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Summer Campy

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All the counselors hate the waiters
And the lake has alligators
And the head coach wants no sissies
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses
Allan Sherman, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter from Camp)"

Summer camps in fiction are usually run like the company from Dilbert. The environment seems to be sentient and out to get you (mosquitoes chase you across camp, perfectly-timed inconvenient rain and so on). The food is as bad as cafeteria food. In sports, there's a handful of super-jocks who treat it as Serious Business and reduce everyone else to terror. Arts and crafts are so boring you want to be back in school. The bathrooms are outhouses that require a full nature hike to reach. The teenage counselors are either awesomely stupid and actually take the "camp spirit" and "camp traditions" seriously (often bordering on Pointy-Haired Boss), or treat the camp as their own personal vacation spot with the campers' welfare as an afterthought, or in some cases are out-and-out bullies who sadistically terrorize their younger charges. Usually, though, there's at least one counselor who tries to make some of the awkward kids feel better.


Usually, boredom drives all the campers to insanity (if they weren't that way to begin with, as the hero's bunk-mate always seems to be). The only fun they have is messing with each other, leading to an Escalating War in no time (and brutal hazing if some of the kids are new). If the camp is co-ed, the kids will all wind up with crushes on each other that serve as an object lesson in how Love Makes You Dumb (and nobody ever manages to hook up).

Despite all this though, the students and counselors will always band together at the end of the summer to take on their hated rivals: the affluent summer camp across the lake. There will be a competition of physical challenges that pits the poor underdog campers against the rich arrogant campers, which the underdog camp will win, or take down to the wire, thanks to a combination of what they learned over the summer and their own unique talents that they thought made them weird outcasts.


In older stories, the camp was always some outdoorsy place with a fake-Native American name (for American camps, at least). Modern stories are more likely to have a specialized camp (like weight-loss camp), which is just as awful as the old camps.

Unlike the Boarding School of Horrors, these places tend to be played for laughs. Compare Horrible Camping Trip. See Fat Camp for a more specialized type of summer camp.



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    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts did this every summer, sometimes with insane specialized camps like Sally's "Beanbag Camp" (where all you do is lie in a beanbag, watch TV, and eat junk food) and even a survivalist camp and a fundamentalist Bible camp.
    • One year's storyline has all the gang filling out applications to get out of going to camp. Everyone has their application is accepted, except (naturally) Charlie Brown, who gets a letter informing him his request has been turned down, and "therefore, you are to report to the bus stop at 0800 hours."
    • The TV specials It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown and He's a Bully, Charlie Brown take place at summer camp.
    • The feature film Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown has the gang attending camp and getting involved in a river raft race against a gang of Jerk Jocks.
    • The "Sack" storyarc, which was turned into one of the segments of the It's An Adventure, Charlie Brown! anthology. After his doctor sends him to summer camp for health reasons (he had bizarrely started seeing everything round as baseballs, culminating in a baseball-stitch rash on the back of his head), Charlie Brown bemoans his fate, and says that once he's old enough to make his own summer choices, he'll probably end up getting drafted to the infantry. Ironically, this is one of his better camp stays, as he becomes unexpectedly popular after he starts wearing a bag over his head to hide the rash, becoming known as the titular "Sack", or "Mr Sack".
  • Surprisingly averted in Calvin and Hobbes; an arc where he goes to a Boy Scout camp features none of the usual disasters that plague his family's yearly Horrible Camping Trips.
  • Foxtrot: An extended arc of strips dealt with Jason and Marcus attending the science camp Camp Bohrmore. While several of the usual disasters occur, most of them were brought on by Jason's own actions.
  • Nuts has the wretched Camp Tall Lone Tree as the subject of several strips.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Camp Nowhere is about a gang of kids who will do anything to avoid being sent to summer camp, up to and including their own fake camp.
  • Friday the 13th (2009): Jenna tells Clay that she never liked the camp she went to as a kid because it had bad food, cheap toilet paper, and too many bugs.
  • The Meatballs films are all over this trope.
  • Parodied in the film Wet Hot American Summer.
  • Age of Summerhood is a coming-of-age dramedy set and filmed at a real Canadian camp.
  • The 1961 film The Parent Trap starts out at a semi-utopian version of one of these. Fortunately for the audience, things get more amusing. The remake keeps the same starting premise and adds a minor subplot about a boy who accidentally signed up for the all-girls camp.
  • Pugsley and Wednesday are sent to camp against their will in Addams Family Values. The novelization of the film exposes the exaggeratedly perky camp's dark side: the counselors seem to be covering up campers' accidental deaths.
  • The whole movie Daddy Day Camp.
  • Gorp (1980) is set at a Jewish summer camp in the Catskills.
  • Friday the 13th (1980) popularized the summer camp settings among the Slasher Movies in the early 80's, with such examples as The Burning, Sleepaway Camp, Madman and Bodycount following suit.
  • The 1985 made-for-TV film Poison Ivy starred Michael J. Fox and was set in one of these.
  • Camp Cucamonga (1990) is another made-for-TV example.
  • Little Darlings involves two teenage girls making a bet as to which of them will be the first to lose her virginity at a summer camp.
  • Indian Summer has a group of adults returning to the summer camp of their childhoods at the invitation of the camp's retiring director.
  • Camp Rock is set at a summer music camp.
  • A classic theme in France:
    • Nos jours heureux (2006) is a comedy about a group of kids and the adults who try to keep them in line for a whole summer.
    • C'est pas ma faute! (1999): in this one the main character isn't in summer camp but fights against the children who are during his holidays. Summer camp life, though, is still the same.
    • Scout Toujours... (1985): a group of unruly scouts manage to break their crazy scoutmaster's leg just before summer camp, so they end up with a guy who has no experience with children. Of course it's played for laugh and everything works out fine in the end.
    • Although most Summer camp movies are comedies, La meilleure façon de marcher (1976) is the exception. It's a very screwed-up movie about bullying in a closed environment, in which one camp counselor accidentally sees another dress up as a woman and leverages the information to psychologically torture him for months. The children, of course, notice nothing.
  • Nudist Colony of the Dead has a Christian bible camp, complete with silly songs. Camp Cutchagutsout happens to be built over the remains of a cursed nudist colony retreat.
  • In Fred 3, Fred goes to a camp called Camp Iwannapeepee.
  • Confessions From a Holiday Camp was about a summer camp with lazy workers and a barking owner who is pressured into creating a beauty contest.
  • The first half of Summer Camp Nightmare starts off as a typical summer camp comedy, but when the counselors-in-training take over the camp, things start getting serious.

  • The novel I Want to Go Home! by Gordon Korman is about a Sociopathic Hero who we root for because he's the only smart person in his comic-opera summer camp. The entire place is flooded on visiting day because of a beaver's dam. When the waters subside, the Pointy-Haired Boss says "and so, another successful visiting day draws to a close." One of the counselors can't believe he's hearing this, and the head counselor explains, "that's his visiting day speech. He only has one, and it doesn't cover floods."
  • Jean Shepherd wrote a wonderful short story about two weeks in a summer camp Revenge of the Mole People.
  • Goosebumps: Many. The original series alone has "Welcome to Camp Nightmare", "The Horror at Camp Jellyjam", "Ghost Camp" and "The Curse of Camp Cold Lake"; Series 2000 has "Fright Camp" and "Return to Ghost Camp" (which is actually unrelated to the original book), Goosebumps HorrorLand has "Welcome to Camp Slither", Most Wanted has "Creature Teacher: The Final Exam" and "A Nightmare on Clown Street", and Give Yourself Goosebumps has "Escape From Camp Run-For-Your-Life". The second Tales to Give You Goosebumps anthology also features several stories set at summer camp.
  • Camp Harvest Moon which the young campers aptly take to calling Camp Zombie.
  • In Spells and Sleeping Bags, Rachel goes to one of these, though the camp's problem is not so much with the camp as it is the fact that her witch cousin wants to switch bodies with her.
  • The whole point of How To Survive Summer Camp by Jacqueline Wilson. Stella actually ends up semi-enjoying her holiday - not that she'll admit to it.
  • The book Camp Camp: Where Fantasy Island Meets Lord of the Flies by Roger Bennett features hundreds of pages of campy photos taken at various Jewish summer camps within the past several decades.
  • The Magickers is set at one of these crossed with a Wizarding School. The camp counselors actually want to set up a proper Wizarding School, but with their current budget and location, a summer camp is the best they can do. It's actually a fairly fun place, though not above some of the usual camp issues (like wild animal problems).
  • In the American Girl series, Molly attends one of these, and has to conquer her fear of swimming underwater in a game of capture the flag, all while dealing with the Alpha Bitch.
  • Bobby wants to avoid one of these in One Fat Summer because he's too old for most of their activities and will be relegated to being a "Junior Assistant Councilor" made to look after the younger campers. Becomes the setting of the sequel when he qualifies for a paid position at the camp and winds up in charge of a quartet of Bratty Halfpints.
  • The Summer Is Ended And We Are Not Yet Saved is set at a summer Bible Camp. It's all good cheesy fun until the resident priest decides that the children need to be sent to heaven before they lose their innocence.
  • The Berenstain Bears At Camp Crush, a Big Chapter Book, sees Brother, Sister and their friends attending a summer camp run by their school's vice-principal Mervyn "Bullhorn" Grizzmeyer. The place is in desperate need of fixing up, and the campers themselves have to spend the first few days doing the work themselves, and there's a number of anonymous pranks that end up being the work of Too-Tall Grizzly and his gang (who weren't actually attending when they pulled them, they just got bored hanging around home without their "friends" and decided to go have some fun with them), but it's the "no contact between boys and girls" rule (due to Mr. Grizzmeyer's belief that they'll wind up getting a lot of silly crushes on one another and giving the camp a bad name) that really ticks off a lot of the campers. In spite of all this, they wind up having a lot of fun in the end and are looking forward to coming back; the big musical show at the annual inter-camp meet, where they proceed to show off their issues with the camp and yet how much they've wound up liking it, proves their point to Grizzmeyer and leads him to admitting he made some mistakes (including the "separate camps for boys and girls" rule) and will do better next year.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mr. Belvedere: Although not played comically in the very least in "The Counselor," due to Wesley's frightening encounter with one of the counselors who touches him inappropriately. Wesley reveals his encounter in front of his parents, and it's curtains for the counselor.
  • The entire premise of Salute Your Shorts.
  • Psych combines Summer Campy with a Serial Killer plot that also makes fun of horror movie tropes.
  • Camp Runamuck, a short-lived '60s sitcom.
  • Hi-de-Hi!, was a not so short-lived sitcom set in a English holiday camp.
  • The Disney Channel series Bunk'd.

  • MAD has also done this every summer. One old piece from the 70s had a camp where the only medical supplies are aspirin and calamine lotion, so every sick and injured camper goes untreated...until we meet a lucky boy who's "got poison ivy, and a terrible headache from worrying about it." The camp director seems to have no problem with the camp being run like a summer-long prison for children, but when his wife complains about their own children acting unruly and recommends that he puts them in the same summer camp, he objects, stating how terrible it is. A more recent strip had Butt-Monkey Monroe sent to a camp that made him long for the Crapsack World back home.

  • The classic novelty/comedy song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter from Camp)", by Allan Sherman, is a boy's letter to his parents where he complains about his stay at one Camp Granada, sung to Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours. Ultimately subverted. Once the rain and hail end, the boy ends the letter with, "Muddah, Fadduh, kindly disregard this letter!"
    • The Swedish version, reinterpreted by legendary Swedish singer/songwriter Cornelis Vreeswiijk,and the Norwegian version, which is largely based on Vreeswiijk's translation, takes it one step further. In both versions, one of the first things the kid tells his parents is to send him more money because he lost all he had on gambling. Both versions also suggests that the kid himself is responsible for a lot of the camp's shenanigans. The Norwegian version has the kid gleefully admitting that he's taken up smoking and tried cannabis while on the camp, and the Swedish version ends with him announcing that he and his cabinmates are off to burn down the neighbouring cabin.
  • "Les jolies colonies de vacances" is basically the summer camp anthem, in which a child writes home to explain how AWESOME summer camp is (the food sucks, the counselors are drunkards, they all swim in the river where industrial waste is being dumped...)
  • The titular boy-scout camp of the Homer and Jethro song "The Battle of Kookamonga" may have been of this type. A boy was mad at being sent to camp, but changes his mind at the events of the song, chasing a troop of girl scouts.
  • "Camp Werthahekawee" by Ray Stevens.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street:
    • The Season 14 (1982) opening week of episodes, where Big Bird goes to Camp Echo Rock for a week of fun and life lessons. Each episode opens with video of the camp bus on the way to camp, and sound cues of a cheesy, kiddie camp-type song ("Pean-a budda, jelly!") interspersing a banjo-mixed version of the main theme. The scenes themselves represent the traditional summer camp: A wooded area where Big Bird and his new friends – including an Anything Muppet named Rusty – engage in the requisite swimming, hiking, trying new foods, dealing with homesickness, etc. It is implied that Big Bird spends two weeks at camp (as one of the scenes deals with him writing a letter and wondering what's going on back home), although just three full episodes and parts of the other two — Big Bird leaving in Monday's opener, saying goodbye to his new friends on Friday – are devoted to his time at camp. Camp Echo Rock, by the way, was actually Bear Mountain in upstate New York, and it is presumed that Echo Rock is in that same vicinity.
    • A children's record, "Camp Oonie Koonie Cha," was released in 1981, featuring Big Bird and Oscar at camp. Also, a photo spread and a summary of the "Camp Echo Rock" episodes were published in the June 1983 issue of Sesame Street Magazine.
    • Camp Wannagohoma, a series of skits starring Grover that aired starting in the early 1980s. Here, Grover is a camp counselor who attempts to teach his campers about nature, survival tips and the like, but always gets his facts wrong, leading his more knowledgeable charges to correct him.

  • An obscure example: the off-off-Broadway kids musical Everything About Camp (Almost) is a Troperiffic look at everything that can go wrong at camp. In a typical scene, the new kids are sent on a Snipe Hunt, and one of the kids is suspicious. He discovers that not only is he required to go anyway, but he's required to pay for the privilege of going. As with most examples of Summer Campy, it's played entirely for comedy.

    Video Games 
  • Camp Whispering Rock in Psychonauts has the bad food (Ford really can't cook), cheesy arts-and-crafts, the Jerk Jock bully, and more preteen hormones running rampant than you can shake a stick at... But since the counselors are frackin' super spies out to teach the children how to utilize their psychic powers, that pretty much makes up for everything. Including the pyrokinetic cougars and telekinetic bears in the woods.
  • Friday the 13th's Camp setting is revisited in the NES Game.
  • Lakeview Cabin III is set at a summer camp which has fallen on hard times following certain... incidents. While one of the Story Breadcrumbs you can find is a pamplet welcoming new conselors, it's unclear whether the four protagonists are employees or just some hard-partying teens taking advantage of the cabins. Either way, their stay doesn't end well.
  • We Know the Devil features a Christian summer camp with the typical gross food, terrible accommodations, and annoying counselors. Not so typically, however, the characters are given semi-magical radios and are sent to a cabin to possibly fight the devil.
  • Afterlife (1996): The generic Hell punishment of "Camp Mennihackatorso" puts damned souls in one of these, where the demonic counselors are overbearing and sadistic, the activities go from dull to painful, and entire hordes of hockey-masked killers prowl the hills.

    Web Animation 
  • One issue of Teen Girl Squad had three of the girls going to "Camp Firstbassawassa", which had recently installed "working toilet paper." ("I'm gonna miss the oak leaves.") Whats-Her-Face's bunkmate turns out to be an emaciated, diabetic raccoon girl, the boys' camp across the lake turns out to be a "Cosplayover Camp" inhabited by nerds like Sci-Fi Greg, and Whats-Her-Face and the Ugly One get killed by a chainsaw-wielding "Maniac in a Speedo!"
  • The premise behind the Rooster Teeth series Camp Camp. Camp Campbell started out as a normal (if somewhat poorly run) camp, but the rising popularity of modern technology led founder Cameron Campbell to diversify the camp's activities, running the camp's budget into the ground. The series itself focuses on the exploits of campers Max, Neil, and Nikki, as well as their annoyingly cheerful counselor David, who is willfully oblivious to what a craphole the camp is in his determination to give kids a memorable summer.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The long-running Livejorunal roleplay Camp Fuck You Die is set in the titular (and accurately named) camp.

    Western Animation 
  • In the The Simpsons:
    • A darker-than-usual example in Kamp Krusty. The counselors are actively abusive, the arts-and-crafts projects are thinly-disguised sweatshop labor, the only food for the campers are burnt pinecones and imitation gruel, every single building except the staff one is in disrepair, and letters have to be smuggled out. Oh, and they say Krusty the Clown will come to visit, but he won't.
    • The tie-in video game Escape From Camp Deadly featured, among other things, a hide-and-seek game where Bart is Team A and Team B consists of everybody else (that, as well as a very lethal Food Fight).
    • Homer and Marge met each other for the first time as kids on two neighbouring summer campsnote , but because of mistaken identity, didn't realize it until later.
  • The entire premise of Camp Lazlo, where most of the humor comes from the happy-go-lucky main character actually enjoying the place.
  • Total Drama Island, the very first season of the Total Drama series, was themed around this. For the entirety of their stays at Camp Wawanakwa in the game, the 22 teenagers have to endure all the classic elements of a crappy summer camp - horrible food, dirty cabins, disgusting washrooms, and all the dangers offered by the great outdoors. And that's without all the torturous challenges the hosts put them through every week.
  • South Park has a weight-loss camp where Cartman is the Only Sane Man who isn't impressed by the dancing mascot and his perky teenage sidekicks. Unusually, the ending suggests that even though the camp is stupidly run, they mean well and should be supported.
    • They revisit the trope in a later episode called Crippled Summer. The camp is for handicapped children, a boy cheats at all of the tournament events, and oh yeah, Towelie is employed there.
  • Camp Wannaweep in Kim Possible is a Summer Campy in flashbacks (and is responsible for pretty much every one of Ron's neuroses and phobias). By the time of the show, it's no longer Summer Campy and has become an abandoned camp of horrors.
    • In a later episode we see Camp Wannaweep reopened and back to its Summer Campy status, this time as a cheerleading camp which Ron discovers is still a camp of horrors.
  • "Flappy Bob's Happy Camp Learnatorium" from The Fairly Oddparents is this, with two overly-eager counselors, Happy-Peppy Gary and Happy-Peppy Betty, that are obsessed with making normally fun things as boring as possible. School's Out! The Musical reveals that it was actually designed by The Pixies as part of one of their 37-year plans to conquer Fairy World, with it's creator Flappy Bob being a pawn they had brainwashed from infancy into thinking boring was fun (he was actually the son of two circus clowns who lost him). Even after Timmy helps Flappy Bob and restores the world though, Gary and Betty are still around with their own version of the Learnatorium, the Pixies had nothing to do with them, they're genuinely like this.
  • In As Told by Ginger, the special Summer of Camp Caprice (sometimes split up into 2 episodes for TV airings) is about Ginger, Dodie, and Macie's annual trip to Camp Caprice, an all-girls camp. Problems arise when Courtney decides to go to prove that she isn't high maintenance. Meanwhile, Darren and Miranda are at a military camp run by Miranda's father. Camp Caprice subverts this trope, but the military camp does not.
  • In Dan Vs., Dan and Chris met at Camp Atrocious. ("It's even worse than it sounds!") The sole counselor is a Social Darwinist who believes Misery Builds Character to an utterly insane degree. The campers are divided into two cabins based on how strong he thinks they are, with whichever holds the "spirit stick" essentially being in charge and allowed to do anything (even steal from the other and eat all the food). Even when Dan and Chris manage to get the stick for their cabin he decides they "cheated" because they outsmarted them instead of taking it by force, so he locked the entire cabin in a tennis court for the remainder of their stay. Dan and Chris break everyone out, their cabin takes over the camp entirely, and as Dan and Chris leave it's implied the other campers murdered the counselor by making him the target for William Telling by campers who never used a bow before.
  • Camp Campingston Falls in Home Movies. Dear Gawd. A vile place in the middle of nowhere where two embittered, sadistic failed drama coaches divide their time between setting monotonous, wearying tasks for their unlucky charges ("Braid the twine in the hot Summer's dirt! Braid the hard, unmalleable twine!") and deliberately encouraging the victimization of selected outsiders ("RABBIT TROOP SUCKS!"). Small wonder that when Brendon, Jason and Melissa decide to "burn some bridges", we're 100% on their side. Let There Be Devil Music!!!
  • The Daria episode "Camp Fear" features a reunion of campers from Daria and Quinn's previous trip to Camp Grizzly. Daria has several poor memories of the experience, including having a horse run off with her on it, tossing her into the river. (Nine stitches were required.)
  • The titular Camp Lakebottom is this. Two of the three counselors are a zombie and a sasquatch, even.
  • Deconstructed in Barbie in Rock 'n Royals. The story take place in two summer camps, but unlike most depictions they're dreamy places. So much, that everyone is impatient to be back there, and is willing to avoid both camps to shut down.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: In OPERATION: C.A.M.P, Numbuh Two and Numbuh Three are sent to Camp Lemmeouttaheah, where they discover that the insane councilor has brainwashed all the kids to employ them as slave labor to make cheap souvenirs.
  • This is the premise of the animated series Camp Candy, which was created by comedian and actor, John Candy (who also voiced the head counselor).note 
  • Camp WWE features kid versions of WWE personalities at a summer camp.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Brian checks into a rehab clinic for cocaine addiction. Peter then fakes having an addiction to check himself in and keep Brian company, and proceeds to treat the experience like a summer camp, dragging Brian along on various stock summer camp movie shenanigans such as pulling pranks on the "rival camp" (a Teen Pregnancy clinic).
  • Brickleberry: To get extra funds, Woody decides to reopen "Camp Brickleberry", an annual summer camp hosted at the park that originally had to be shut down after Steve accidentally got the campers he was in charge of killed during The Gauntlet, an obstacle course competition held at the end of camp. To get as many attendants as possible, Woody advertised the new version as everything from Fat Camp to a camp for inner-city kids, to a high-end regular summer camp, then cheaped out as much as possible on staff, lodgings and food. Among other things, the two local rednecks got hired as camp cooks (they misunderstood the job description, thinking they had been hired to run a meth hall rather than a mess hall).

Alternative Title(s): Summer Camp Of Horrors


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