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A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever Hardcover – September 1, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Karp's book is astoundingly thorough. He has interviewed pretty much everyone involved with the epic story and read encyclopedic amounts of social history so he can present the whole Lampoon cultural revolution in its widest context. Kenney was like the Forrest Gump of comedy in that he met almost everyone during that time, so you get sharply etched portraits of the SNL gang, Michael O' Donoghue, Harold Ramis, P.J. O'Rourke, Tony Hendra, Anne Beatts, and a whole constellation of stars that came into contact with the Hollywood-Lampoon axis. Karp is a smooth, novelistic storyteller so the book is as fun to read as the old magazine itself. And there are large chunks of the Lampoon excerpted, so you get a rich taste of what the publication was like at its best.Read more ›
As a comic novelist who was deeply inspired by the take-no-prisoners attitude of the Lampoon, I feel indebted to Kenney (as many other writers and comedians should) and hope this book brings wider attention to his comic genius and important contributions to the history of modern comedy.
Josh Karp does a wonderful job of weaving the interesting life of a magazine, with the interesting and tragic life of Kenney. This could have easily been an on-the-fly trash bio, but Karp approaches his subjects with intelligence and obviously did a lot of homework, interviewing key people related to Kenney and the Lampoon.
I have some misgiving about the cover. I understand the choice, given that Rick Meyerowitz was a key artist in the development of National Lampoon, but it makes the book seem just a bit slighter than what it is, which is a really thoughtful, intelligent biography. That said, I hope I'm wrong and the book get all the attention it deserves.
Karp's research appears to be fabulously comprehensive. Cobbling together all these recollections and many years of social and cultural history into a unified whole must have been quite a job. The result is a book that never quite decides if it is biography of Kenney or of the magazine.
Karp is at his weakest when moves away from reportage he enters into analysis of Kenney. He lacks the insight and the prose of a sophisticated biographer and for every insightful chunk of prose, there is a clunky deposit of pop psychology.
Still, the book is an utter success at creating much of the present-at-the-creation of the magazine and its many children (radio projects, theatre projects, films, tv...)
Doug Kenney was a shadow figure in the history of comedy, a magazine writer and co-founder of the Lampoon's national version who managed to write some great articles, the scripts for two legendary comedy classics, and numerous other artifacts of his time all before his death in 1980, of an apparent suicide or accidential fall from a cliff in Hawaii. The fact that he died so young and so unheralded outside the insular world of comedy is a shame, especially considering what a legacy he left.
In Josh Karp's book, Kenney is even a minor character in his own life story, as whole portions of the book focus on the hangers-on at the Lampoon (various writers and other talents whose lights shined more brightly than that of Kenney or his co-founder, Henry Beard). But this is not a fault of the biographer: Kenney's own story is inevitably tied to the magazine and entertainment empire he helped found, and which owes him more than the current crop of "direct to DVD" releases and smarmy Paris Hilton cash-ins currently under the banner of "The National Lampoon".
Kenney's gift and his curse was his talent, one which produced masterpieces like "Animal House" and Nancy Reagan's "dating tips" but also let him down when it came to writing his "great American novel" of TACOS (Teenage Commies From Outer Space).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 on November 6, 2013 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 no chit
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