Among the rock groups that brought large helpings of treacle to the US music charts in the eighties was the unforgettable Air Supply who, among other songs, had one with the plaintive refrain: “I don’t know how you do it/Making love out of nothing at all.” It is rather difficult to make something out of nothing much, and I expect that’s also true of some “Saturday Night Live” sketches which work well in five minutes plus segments on late night TV, but don’t quite make a successful transition to the big screen in which they must be stretched out at least an hour or so. After some unscientific analysis, I’ve figured out that it really helps if the sketch features not just likeable characters, but also a bunch of catchphrases that the audience can gleefully chant along. By that standard, “Wayne’s World,” based on a recurring sketch by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, is a bubbling spring of once-popular catchphrases from “Party on!” to “Schwing!” the last of which refers to “babelicious babes” like model Claudia Schiffer (invented in the pre-PC era). It was set to become a success when it hit theaters, and it was – with even a sequel to follow.
“Wayne’s World,” ran on SNL in the late eighties to the early nineties, and starred Mike and Dana, who play heavy mental enthusiasts who still live with their parents but whose coolness quotient is boosted by the fact that they have their own public access cable show which takes place in Mike’s parents’ basement. Their show is a mishmash of dream sequences, wacky high jinks, and the aforementioned catchphrases as the pair discuss the aforementioned babes. Obviously, the challenge for director Penelope Spheeris was to find a way to move most of the action out of the basement setting without sacrificing any of the appealing weirdness of the duo. This she managed to do, using the breaking the fourth wall technique that worked so well in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Characters regularly comment on what is happening in the movie, letting the audience in on the fun. They also mock such tropes that were popular in say, Afterschool Specials as when Mike completes a monologue by confessing that he can’t read. “Is that true?” he’s asked. Except for the reading part is the reply.
The actual movie plot revolves around the two getting a break from their humdrum Aurora existence when Rob Lowe, a sleazy producer, offers to buy their show, and they accept. However, Rob turns out to be the villain of the piece, and the tension revolves around the duo coming to the realization that they’re being exploited (although that’s also done in a wink-wink, nudge-nudge way) and how they get even. There are also love interests for the two, including Tia Carrere for Mike, and a trip to a guitar store where Mike is crushed to see the sign on the wall reading, “No ‘Stairway to Heaven’.” The sequel is, in sequel fashion, not quite as hilarious but still funny. And if it seems bizarre that “Schwing!” once made it into the popular lexicon as something people actually said, keep in mind that this was also in the era of “Where’s the beef?” and “Grody to the max!” Party on indeed.