“GARTH I’M GOING TO BE FRANK.” “OK CAN I STILL BE GARTH?”
Wayne’s World was released in American cinemas on the 14th February 1992, which is significant because Wayne’s World is a love story between two metalheads, Wayne and Garth, and a love of comedy for the writers and performers. Does it seem like it was 30 years ago? It doesn’t seem like it was 30 minutes ago!
Wayne’s World had started off as a 10-minute sketch on Saturday Night Live, although the origins of Wayne Campbell date back even further. Created by Mike Myers in the earlier 80s as a comedy piece at house parties, he brought the idea to Saturday Night Live and asked the standout star of the show at the time to create a sidekick for it. So Dana Carvey, basing the character on his brother, came up with Garth Algar. Myers in his late 20s and Carvey in his 30s played the heavy metal teenagers with a cable access TV show to perfection.
Wayne’s World wasn’t released in the UK until the 22nd May 1992 but with it doing great box office in America it made overnight stars of Myers and Carvey in Britain and created a great buzz and build up, before it came out at the cinema in the UK, with articles appearing in newspapers and I (being a 14 year old into Bill and Ted) lapped it all up.
Before going to school in the morning I would go to my Nana’s house for breakfast and then read The Sun newspaper, which she would get delivered to her house daily. Within this was the Bizarre Column with Piers Morgan or Andy Coulson, or some other journalist maybe at this point. These were the days before the internet and information about films and music were via newspapers, magazines, friends, chart shows and Film ’92 with Barry Norman. We didn’t have the constant updates and leaks/spoilers on the internet, popping up on a mobile phone, as we do now. In fact, if you had a mobile phone in 1992 you were either rich, a criminal, or both, and the phones were as big and heavy as a house brick.
At the beginning of 1992, I was into a few films: the Back to the Future trilogy and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (in fact as a 14-year-old I was obsessed with them). My brother bought me the soundtrack to Bogus Journey on cassette at the beginning of the year and I played and played and played it over and over again. I’ve still got the tape but have upgraded the album to CD for sound quality! I’m still not really up to speed with downloading music, I’d sooner have the physical album – otherwise, I’m just paying for air. On the 24th January 1992, we went to see Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey at the showcase cinema. It should be no surprise that my love for Bill and Ted would lead to me being a big fan of Wayne and Garth.
When I first heard about Wayne’s World in a Sunday newspaper article it began my love for Mike Myers and all things Saturday Night Live (SNL).
Being in the UK we didn’t have SNL and to my knowledge, it had never been aired on the four UK channels at the time, until about 1994 when six edited episodes were shown on Channel 4. These shows did not feature Myers; by this point, it was Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and Chris Farley. With these articles about Wayne’s World mentioning SNL, it made me want to know more about the show and the previous members of the cast. This reinvigorated my interest in Dan Akyroyd, Bill Murray and John Belushi and started my lifelong love of Steve Martin’s work (a review of Roxanne can be found here http://www.geekforce.co.uk/films/wild-crazy-guy-roxanne-30-years-later/).
“I’D NEVER DONE A CRAZY THING IN MY LIFE BEFORE THAT NIGHT.”
Along with the articles mentioning SNL starting the careers of Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy and Bill Crystal and now the new kid on the block Mike Myers, I gained more information from a more immediate source. My brother, Gary (always a wealth of information on anything and everything) knew a lot about the first SNL cast and their solo films, (his friend Nick was a fan and they had discussed such things at length) and this additional input spurred me on to find out more.
Unknowingly, in the mid-80s, we’d already been introduced to the young comedy mind of Mike Myers on British TV as part of children’s Saturday morning television show the Wide Awake Club. Mike Myers, with his comedy partner Neil Mullarkey, performed as the Sound Asleep Club. Mike Myers had come to Britain in 1985 and become one of the founding members of The Comedy Store Players, an improvisational group based at the Comedy Store in London (this also featured a young Paul Merton, who would go on to TV success with Who’s Line Is It Anyway). Mullarkey and Myers took their comedy to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for two years running and to sold-out audiences. Mullarkey would go on to help rewrite So I Married an Axe Murderer with Myers and appear in two Austin Power films.
Myer’s returned to Toronto in 1986 and became a cast member of The Second City appearing in the stage show. Then he finally got his big break on a show he’d always dreamed of being on from watching it in the 1970s, he became a cast member of SNL in 1989. Bringing with him an array of characters, a big influence of Myers was Peter Sellers and this showed with the wide variety of characters he created. Such memorable comedy creations as Dieter in Sprockets, which he had developed while on a CBS television show – It’s Only Rock & Roll. Dieter had appeared in a short sketch along with Wayne Campbell in another. Myers had actually been performing Wayne since his teenage years to make people laugh at house parties and had appeared in the early 80s on Toronto’s City Limits hosted by Christopher Ward, even appearing in Wards Canadian hit “Boys and Girls” as Wayne Campbell. So the seeds had been sown and Myers went on to be a creative genius for devising characters on SNL. With Wayne’s World becoming a stand out sketch.
As I’ve previously said, Myers wanted a comedy sidekick for Wayne and so he got the star of the SNL at that time to do it - Dana Carvey. Carvey was, and still is, a brilliant impressionist and was hilarious on SNL especially as George Bush Snr. The only information Myers gave Carvey about the character was that he was a metalhead and loved Wayne. So Carvey went away and basically created Garth from his brother Brad, who had the twisted lip, was slightly shy, a bit nerdy, but was brilliant with electronics.
Dana Carvey had overcome stage fright to become a stand-up comedian. He had played minor roles in films Halloween 2 and This is Spinal Tap (as a mime artist with Billy Crystal). He had co-starred in a short-lived sitcom “One For The Boys” and the action series Blue Thunder, based on the film. His big break came in 1986 when he co-starred opposite Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in the film Tough Guys. He was then cast in the revamped Saturday Night Live in 1986 and become a popular member of the team along with Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, Jan Hooks and Victoria Jackson.
I devoured all the information I could from the articles about Wayne’s World. Learning more and more about SNL and Mike Myers. I remember reading in one of the articles that when he was still at college he had made a short film/sketch based on one of his friends who was a big fan of country singer Hank Williams. The sketch was basically the neighbourhood had had enough of hearing the music of Hank Williams and were trying to kill the person who kept playing it. For my 15th Birthday I received quite a few Steve Martin films on VHS (remember those?), these were My Blue Heaven, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the Three Amigos! I also got a Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure T-Shirt.
“WE’RE NOT WORTHY! WE’RE NOT WORTHY!”
Wayne’s World was finally released in the UK on the 22nd May 1992 and bizarrely I didn’t go to the cinema to see it! I know that sounds weird as this article is about seeing Wayne’s World. But this isn’t about seeing the film, it’s more than the film, this is about the whole experience of what Wayne’s World did too and for me.
It made me have a love for the American comedians that came out of the Saturday Night Live institution, also the comedians from SCTV and the magazine of National Lampoons. I had a lot of these actors’ films on video which have been replaced over the years on DVD.
BBC2 also started showing Wayne’s World Saturday Night Live Sketches. These were the 10-minute sketches and I seem to remember that they were shown on a Wednesday at about 6 pm in the evening. This gave me my first insight into Wayne’s World with Madonna’s Dream, Wayne Gretzky, Tom Hanks and Aerosmith.
On my 16th birthday in 1993, I got the Wayne’s World movie on VHS, along with The Best of Steve Martin on SNL and two Blues Brothers albums on cassette tape, the movie soundtrack and Made in America. Wayne’s World lived up to my comedy expectations from the Bohemian Rhapsody mime and headbanging in the car, to Wayne breaking the fourth wall and talking to the camera, and from Garth fantasising about his dream woman to the several different endings to the film (including the Scooby-Doo one). It was comedy gold throughout, showcasing the talents of Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. To me, it set a standard for comedy, although I enjoy the early comedies of Adam Sandler I can never say that they are on the same level as Wayne’s World.
The other thing which came from Wayne’s World was the quotable lines and catchphrases. Such as “Party on!”, “Schwing!”, “Fished in!”, “Yeah – right!”, “It will be mine, oh yes it will be mine”, “Extreme close up!”, “Monkeys might fly out of my butt”, “Not!”, “Unnecessary zoom!”, “That’s what she said”, “If you’re gonna hurl, then hurl into this”, “Excellent!”, “Marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries”, “I’d have to say ‘asphinctersayswhat?’”, “It’s sucking my will to live!”, “She makes me feel kinda funny, like when we used to climb the rope in gym class”, and of cause! We’re not worthy… we’re not worthy!” The film is just endlessly full of quotes but Mike Myers went on to do another endlessly quotable film with Austin Powers.
The sequel, Wayne’s World 2, followed a year later. Myers’ final screenplay for this was allegedly written in a fortnight as the original screenplay, which Myers had also written, turned out to be a rewrite of Passport to Pimlico and the studio did not realise until two weeks before filming. They ordered Myers to write something original or he was “ruined” in the industry.
I followed Mike Myers career and with the Austin Powers trilogy, his star just got bigger and bigger. Again, I was obsessed with Austin Powers when it came out. A little classic of Myers is “So I Married an Axe Murderer” which he made between the two Wayne’s World films. He went on to be the voice of Shrek and then he seemed to disappear after the failure of “The Cat in the Hat” and 2008’s “The Love Guru” which he had written. He disappeared into doing not much and projects that he wanted to do.
Myers and Carvey have resurrected Wayne and Garth for anniversaries and commercials in the last 10 years and they will always be remembered for these characters. What the films, and the surrounding hype, gave me was a love for comedy. I got a book called “The World of SNL” which was about so much that I hadn’t known about SNL: the sketches, the cast, the guests and the profiles of the cast. I kept diaries around these years and whilst re-reading them I found that after I had left secondary school I had a week off before taking exams. (Photo – SNL Book) In between revising I went to the city centre with my Nana on the afternoon of the 2nd June 1993 and she bought me “The World of SNL” book from Forbidden Planet comic shop for £10.99, it wasn’t a special occasion my Nana was just great like that.
In 2021 Mike Myers revisited Wayne Campbell (along with Dana Carvey as Garth Algar) for a commercial for Uber Eats during Super Bowl LV.
Super Bowl LVI’s commercial break sees Myers return as Dr Evil (along with Seth Green, Rob Lowe and Mindy Sterling reprising their Austin Powers’ roles) for General Motors. Is it the right time for him to make a third film instalment of the Aurora, Illinois based character that so many of us love? It Reeves and Winters revisited their beloved airheads with 2020’s Bill and Ted Face the Music, showing them to have grown older, not necessarily wiser, but have a new generation, in the form of their daughters, to pass the baton on to – surely Wayne and Garth could undergo a similar treatment?
What did this classic SNL film do for me? It introduced me to an array of comedians, very early in their careers, that I had not heard of previously, and further enriched, and shaped, my view of comedy and my love for it.
So it’s 30 years of Wayne’s World and also 30 years of my love for these films. Let’s hope we see one final film in the next few years.