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Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great Hardcover – September 1, 2010
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About the Author
Rick Meyerowitz was a prolific contributor to the National Lampoon for 15 years, during which time he created the iconic Animal House movie poster. With Maira Kalman, he made the “New Yorkistan” cover of the New Yorker, the bestselling cover in that magazine’s history. He lives in New York City.
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Top Customer Reviews
The National Lampoon was a pure flash of genius in 1970s America due in no small part to its corps of genius artists, who finally get the celebration they deserve in Rick Meyerowitz's wonderful book.
For a kid like me discovering the scathing power of satire at the intersection of Vietnam and Watergate, 1972-73, the National Lampoon was a gust of visual and verbal nitrous oxide in an oleo world; nothing in my life has made me laugh harder. NatLamp boldly ran long, texty pieces that would likely be spiked today over lack of faith in readers' attention spans; one high point was a perversely intricate 12,000-word overview of the "law of the jungle" (literally, an invented legal system for animals) complete with demented Latinate citations, lovingly reprinted here.
But it was the art direction that genuinely made your jaw drop, and a lot of the best of it is in here. You'll find astonishing, gorgeous, dark-side takes on Herge's Tintin books, the Yellow Pages, SAT tests, Nazi zeppelin tourism brochures, insane niche mag titles they made up like Brave Dog magazine... from artists like Gahan Wilson, Charles Rodrigues, Bruce McCall, Brian McConnachie, and so many more... this was genius, fearless, hysterical and important stuff of a type wholly AWOL from today's scene. People who forward Onion or Colbert links to each other today would probably be struck dead silent by NatLamp's Vietnamese Baby Book parody or fake - and hilarious - Dutch hate campaign. The Onion is pretty thin soup in comparison.
But what gets you about this excellent collection of Lampoon high points is how the artists and writers trusted their audience to get it - catch the allusions, make the connections, and dig the bravery of the thing no matter how far it went. We got it. Today, on the other hand, big swaths of Onion and Colbert fans have to have it explained to them that these are jokes they're enjoying.
So I wish it were possible to call the Lampoon "seminal" -- there's a word that gets trotted out a lot for important old work -- but that would mean we'd see its descendants all around us today. I don't. The mag dried up in the 1980s, SNL grew cautious and corporate, and today our culture has grown sour and ultra-sensitive; we shall not see the like of this work again.
I loved this magazine for its literacy, intelligence, and fearlessness and this book captures the very essence of National Lampoon in its high-water years, 1970-77 or so. If you're old enough to remember and love that era but failed to save your back issues, this book will delight you. If you're not, and you think you know what far-out subversive humor is, this book will educate you.
If you read the Lampoon back then, chances are you first picked it up because there were naked women inside (a few) or maybe because top Batman artist Neal Adams was drawing the adventures of someone called Son-O-God. Those obvious lures aside, the Lampoon held so much more to amuse readers that it would go on to become one of the great magazines of the decade.
Meyerowitz presents this rogues gallery of contributors according to when they began working for the Lampoon. Along with personal recollections from Meyerowitz, who seems to have known everyone, the book reprints - in glorious color, sometimes better than the original printings - key articles that capture these creators at their best.
There are intellectual writers like Doug Kenney, Henry Beard, Michael O'Donoghue, Christopher Cerf, Tony Hendra and Gerry Sussman, responsible for articles from "Law of the Jungle," a densely written code of law for animals to a shockingly funny parody of the Yellow Pages. There are deranged cartoonists like Charles Rodrigues, the mind behind "The Aesop Brothers," talky miminalist Ed Subitsky, Sam Gross, whose gag panels lived up to his last name, and Gahan Wilson, whose comic "Nuts" made "Peanuts" seem positively upbeat. Along with them, there are deadpan illustrator/conceptualists like Michel Choquette, Bruce McCall and Wayne McLoughlin, who imagined Adolf Hitler vacationing in the Caribbean and a world where zeppelins still dominated air travel and trains were raced like stock cars. There are storytellers like Shari Flenniken creator of the sexually precocious "Trots and Bonnie," and M.K. Brown, whose characters seems happily trapped in a bygone era. And, of course, there are the designers, who pulled everything together in a polished, slick package.
The Lampoon's heyday ended too soon; by the late 1970s it was eclipsed by Saturday Night Live, which gobbled up several key Lampooners, and then replaced by Spy Magazine, Airplane!, The Simpsons, The Onion and even Family Guy, each turning on different pieces of the Lampoon's sensibility. "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead" stands as a delightful, dark reminder of where our comedy revolution, our culture of snark, was invented and perfected.
I did not realize there were so many personalities in one office. A hell of a clash.
If this book brought back memories as a reader, I can only imagine what it was like to have lived it.
I guess the title of the book says it all.