Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead
A look at the history of the American comedy publication and production company, National Lampoon, from its beginning in the 1970s to 2010, featuring rare and never-before-seen footage.A look at the history of the American comedy publication and production company, National Lampoon, from its beginning in the 1970s to 2010, featuring rare and never-before-seen footage.A look at the history of the American comedy publication and production company, National Lampoon, from its beginning in the 1970s to 2010, featuring rare and never-before-seen footage.
As the documentary pointed out, the magazine grew from the Harvard Lampoon, a Harvard humour magazine that didn't reach a national audience. In the 1920s there were nationally published magazines that collected articles and cartoons from universities around the US: "College Humor" was probably the largest, and was published from 1920 to the 1940s. These college humor magazines were aimed at a young but mainstream audience.
It surprised me that Drunk Stone Brilliant Dead didn't mention Mad magazine. It was Mad. first published in 1952, that brought radical and subversive humour that poked fun at authority figures to a country wide audience. Without Mad, there probably wouldn't have been a National Lampoon. It also surprised me that the documentary made no mention of the Underground press and Underground comics of the 1960s. The art style of the first issues of the Lampoon looked very reminiscent of the style of Robert Crumb and other artists from Zap.
I didn't like National Lampoon very much in the 1970s. I read my older brother's issues. Even back then, I thought they were indulging in printing pictures of naked girls and making jokes about drugs and sex simply for the sake of it. They didn't have the force of the Underground comics, which were breaking ground in discussing subjects that before then couldn't be mentioned, and were using the archaic spirit of Mad to take apart the establishment and cultural heritage of the era. I remember the issue of National Lampoon that printed a spoof of Mad, taunting that Mad was stuffy, middle aged, and had long forgotten the meaning of satire. I thought that while Mad didn't print cartoons of naked women and guys smoking pot and snorting coke, it still featured strips that aptly commented on society: strips that have been reprinted and discussed in many studies about US history and the growth of graphic novels.
I thought while I was watching the documentary that National Lampoon branched out very quickly into other media and became a brand: while Saturday Night Live wasn't officially associated with National Lampoon the show clearly stole their talent and their style of satire. I think the magazine pulled its punches keeping an eye on their advertising revenue and growing empire. I'm not saying it wasn't funny- I thought the record albums and movies were funny- but I think the humour of the magazine was aimed at pleasing its creators and audience of liked minded readers, rather than exposing the darker aspects of its targets. The publisher of Mad, William M Gaines, didn't allow advertising in the magazine because he said a satire magazine couldn't make fun of an advertising campaign and then print an ad a few pages later for the same product or a similar product. He also saw it as a practical issue, saying that the magazine would then try to attract more advertisers, and if it started losing some of its advertisers and the advertising income, the readers would still expect the same fancy package, but without the advertising income to pay for the higher production costs, the magazine was sunk. Which it seems, along with loss of readership, was what ultimately happened to National Lampoon.
- Jan 13, 2017