patrick, Chris Farley and Donna Dixon.

-Released in 1992, the film debuted at number one at the box office,  grossing over 180 million worldwide and tenth-highest grossing film of that year. More surprisingly, however, was the reviews: they were actually good. As it stands, Wayne's World has an 84% Fresh Rating at Rotten Tomatoes (71% Top Critics - though only a handful of Top Critics are listed).


 

 Top 10 Moments of Wayne's World

Wayne's World is full of classic moments. As mentioned, it's pretty much a series of sketches that, somehow, still come together. From one-liners to montages, there's way too much to just cut down to ten...but I did anyways. Let's see what happens:


10: The Suck-Cut

Our first entry is the Suck-Cut - a weird little product we see made by a home inventor who is showing it on Wayne's World for the first time. The world of Aurora Illinois will never be the same.

What's great about this scene is that it reintroduces us to the characters and shows them as we knew them on Saturday Night Live. It's a great transition and also great for those who have no idea who Wayne and Garth are. The Suck-Cut itself is just hilarious as Garth has it put "on his melon" and soon finds out it was a bad idea. It's a great opening to the movie.


9: A Visit to the Music Store

Wayne and Garth just got a big pay-day. Where else would to music lovers go first than a music store? Wayne finally gets his guitar, we see Garth be one hell of a drummer and there's no Stairway allowed. Not entirely "funny" per se, but it's a pretty neat scene with lots of memorable lines.


8: A Night at the Airport

What we can assume is a favorite past time for Wayne and Garth, they lay on their car at night right next to the airport and wait for the loud and low-flying jets to land. It's not that in and of itself that makes the scene, but the really strange and bizarre discussions Wayne and Garth have while waiting for those jets. I almost wish there were more of these scenes in the film (there's only two) because "introspection" from Wayne and Garth would never get old.



7: Hangin' With Mr. Cooper

Ok, personal favorite time. As Benjamin tries to get Wayne out of the way in his pursuit of the gorgeous Cassandra, he hands Wayne and Garth two tickets to the Alice Cooper concert in Milwaukee. A brief road trip later, they arrive at the concert and begin rocking out. After a conversation with security guard Chris Farley, the make their way backstage and expect to find a dressing room full of broken furniture, sex and drugs. Rather, everyone is kind of just sitting around and Mr. Cooper decides to educate everyone on history of Milwaukee. This scene is great, and really does a great job reeling you in then throwing the 180, plus Alice Cooper as something other than "Rocker" is just hilarious.


6: Game On!

An absolute classic scene, but also a pretty important one. For one, it establishes that Wayne and Garth aren't just two guys who party and have a dinky little show. It's good to see them in a different light and helps in showing their friendship. Second, despite being constantly interrupted, they have a pretty important conversation regarding Benjamin, who would soon reveal himself as the villain.

 


5: Product Placements

Once Wayne's World starts making it big, Rob Lowe (sorry, Benjamin) approaches Wayne to discuss sponsorship. Of course, much like many other scenes, this one just sets up a great piece of comedy about product placements. On a side note...anybody even remember Nuprin?  Doritos, Pizza Hut, Pepsi,and Reebok also join the scene. As Garth says, people who sell out are just really sad.


4: And a Scooby Doo Ending for Good Measure

There are a lot of memorable things with Wayne's World, but many recall the very strange and self-aware way it ends, as though the movie itself is just a sketch on the show. This multiple ending sequence first has you saying "wait...what?" until Wayne and Garth show up with an "as if" and throw in two more endings. The best, though, is the Scooby Doo ending with "Old Man Withers."



3: Interviewing the Sponsor

Wayne is asked to interview the sponsor of the "new" Wayne's World, Noah Vanderhoff, who owns a chain of arcades in Aurora called "Noah's Arcade." Wayne, naturally, thinks this is pretty "uncool" and looks to make the interview as funny as he can...and trust me...he can.


2: Laverne and Shirley

Wayne and Garth are on their way to Milwaukee for the Alice Cooper concert. What do you think of when you think of Milwaukee? No, not that...pervert. You think of the opening of Laverne and Shirley, I think the only sitcom in history that took place in Milwaukee, and Wayne and Garth re-enact the opening spot-on with boyish glee and frolicking. Again, like all the other supposedly random bits that occur, this scene still is relevant to everything going on in the story. They're in Milwaukee, hence the opening, but listen to the lyrics of the song. It's completely fitting.


1: Bohemian Rhapsody

Come on. You knew this one was going to be here and shouldn't be surprising. It's pretty unfair, though. An iconic scene still reenacted to this day when it creeps up in radios (especially with other people in the car) versus everything else? Everything else doesn't have a chance.

 


Honorable Mention: Anything with Ed O'Neill

 

Ed O'Niell didn't have any major scenes, but man did he have some awesome dialogue. Sure, most of it involved death, disembodied voices and how life has no meaning...but it was still funny. A genius, not me, edited his scenes together, so do enjoy:

THE BEST OF GLEN


 

I find it fitting that I do Wayne's World article after Beavis and Butt-Head on this series. Both were early 1990s staples, had two guys that were constantly into rock music and thinking of sexual innuendos (Wayne's World, after all, being the first to popularize "that's what she said.") and were certainly products of their time. Wayne's World wasn't quite as low-brow as it, and not quite as high-concept at Bill and Ted, but it spoke to the exact same audience that loved those things: regular guys who like rock music and try to find things to help pass the time when bored.

And they like chicks. Lots and lots of hot babes.

Wayne's World and other things like it captured that era in a bottle, and going back and watching it is like traveling through time because it is distinctly 1992. Yet, it's comedy and approach is relatively timeless. I started thinking how there aren't really movies like this anymore these days. The movies that are similar to this are the exact same audience, the Gen-Xers, but now only grown up and dealing with more "adult"problems. Today's generation, whatever they may be (I myself am in between the X of VHS, Ninja Turtles and Fight Club and the Y gen of South Park and Facebook) really don't have a voice like Wayne, Garth, Beavis, Ted or Bueller or other movie characters to identify with. In a way, I kind of pity them and now all those remakes of old movies and 80s/90s pop culture things like Transformers all make sense: that generation grew up and now are recreating today's culture in their own image.

Hopefully they won't attempt to recreate Wayne's World. A movie like this would be impossible to have done today. It's too small, not broad enough and, naturally, it's based on a Saturday Nigh Live skit...have you seen that show lately? Bring me SNL circa 1992 any day, and Wayne and Garth along with it.

 

Other Moments: Version: Dream Weaver, Excuse me I'd Like to Get By Now, Ordering Chinese, Foxy Lady, The Very First "That's What She Said," Blue Screen Rehearsal, Have You Seen This Boy?, Wayne's Oscar Clip

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