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  • 10.20.15

Party On: Mike Myers Reflects On The Endlessly Enduring Appeal of Wayne and Garth

As Halloween continues seeing couples in Wayne and Garth costumes, Mike Myers talks about how it all began—and why it’s remained so popular.

Party On: Mike Myers Reflects On The Endlessly Enduring Appeal of Wayne and Garth
Mike Myers as Wayne Campbell, Dana Carvey as Garth Algar during the ‘Wayne’s World’ skit on February 17, 1990

One recent Halloween, Mike Myers received a phone call from a friend, demanding that Myers make his way to Santa Monica Boulevard for the annual parade. Of course, the exceedingly recognizable comedy star and filmmaker wanted to know why he might wish to subject himself to such a scene. “Because,” the friend replied, “I’m surrounded by five Dr. Evils, six Austin Powers, 11 Fembots, and 14 Wayne Campbells.”

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It was this moment, more than any other, that clinched it: much like the zombies who also account for a vast segment of Halloween ensembles: Wayne Campbell of Wayne’s World cannot be killed by conventional weapons. He is perhaps destined to be Myers’s most enduring creation.

Mike MeyersPhoto: ABC/Image Group LA

One could argue that the main reason so many more pop culture obsessives opt for the ripped jeans, wigs, and catch phrases of Wayne and Garth over, say, Austin Powers, is sheer laziness. Who has the time or energy to throw together a crushed velvet suit and lacy cravat? Perhaps it’s Wayne and Garth’s androgyny-friendly long hair that drives both sexes to party on, year after year. There’s more to it than either explanation, though. Lots of costumes are easier to prepare—even this Wayne and Garth on Amazon doesn’t come close to getting it right–but that doesn’t automatically grandfather them into classic status. Something went inarguably right during the conception and execution of Mike Myers’s first breakout character and it has engendered the kind of fondness that new generations have continued to deem as . . . worthy.

“There’s no laboratory for predicting what character is going to turn out to be what,” Myers says. “What we did with Wayne’s World is we wanted it to be this fuzzy memory of mid-’70s suburban heavy metal life, and what it was like to hang out with your friends and to be in a car with them. That’s what I wanted to get into the film as much as anything, that sense of fun.”

Mike Myers as Wayne Campbell, Dana Carvey as Garth Algar during the ‘Wayne’s World’ skit on March 23, 1991

Wayne Campbell was born when a friend asked Myers, then fresh out of high school, to appear on the Toronto alt music show, City Limits, and pretend to be a cousin from the suburbs of Scarborough. The appearance earned a lot of fan mail, so the character returned. Pretty soon, Myers was balancing a stint in the Second City touring company with appearances as Wayne on a Canadian show called It’s Only Rock & Roll. Go down a YouTube k-hole of these early renditions, called “Wayne’s Power Minute,” and it’s clear that, aside from shorter sleeves on his trademark black T-shirt, the character’s look has remained essentially the same since the beginning.

“It never really changed from the first time I did it,” Myers says. “That’s kind of how everybody in my neighborhood dressed. Originally it was a Cat hat because at that time in the mid ’70s Cat hats were super popular.”

When Myers transplanted to New York for Saturday Night Live in 1989, he started to watch more American TV and noticed how much production value went into even cable-access programming. He decided that Wayne Campbell probably would have made a hat for his show. This decision marks the only significant difference in the character’s transition to the big leagues. (Myers attributes the slight growth in sleeve-length to how chilly it is in NBC’s studio 8-H.)

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As for the outfit worn by Wayne’s sidekick, Garth Algar, Myers is quick to cede credit to his SNL scene partner, Dana Carvey.

“Dana is such an insanely talented comedian,” he says. “Before we read the first one, I said ‘Look, this is the deal: Wayne is truly not cool but thinks he is and Garth is truly not cool but thinks Wayne is. That’s basically it.’ So then Dana based the character on his brother, and threw in a few differences between Wayne and Garth. I didn’t have glasses, he went with glasses. I had a hat, he went without one. I had a t-shirt, he went with the flannel shirt.”

The outfits the two chose to wear on the show became canon and followed them into the film that both incited the SNL adaptation craze and proved to be its most commercially successful offering. From there, Myers obviously went on to invent many more characters and create looks for them–most notably in the Austin Powers series. For these projects, he held onto the core ideas that helped him land on the look of Wayne Campbell.

“If there is an overall design principle, it’s just making sure that enough fun molecules get into the character. And if there’s enough fun then people will want to do the home version of it,” Myers says. “Even in the design of Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, you just try and create your own silhouette on the horizon. I have a big mole, so with Austin Powers I made the mole bigger, and with Dr. Evil I gave him a scar that covered the mole.”

Though there hasn’t been a Wayne’s World movie in over 20 years, fans got a glimpse of Myers back in character for SNL‘s 40th anniversary special this past spring. For this ultra-rare return, though, Myers decided to deviate from formula for Wayne’s outfit. Instead of the usual plain black T-shirt, Wayne wore a Blackhawks jersey. This difference was a deliberate nod to the character’s Chicago roots–and also to the street hockey scene from the movie–rather than any sort of distancing from the outfit so beloved by cosplayers. Though there are currently no plans for a Wayne’s World 3, Myers feels honored by how fans have extended the shelf life of his creation all these years later.

“It is such an unbelievably gratifying, mind blowing experience to write something, get it out there, and have people reflect it back to you on Halloween,” Myers says. “I count that as one of the most exciting aspects of what I do.”

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.

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