4. Kamp Krusty (The Simpsons)
One could make a pretty strong case that Season 4 was the finest year in Simpsons history, and a similar case could be made regarding Kamp Krusty’s status as the best episode of said season. Previously envisioned as a standalone movie and held over from season 3, this episode deftly mixes very real humor based on the experiences of The Simpsons’ crack writing staff (both as attendees and as parents of attendees) with amazing original humor (Mr. Black) and strong references from classics like Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now.
While previous camp-set comedies touched on some of the negatives of camp life (loneliness, the overbearing elements, and bad food) Kamp Krusty’s original depiction of a sweatshop summer camp fueled by false promises made for a great story of oppression and revenge. Even if it never became a feature film, it’s already spawned one of The Simpsons’ most memorable songs and a video game tribute in the form of Escape from Camp Deadly on the Game Boy. Hail to thee indeed, Kamp Krusty.
3. Camp Anawanna (Salute Your Shorts)
Nickelodeon is more often remembered for its cartoons instead of live action, but Salute Your Shorts many adventures at Camp Anawana are some of the few that are still remembered by nostalgic kids of the ’90s. The distinct personalities of the club of misfits like Dina, Budnick, Donkeylips, Sponge, and Z.Z. made for some memorable adventures, usually with them battling Anawana’s strict counselor, Ug. Over two seasons, two lead characters, and 26 episodes, pretty much everything that could happen at camp did at Anawana. They swam, played tennis, captured the flag, had summer flings, searched for for buried treasure, went on strike from building birdhouses, competed in a radio call-in contest, and joined secret societies. You know, all the normal stuff you do at camp.
Unlike the films on this list, the TV format let you really explore the camp and see a so many different aspects of Anawana. Honestly, if you mapped it all out, Anawana might be one of the biggest camps in America, and it was often filmed on location around the Los Angeles area, giving the show an authentic feel. With the show’s memorable opening teaching you Camp Anawana’s marquee song, we all kinda felt like we went there – at least for 30 minutes of goofy kids comedy.
Entry written by Henry Gilbert
2. Camp Crystal Lake (Friday the 13th)
Camp Crystal Lake really has something for everyone, provided your last name isn’t Voorhees. For all of the bloodshed that occurs in the dozen-strong slasher series, kids are rarely the target. In fact, Camp Crystal Lake seemed like a pretty fun place to be before one Jason Voorhees drowned due to the ignorance of preoccupied fun-loving camp counselors. Sure, children like Corey Feldman and Dudley from Diff’rent Strokes had their lives threatened but they usually made it from their camping trips without much personal harm.
While the mortality rate for adults is much lower, there’s still good reason to attend Camp Crystal Lake. Namely, the kickass parties! Anything that makes a rocking 1980s summer shindig can be found at Jason Voorhees’ stomping grounds. First and foremost, there’s an endless supply at brewskis and doobies to partake in (and sweet tunes to breakdance to) while you ignore the safety of yourself and campers under your supervision. The very luckiest of Crystal Lake counselors get to skinny dip with attractive (legal) teens, and only a few of them actually manage to get lucky, but that’s more than most characters on this list got! Unfortunately, partaking of any vice while at CCR will absolutely result in your death, so prepare to be on your A-game while partying there.
1. Camp Firewood (Wet Hot American Summer)
Wet Hot American Summer is a great comedy that also happens to be responsible for brainwashing the world into believing the summer camp film genre was vastly bigger than it is in reality. WHAS is so adept at spoofing a wide swath kid and teen movies of the 1980s while also incorporating general humor about the topic of summer camp that you feel like it’s a parody of a half-dozen camp films, when in reality it’s basically just goofing on Meatballs and filling in the rest with the brilliant work of writers David Wain and Michael Showalter, as well as the amazing ensemble cast.
The recently released Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp offers up even more of that great subversive humor. Much like how the feature film conveyed the bonds forged and the desperation that sets in at the end of camp, this 8-episode prequel covering Camp Firewood’s opening day gets great comedic mileage out of awkward camp introductions while also playing with time by setting up many of the movie’s more absurd elements.
I’ve got something of a strong bond with this series, as I pointed out back when the Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp trailer dropped. Something I didn’t mention in that article but continue to think about to this day is the fact that I strongly considered interning on the set of Wet Hot American Summer. Fresh out of high school and half-assing my way through community college, I remember reflecting on a notice on The State’s official website calling for production assistants and considering a semester off to work with my comedic heroes. I ultimately decided against it, sticking with college while working at Adventureland. Still, I made sure to be one of the lucky few to catch the movie back when it premiered, making a trip into New York City to see it on its limited silver-screen run back in 2001.