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A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)

TV-MA | | Biography, Comedy | 26 January 2018 (USA)
In the 1970s and '80s, National Lampoon's success and influence creates a new media empire overseen in part by the brilliant and troubled Douglas Kenney.


David Wain
2,400 ( 171)
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank Gingerich ... Doug - Age 12
Morgan Gingerich ... Doug - Age 12
Annette O'Toole ... Stephanie Kenney
Harry Groener ... Harry Kenney
Martin Mull ... Modern Doug
David Wain ... Interviewer
Domhnall Gleeson ... Henry Beard
Will Forte ... Douglas Kenney
Ben F. Campbell ... Harvard Jester (as Ben Campbell)
Jon Klaft ... Preppy Student
Camille Guaty ... Alex Garcia-Mata
Brad Morris ... Peter Ivers
Carla Gallo ... Lucy Fisher
Beau Bassewitz ... Umpire
Rick Overton ... First Publisher


An old version of humorist Douglas Kenney tells the story of how he and Henry Beard parleyed their success in their campus magazine, Harvard Lampoon, into the commercial magazine, National Lampoon. Drawing upon their checkered lives and an aggressively puckish sense of humor, the pair created a publication that would redefine American comedy with outrageous drollery that grabbed the zeitgeist of the decade that expanded across various media. Unfortunately, for all his success, Doug Kenney with his overhanging insecurities, ego and irresponsible appetites began to consume him until he alienates everyone who ever cared and supported him even as they imitated him. In the end, this iconoclastic funnyman would come to a tragedy that comes when your comedy doesn't have enough distance. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Being the King of Comedy is No Joke.


Biography | Comedy


TV-MA | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

26 January 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Eine nutzlose und dumme Geste See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.90 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Multiple scenes from National Lampoons Animal House and Caddyshack were filmed for the production. See more »


The man pushing the rotary lawn mower in the opening scene is pushing the mower backwards. See more »


Kathryn Walker: [after seeing Airplane!] Surely you're not upset because someone else made a funny movie.
Douglas Kenney: Don't you get it? That's the movie that everyone's gonna love, not fucking Caddyshack. I've been replaced. What the fuck am I gonna do now?
Kathryn Walker: You're supposed to say, "Don't call me Shirley."
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the end credits have rolled, Martin Mull is shown singing the song "Time of My Life" with members of the cast. See more »


References Caddyshack (1980) See more »


Money Runner
Written by Quincy Jones (as Quincy D. Jones)
Performed by Quincy Jones
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc.
By arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
See more »

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User Reviews

A strong TV feel to it!
2 February 2018 | by HellmantSee all my reviews

'A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

A comedy biopic about writer Doug Kenney, who was the main contributor to the success of National Lampoon in the 1970s and 80s. The film stars Will Forte as Kenney, and it was directed by David Wain (who also helmed 'WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER', and several episodes of the TV series based on it). It costars Domhnall Gleeson, Martin Mull, Emmy Rossum, Matt Walsh, Joel McHale, and many others (in cameos as famous comedians). The movie was scripted by John Aboud and Michael Colton, and it's based on the book (of the same name) by Josh Karp. The film was released by Netflix through it's streaming site, and it's gotten mixed to positive reviews from critics. I found it to be both educational and funny, but it's also a little too dark and unbalanced.

The film is narrated by Doug Kenney, supposedly in modern day (Mull). He tells his life story, starting when he was in his twenties (Forte); when he and his best friend Henry Beard (Gleeson) decided to create the magazine National Lampoon. It of course became a huge success, and blockbuster movies followed (like 'ANIMAL HOUSE' and 'CADDYSHACK'). Kenney could never be content, or happy, still though.

I knew nothing about Doug Kenney previous to seeing this movie, but I love his work. So I was absolutely fascinated by this film, and I of course found it to be very educational. I also loved seeing all of these other actors portraying other famous actors (like Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and John Belushi). I also just really enjoyed seeing how these classic comedy films, and that famous comedy magazine, came to life. Forte is great in the lead too, and the supporting cast is all more than adequate. The film, as funny and interesting as it often is, is still really dark and depressing though. It left me with mixed feelings about how I really felt about it as a whole. It's also got a strong TV feel to it, which kind of cheapens what should have been a theatrical film feel (the story deserved a theatrical presentation at least).

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