Sometimes people ask me what my favorite movie is…
I just about always answer Wayne’s World.
Most people just laugh. And they should.
But I’m also dead serious.
First off, Mike Myers is an extremely underrated comedic talent. He’s more famous for Austin Powers, which is understandable but also kind of a shame. Because (while insanely funny) Austin Powers was a parody – and one that wore out its welcome, at that.
Myers would have been smart to stop after the second movie. And he would have been even smarter to not pursue The Love Guru at all.
The latter abomination notwithstanding, Austin Powers overshadowed Myers work on Saturday Night Live. I loved watching early 90s SNL growing up. The cast was fantastic and Mike Myers was one of the highlights with characters like Simon, Lothar, and of course, Wayne Campbell.
If you’re not a member of Generation X – which I’m not, either – then you’ve probably forgotten how popular Wayne’s World was. It debuted at No. 1 at the box office and grossed over $121 million, which was huge at that time. It also spawned a sequel and even a video game for SNES.
Everyone tells those “That’s what she said…” jokes with Michael Scott in mind… But it was Wayne Campbell that got there first.
There were other one-line wonders and catchphrases too, like the less durable “Schwing” and “Not!” and the more subtle and better-aged “Excellent,” “Party on,” and “Game on.”
It’s not just those flippant phrases I crack up at when I watch the movie, though.
I think my favorite scene is early on, when Wayne’s ex-girlfriend gets him a gun rack for a present.
He says: “Stacy, I don’t even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack.”
That was the first time I ever heard the word “necessitate”and it was because Wayne Campbell was smart enough to use it.
You see, while on the surface they seemed to embody the Gen-X slacker mentality of the time, Wayne and Garth were intelligent, polite and industrious.
Which brings me to the heart of the movie…
The reason I love Wayne’s World so much is because it’s almost a fairy tale re-imagining of the grunge era.
Characters wear grungy clothes but they still look relatively clean. We see background actors drinking, but we almost never see the main characters imbibe (Just once when Wayne shares a rooftop Champagne with Benjamin).
Obviously, there’s no heroin, either, despite its prevalence at the time, particularly among grunge-era musicians.
Indeed, it would have been easy to set this movie in Seattle, where grittier grunge cliches were running amok, but they didn’t.
Wayne and Garth are suburbanites from Aurora, Illinois. They more or less revolve around the cultural epicenter of Chicago, without being absorbed into it.
As a result, they’re the product of a cleaner, safer environment, where they’re insulated from the dangers of the city and that era.
But whereas Beavis and Butthead spent their slow suburban nights on the couch watching TV, Wayne and Garth spent their time on the couch making TV.
And good TV at that. If Wayne’s World were a real show, I’d watch it every week. Everyone would. It was funny, absolutely, but also joyous and sincere. And its production represents another cultural meme of the time – anti-corp., grass roots, do-it-yourself artistic expression.
The grunge era was all about not selling out and there Wayne and Garth were every Saturday night on public access.
They do of course, sell out in the movie, but only for the chance to make their hobby and passion their full-time job. And when the sponsor attempts to force change on the show, sapping it of its integrity, Wayne walks out.
And that’s Wayne’s World.
There’s escapism, naivete, and earnestness in what Wayne and Garth do. They love music and they love entertaining. They embody all of the child-like ethos of the era, and none of the grim alienation or cynicism.
They go to grunge clubs and loft parties, sure. But most of the time, you can find them munching on donuts at Stan Makita’s, playing hockey in the street, or just lying on the hood of Garth’s car watching planes take off at the airport.
And that’s really what makes me wish Wayne’s World was my world, too.