Screenwriter Kenney (Animal House; Caddyshack), co-founder of National Lampoon, was one of the gifted gagsters who ignited the 1970s revolution in American humor. Journalist Karp (Playboy; Premiere) delivers an iridescent, polychromatic portrait of the humorist, framed within an amusing anecdotal history of National Lampoon. To chart the magazine's rise and fall, Karp conducted 150 interviews, mapping every avenue of business decisions, feuds, romances, cocaine use and bizarre pranks. It all began at Harvard, where wild wit Kenney and misanthropic Henry Beard became "symbiotic creative forces," revitalizing the Harvard Lampoon. When they teamed with publisher Matty Simmons, National Lampoon was born in 1970, filling the "gigantic void" between the New Yorker and Mad. Success led to heightened hilarity as the brand expanded with posters, products, theatrical productions and recordings. The 1973 National Lampoon Radio Hour cast resurfaced in 1975 on Saturday Night Live, but the anarchic Animal House in 1978 catapulted Kenney to Hollywood—as Karp writes, "He had transformed himself from nerd to preppy to hippie and now to unassuming millionaire artiste." 16-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW. (Sept. 1)
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When Doug Kenney, Henry Beard, and a handful of other Harvard Lampoonalums launched National Lampoon, one of their dreams was to create a long-lived American humor magazine to match Britain's venerable Punch. But for a few ill-advised business and creative decisions, they might have succeeded. Instead NL first transformed early-1970s anti-authoritarianism into lively, intelligent humor, then devolved into a formulaic, low-brow, mildly reactionary rag with a predilection for T&A and body--function jokes. Kenney shepherded NL through its first years, writing first-rate satire, before stumbling through a series of personal crises ended by a mysterious, perhaps suicidal, fall to his death in Hawaii in 1980. Both Karp's well-researched analysis of why NL succeeded, shuddered, and ultimately crashed and his biography of Kenney are compelling, and the latter is also mysterious. Early success in the magazine world and later in Hollywood (Kenney had a hand in Animal House and Caddyshack) only seemed to make Kenney more miserable. Karp's account of Kenney's death is as moving as the excerpts from excellent NL articles are hilarious. Jack Helbig
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National Lampoon was the mother of all comedy magazines. Now we have nothing except watered down feeble attempts to emulate the National Lampoon Magazine like the Onion or College... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Joseph Thomas
I enjoyed the book thoroughly, Well written and thoughtful. But I was an early subscriber of the magazine from its early days. Read morePublished on March 25, 2013 by bbrio
Animal House was really funny but the more I read about it the more tragic it seems.
Kenney was a bright person but his life along with many others from the movie was not... Read more
Ultimately cocaine could be considered the villain in this book that made it impossible for personal greatness to last a lifetime. Read morePublished on March 17, 2010 by Bruce P. Barten
If you're under 60 years of age and have a sense of humor*, you'll absolutely love this book.
*you appreciate National Lampoon, SNL and Second City sensibilities
"The Life & Death of a Comic Genius"...so said the October 1981 cover of Esquire magazine about its story about Doug Kenney. Read morePublished on June 12, 2008 by The JuRK
Josh Karp's biography of Doug Kenney is as meaningful as it is engaging. He ressurects the memory of the almost forgotten humorist Doug Kenney. Mr. Read morePublished on November 6, 2007 by Martin A. Blanco
The first book I have read straight through in a LONG time, and I read lot of books. Very acute social history of the period--having myself been a bright Midwestie (from Dacron,... Read morePublished on January 17, 2007 by Maggie McQuigg
More information than I never knew existed about National Lampoon. The extraordinary detail that Josh Karp uncovered to put this book together is absolutely amazing.Published on November 9, 2006 by William Goldman