“If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”
When I was a kid, the words “National Lampoon” meant the Chevy Chase, Vacation movies. I never knew why the titles were preceded with the odd phrase, but to me, it simply meant funny. As I got older, the moniker was attached to more and movies for less and less comedy returns. As my movie and comedy nerd obsessions grew, I increasingly heard of great writers, actors and directors being connected to the Lampoon. Names like Christopher Guest, John Landis and Conan O’Brien. I learned that it was primarily a magazine, but had also spawned a radio show. But The National Lampoon is about so much more. And I had no idea how important and influential it was, until I watched Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.
For decades, The Harvard Lampoon was pumping out ivy league satire and the occasional successful writer, but it was barley known outside the college. In the 60s, co-editors Doug Kenny and Henry Beard scored a job parodying a fashion magazine that lead to 100,000 new subscriptions. After finishing college, they took their knack for comedy writing and good business, and sold the idea of a The National Lampoon, a comedy magazine that would push every limit they could think of.
From small beginnings, to becoming the second highest selling magazine on American news stands, to albums, radio shows, off Broadway hits and massively successful movies, to launching the careers of some of the biggest names in comedy of the 70s and 80s, to eventual relative obscurity, this is a story that could have filled a dozen documentaries. I mean, is there really such a thing as too much archival footage of a super young Bill Murray and Harold Ramis recording sketches in a sound booth?
There are times when Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead is a little self congratulatory as the people who were there pat themselves firmly on the back, but that never bothered me too much. Because, more often than not, the stories are great and more than earn their braggadocios tellings.
Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
Directed By – Douglas Tirola
Written By – Mark Monroe, Douglas Tirola