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Garth (Dana Carvey) in Wayne's World. (Penelope Spheeris, Paramount Pictures, 1992)
Stories & Ideas

Tue 01 Dec 2020

Wayne’s World – Spew into this

FilmRead
Maria Lewis
Maria Lewis

Assistant Film Curator

The first five minutes of Wayne's World gives the audience everything it needs to invest in the world, writes Maria Lewis.

It’s the opening five minutes of Wayne’s World (1992) and those opening five minutes are crucial to setting up the universe the audience is about to step into. Based on a Saturday Night Live (1975–present) sketch and starring SNL cast members Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in the key roles of Wayne and Garth, Wayne’s World was not a conventional comedy by any stretch. The feature debut of Meyers – who also co-wrote the screenplay and would go on to become a mainstream comedy star in his own right – the film is entrenched in the world of underground 90s rock’n’roll. Quite literally, as the show within a show – Wayne’s World – is even recorded in a basement. It was directed by Penelope Spheeris, who came from the world of music documentaries and was selected by SNL mastermind Lorne Michaels himself as an additional layer of authenticity.

Nothing about Wayne’s World was conventional, not just as a film but how it operated as a comedy as well. The show within a show was only the first wrinkle, with the flick incredibly meta as it constantly referenced both the scene it was set within in and its function as a movie itself with the dialogue and subtitles. Wayne and Garth consistently break the fourth wall, turning to camera and addressing the viewer directly as they explain elements of their lives and provide context for specific scenarios (often with humorous results). However, within that first five minutes – and before they lean too heavily on that device – everything we need to know about Wayne and Garth we’re shown rather than told. And besides their television program, the other most important aspect of who they are as people pertains to their friendships.

The “spew into this” scene is bookended by one of cinema’s most iconic comedy moments: the Bohemian Rhapsody car sing along. We get only the initial build-up of Queen’s famous hit as the quartet of friends cruise through their town, pulling over when they spot their “all partied out” friend Phil outside their local hangout Stan Mikita's Donuts. “What if he honks in the car?” asks a cautious Garth, not keen to throw him in the backseat in a clearly queasy state. “I give you a no honk guarantee,” Wayne counters, before Garth hands Phil a small paper cup that would be insufficient to hold a grown man’s vomit. “Phil, if you’re gonna spew, spew into this,” he says, offering his signature tight-lipped smile. When our next cut is to Wayne and Garth in the front seat, Phil cushioned in the middle with Alan and Terry on either side, we’re officially there. As their questionable mullets and even more questionable vocals harmonise with their head banging, that five-minute opener heralds the arrival of every character that’s going to matter to us, what matters to them, and the arrival of Wayne’s World itself as entity.

Maria Lewis