In Sunday's Times Jake Tapper caught us up with the sorry pool of cess that the National Lampoon (or, more precisely, National Lampoon Brands™) has become. [Note to headline writer: "National Lampoon Grows Up By Dumbing Down" just might suggest you missed something.]
The less said about the current state of affairs the better. But you can't say too much about the Glory Days of Doug Kenney and Henry Beard, Chris Miller, Michael O'D, Sean Kelly, Bruce McCall, et.al. Trapper got The Simpson's Al Jean and The Daily Show's Stephen Colbert to name their favorite articles. Both name-check O'Donoghue: Jean with "The Vietnamese Baby Book", Colbert with the famous but something-less-than-typical-O'Donoghue "How to Write Good". Colbert, it should be noted, was all of about five years old when that one appeared.
My high school girlfriend, who was always too hip for the room, gave me a copy of the February '71 issue. By the time I'd gotten to "Mrs. Agnew's Diary" I detached the subscription form. It got my best friend and I tossed from study hall twice that year. (This was the study hall in the cafeteria where we always grabbed a small table in the corner. After that fall's Moratorium the Man decided we'd all recite the Pledgeallegunce once a week. It happened to be during that study hall period, and at some point they realized they didn't have a flag in the cafeteria, so they stuck one in the corner, right behind our table. So once a week the whole place would rise and pledgeallegunce to us, and we'd rise, solemnly put our hands over our hearts, and look around like we couldn't find the flag. Never got tossed for that, somehow.)
I'm hard pressed to name one favorite from each of the principles. There's Kenney's "First Blowjob" ("I've wanted to try this ever since I first heard Negro music!"); O'Donoghue's "The Churchill Wit"; Chris Miller's paean to adolescent masturbation, "Caked Joy Rag"; Ed Bluestone's famed cover for the Death issue, and his "23 Things To Do At The Funeral Of Someone You Don't Like"; Tony Hendra's history of the Church of Moron, which bears a striking resemblance to a minor religion now headquartered in Salt Lake City.
I lost all my old issues along the way, of course, though I still have four of the specials: The 1964 High School Yearbook parody (from Estes Kefauver High), the Sunday Newspaper Parody, with its screamingly funny boilerplate (first place in the Working Dog category at the Dacron Kennel Club show goes to a German Temporary Office Hound); O'Donoghue's Encyclopedia of Humor; and 1975's The 199th Birthday Book, which may be the funniest stuff ever written about American politics. Sadly, I'm missing the calendar that came with it; if you know of one I'll pay big bucks for it.
Everybody knows what came after: Saturday Night Live, where the actors stole NatLamp's thunder, and Animal House, where toga parties obscured the film's bittersweet satire of pre-Escalation America in the 60s. The dreadful second cast of SNL demonstrated what in retrospect was all too clear: the raised middle finger and the knee to the groin would remain, but the wit was gone forever.
Doug Kenney fell, or jumped, from a cliff in Hawaii in 1980. You can read his "Nancy Reagan's Guide To Dating Dos and Don'ts here. Any resemblance to Ben Shapiro's new book is probably not so surprising.