they did not make sex jokes and potty humor respectable, because then they
wouldn’t have been fun anymore. However, this crude band of brothers were able
to move them out of the frat houses and onto our newsstands and movie screens.
War stories are told and the thanks of a grateful nation is expressed
throughout Doug Tirola’s Drunk Stoned
Brilliant Dead: the Story of the National Lampoon, which screens
during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.
all started with two slightly off-center Harvard students. The Harvard Lampoon was considered the
nation’s oldest humor magazine, but it was usually more about racking up
extracurriculars than being funny. Editors Doug Kenney and Henry Beard were the
exceptions. Together with fellow alumnus Robert Hoffman they took the Lampoon national. It took a while to
catch-on, partly due to the underground comix look of the early issues.
However, their tastelessness and contempt for authority soon found an
the vantage point of the internet age, it is hard to imagine the vastness of
the Lampoon’s comedy empire at its
height. In addition to the magazine, there were books, radio shows, stage
productions, records, and of course films. Naturally, Animal House is chronicled in fitting detail. While Van Wilder fans might be upset over the
franchise’s snubbing, Tirola and the surviving Lampoon staffers own up to the notorious head-scratcher that is Disco Beaver from Outer Space.
former editor P.J. O’Rourke gets substantial screen time, but Tirola never
plugs the national bestsellers that came after his magazine stint, like Holidays in Hell, which made his
reputation and had a considerable influence on the prose you read here every
day. Indeed, Tirola scores interviews with just about everyone still living you
would hope to hear from, including John Landis, Tim Matheson, and Chevy Chase.
there is no getting around his Tony Hendra problem. He can hardly ignore Hendra’s
long association with the magazine, but he never acknowledges his personal
controversies. The problem is, Jessica Hendra’s memoir How to Cook Your Daughter, in which she accuses her father of
sexual abuse, takes its title from a now notorious Lampoon piece Hendra wrote, so the subsequent media frenzy becomes
part of the magazine’s extended story, regardless how uncomfortable it makes
us. By not addressing it in some fashion, Tirola risks being told he has a
Hendra problem by internet know-it-alls.
etc is a fun documentary that reminds us how different the state of entertainment
looked in the 1970s and 1980s. In today’s world Funny or Die wishes it were National
Lampoon, but it is so not. Highly recommended as a nostalgia trip, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead screens
again this Tuesday (4/21) and Friday (4/24) as part of this year’s Tribeca Film
Labels: Documentary, National Lampoon, PJ O'Rourke, Tribeca '15