Director Jason Reitman has announced that a new film about the debut episode of Saturday Night Live is in the works. Most of the cast, including all the “not-ready-for-prime-time players,” has been announced, and you can see them on the People website. I don’t see mentioned yet who will be playing Michael O’Donoghue, who was head writer for the show from 1975-78 and also appeared in the first “cold opening” of the show with John Belushi.
Many of the writers and performers of the show had also worked on the National Lampoon Radio Hour (1974) and on National Lampoon comedy albums, as well as National Lampoon magazine itself. These included writers Michael O’Donoghue and Anne Beatts, and performers John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner.
Last month, I added a new category called Bookshelf. This listed all the stuff I’ve posted about various books that have been released over the years by people who worked for National Lampoon and also books about the history of the magazine and the people who worked there. This was just a temporary solution.
I’ve reworked it so that it’s now a listing page for that purpose. It lists all the books that were previously scattered across various articles and pages on this site in one place, along with links to where you can get the books (where possible). I’m also in the process of adding write-ups for some of the books (the ones I have read and own). These will be marked with an asterisk (*).
Back in the earlier days of this site, I used a blogging engine called Movable Type. The static pages (listings, info pages, etc.) were simply coded in DreamWeaver or BBEdit (a text editor). For several technical reasons—an overwhelming comment spam problem, a broken search function—I decided to move to WordPress, a much more popular and better-supported alternative, where you could get decent plug-ins to thwart spam bots.
Unfortunately, the classic design of the site, which I’d spent years developing and tweaking, had to be set aside. WordPress has something called a “theme” that controls what the site looks like. It soon became apparent that my old design was not something I’d be able to easily recreate or adapt to WordPress. So I picked a WordPress theme that was acceptable, tweaked the typography and link colors, and called it a day. It was a big step down from my old design—not just the look but the functionality. But I now had protection from spam bots and the site worked better on smartphones.
I figured that this was just a temporary solution, and that someday, somehow, I would restore the old design.
Well, that day has come.
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a very good video tutorial that explained how to create a custom WordPress theme from an existing static website design. This was exactly what I was looking for. I also realized that I needed to update my old design to modern web design standards (HTML5 and CSS3) and ditch the antiquated HTML-table-based methods I’d built it with. And I had to revise the design so it would work on smart phones. (The old design didn’t.)
So I cracked open some books on HTML5 and CSS3, and started coding for the first time in almost ten years.
Turns out, it wasn’t as hard as I thought.
I launched the new design a couple of days ago. For those of you who have been following me for a while (I launched the site at the end of 1996) the new design will feel very familiar. For newcomers, this is what I’ve wanted the site to look like all along. The listings pages are dramatically better than in the old generic WordPress theme I had to use. And I’ve been able to customize the theme to work exactly the way I want it to work.
The new design is even better than the original. As I mentioned, it’s “responsive,” meaning that it adapts to the size of the device you’re using. On smaller screens, the navigation menu shrinks to an icon at the top of the screen. Tap on the icon to see the menu. Tap on the “X” to close it.
The new design also brings back some things that were lost when I switched to WordPress in 2017:
The Answers page now shows the full text again, instead of just the topics
There is a new Unanswered page that shows just the unanswered questions I’ve received, in case you want to take a crack at it
Comments are more visible and accessible again
Generally, everything is more compact and snappy. Like it used to be.
If you run into any problems with the new design, let me know. Like I said, I haven’t done web design or coding in a while, so there might be some glitches or things that don’t work in the particular browser that you use. If so, I’ll try to fix it.
For now, I couldn’t be happier with the new design, which is really just the old design with a new and better foundation.
Brian McConnachie, editor and writer for National Lampoon from 1972-76, has died at the age of 81.
McConnachie was known for his offbeat style of humor, which tended toward the absurd. The former Madison Avenue ad man’s entree into writing for the Lampoon was sending poorly-drawn cartoons to the magazine, some of which were published. Eventually, at the invitation of Henry Beard, he joined the staff as a writer.
Some of McConnachie’s most memorable pieces were “Amish in Space,” a sci-fi comic parody, Guns and Sandwiches magazine, the ultimate special-interest magazine, Pamplemousse, an absurd and slapstick parody of Papillon, Kit ’n’ Kaboodle, a “funny animal”/Tom and Jerry-type comic book with realistic violence (very likely the inspiration for Itchy and Scratchy on The Simpsons), and Negligent Mother, a parody of women’s magazines.
After leaving National Lampoon, McConnachie joined the writing staff for Saturday Night Live and later SCTV. He also wrote for kid’s shows Shining Time Station and Noddy, and acted in over a dozen films, including Caddyshack, Strange Brew, and several of Woody Allen’s.
Most recently, he has been Head Writer for The American Bystander, a humor magazine he originally tried to launch in the early 1980s, but which was successfully re-launched in 2015 and continues to be published.
At the time of this writing, I haven’t found any obits for Brian. But when I do, I will append them here.
If you look at the site navigation to the right (or the “Mobile-Friendly Menu” above for you smartphone users), you’ll see a new category listed: Bookshelf. This will provide quick access to anything I have or will post here having to do with books by or about National Lampoon contributors. Currently, it will only show what I’ve written about so far, which I admit is a bit random and incomplete. But I plan to add listings to all the books I know about and where to get them (if they are still in print).
Update 1/21/24: I’ve reworked the idea for Bookshelf. It’s now a list of books by staff and contributors not published by National Lampoon, plus books about National Lampoon and/or people who worked there. More info here.
Subitzky’s drawing style is minimal. As he says in the book, the characters are almost not there. It’s all about the words and what the characters are doing and, above all, the humor.
The book contains what seems like most of Subitzky’s cartoons and writing from National Lampoon, where he was a contributor for over two decades, starting in the April 1972 (“25th Anniversary”) issue with “Anti-Comics!”, a strip in which the words are the characters and the speech balloons are filled with drawings of people and places. It also contains some of his post-Lampoon comics, which have appeared in The New York Times and most recently The American Bystander.
Subitzky’s comic strips often had a sort of “meta” angle to them—they were often about the form of the comic strip itself, with strips such as “Moebius Strip Comics!”, “Eight-Way Comics!”, and “Crossword Puzzle Comics!”—where you had to fill in the word balloons based on a list of clues—or “Background Music Comics!” which included a musical score which you were supposed to play on a piano or other instrument as you read.
Included in the book are a few of the articles he wrote for the Lampoon, including some of my favorites like “An Evening in 1973” (which tells of the wonderful world of the future as imagined by a writer in 1923) and “Stupid World” (in which everyone and everything, including the laws of physics, is stupid).
Interleaved into the book is an interview with Subitzky conducted by cartoonist and writer Mark Newgarden (who was one of the creators of Garbage Pail Kids and wrote the wonderful essay How to Read Nancy which was expanded and published as a book in 2017).
If you’re a fan of Subitzky like me, you’ll definitely want this long-overdue collection. You can get it at Amazon and other bookstores.
I’ve been doing some sprucing up around Mark’s Very Large National Lampoon Site the last couple days. In particular, I’ve made it easier to browse through the Listings pages, adding “Previous,” “Next,” and “Index” links for each item’s page. Plus I’ve added the name of the section to each page to make it easier to tell where the hell you are on the site.
I’ve also dropped the useless and redundant “News” link at the top of each page and replaced it with a “Mobile-Friendly Menu” link, a special page that lays out all the sections of the site for easy access. This is to get around the fact that the WordPress theme I’m using pushes the sidebar menu (on the right side of the page when viewed on a computer) down to the bottom of the page. I’m sure a lot of you didn’t even realize it was there and thought all there was is the News feed. I’m sure there’s a better way to do this by creating my own WordPress theme, but fuck that. I do have a life.
Hopefully, these changes will mean a rapid rise in traffic. Just kidding. But at least things will be nicer for the two of you who still stop by.
O.C. and Stiggs Movie Remastered, Reissued—Plus a Documentary
Ted Mann and Tod Carroll wrote a series of stories about a pair of teens named O.C. and Stiggs, starting in the July 1981 (“Endless, Mindless Summer Sex”) issue—”Summer Fun with O.C. and Stiggs” (Mann), “Some Real Stupid Guys That O.C. and Stiggs Know Go to the Beach” (Carroll), and ending with the entire October 1982 (“The Utterly Monstrous and Mind-Roasting Summer of O.C. and Stiggs”) issue.
To be honest, I was never really into the O.C. and Stiggs stories, but judging by the emails I’ve gotten over the years, I may be in the minority. O.C. and Stiggs was extremely popular during that early-eighties period of NatLamp.
Fast forward a few years, and Mann and Carroll wrote a script for an O.C. and Stiggs movie and started shopping it around (with Matty Simmons’ blessing—he wasn’t a fan), and, long story short, it was eventually made in 1983 by director Robert Altman (released in 1987/88). Everyone involved expected it would be the next Animal House but, alas, it was a flop.
Fast forward again to today, and it has now been remastered and rereleased on Blu-ray, along with a 2-hour documentary by Hunter Stephenson (who alerted me to all this) about the making of the film featuring the two leads, Neill Barry (Stiggs) and Daniel Jenkins (O.C.), Ted Mann (via his emails), Martin Mull (who played Pat Coletti), Josh Karp (author of the Doug Kenney bio and bio-pic, A Futile and Stupid Gesture), actor Paul Dooley (who plays Randall Schwab), and Stephen Altman (Robert Altman’s son).
The disc has been produced and released by Radiance Films UK. You can order it on their site or on Amazon. Two things: If it says it’s out of stock, check again later. Second, for the moment it’s only available as a Region B disc, meaning that it is meant to work on Blu-ray players in the UK and Europe, not on US or North American players. However, if you have a multi-region or region-free Blu-ray player, you will be able to play it no matter where you are. Hopefully, at some point it will also be released for Region A.
Some tidbits from Hunter about the film and the disc:
“I was surprised to hear that his son Stephen Altman’s fandom of NatLamp and the original material predates his father’s involvement. ‘Anyone but you, Dad!’ was Stephen’s initial reaction after being told to report to the Arizona set. In audio commentaries, Altman’s sons, cast, and crew also discuss the surreal possibility of then-planned sequels.”
“Emails from Ted Mann ripping the film appear throughout.”
“The truth is that Altman & Co. thought the script was a searingly funny vessel for satirizing ’80s teen “mallwave” comedies. For me this is why the film and its ‘untold’ story is endlessly fascinating; the director who defined the ’70s with the weed-friendly, anti-Hollywood dark comedy M*A*S*H—which clears the way for Animal House and Sutherland’s role therein—much later appropriates ’80s Lampoon material for a similarly bitter, clever end. Yet it’s instantly forgotten.”
“Personally, Altman’s film works as a Lampoon movie. It’s also surprisingly faithful to Mann and Carroll’s script. Most interesting, this is the only Lampoon affiliated movie, outside Caddyshack, shot with the vibrant, cascading ADHD chaos reflective of the magazine itself.”
Anyway, I’ve never seen the movie, but I ordered a copy and look forward to screening it and the documentary. Thanks to Hunter for letting me know about it.
This website is old, going back to the days before blogs were invented. It’s since turned into a sort of blog, plus all the listings and such.
Until now, if you wanted to know if I’ve posted anything new here, all you could do is remember to check once in a while. Now, you can follow me on X (formerly Twitter), where I’ll post (tweet) an announcement whenever there is something new. This should make it easy for you to keep up, especially since I plan to add more stuff here in the future.
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to finally write this. Almost thirteen years!
Anyway. Better late than never…?
You may recall that I announced here on November 24, 2010 about a live National Lampoon event to be held at the New York Public Library in ten days, on December 4, 2010. A few days before the event, I made the decision to book a flight and hotel room so I could be there. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime chance to finally meet some of the people I’d been writing about for over a decade.
My hotel was a couple of blocks from the New York Public Library. So I just walked over around the time it was supposed to start and found a queue of people waiting to get in. We were finally let in about a half hour later.
The event was coordinated with the launch of Rick Meyerowitz’ book Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, and sure enough, there were boxes and boxes of the books lined up along one wall. The room was an oak-paneled hall (like a ballroom) with a couple hundred folding chairs set up, facing one of those portable stages at one end of the room, a projection screen and lights on each side of the stage.
As the room started filling up, I spotted Rick. He’d invited me to attend the event, so I introduced myself. We talked only briefly since he was busy getting things set up.
I found a seat a few rows back from the stage on the left side. Not too far behind me, a woman named Flash Rosenberg was getting set up at a small, lighted table. Apparently, she would be drawing cartoons live during the event. To this day, I’ve never seen what she drew that night, but I think she a regular at NYPL events.
While I was waiting for things to start, a nattily-dressed older gentleman asked if he could sit next to me and introduced himself as Bob Grossman, the illustrator. I was a bit star-struck. I was very familiar with Bob’s work. He was the guy who did the famous caricatures of Nixon and Kissinger on the foldout cover of the August 1972 (“Miracle of Democracy”) issue, the January 1975 (“No Issue”) cover, and a lot of other stuff, including album covers, magazine covers, and ads in the sixties and seventies. I even hired him once for the cover of the Utne Reader—something he remembered. Seated on his other side were Gerald Sussman’s widow and daughter, although I didn’t talk with them very much.
While we were waiting for things to start, Bob asked if I had a piece of paper. I tore a page from the notebook I was carrying and handed it to him. A moment later, he handed the paper back to me. He’d scribble a caricature of me on the page. I’ve included a photo here for comparison. While it doesn’t look like me in that photo exactly (my hair was longer), I guess that’s what I looked like that night. I couldn’t quite believe he did it.
Shortly after that, the event started. Here’s the line up:
[0:00] Paul Holdengräber, Director of Public Programs as NYPL, introduces the event (this was very long and mostly about other NYPL events)
[14:20] A clip from Animal House is played, then [20:00] Peter Riegert reminisces about the movie (he played “Boon”)
[23:00] Joe Randazzo, editor of the Onion, talks about National Lampoon‘s influence on him and the Onion
[26:00] Hilton Als, writer for The New Yorker, reminisces about George W.S. Trow
[29:10] Sean Kelly, former NL editor and writer, talks about the post-Doug and Henry years
[34:22] Brian McConnachie, first talks a bit about Moby!, the absurd Radio Hour musical starring John Belushi as Ahab (and plays a clip), and then reads a hilarious piece he wrote called “The Amazing Man They Call the Ding-Dong Hoodlum Priest”—one of the funniest moments of the night—I was in tears by the end of it
[44:20] Michel Choquette, former NL contributor, talks about shooting the Stranger In Paradise feature from the March 1972 (“Escape!”) issue
[50:40] Tony Hendra, former editor, first talks about Michael O’Donoghue, and then performs his “Deteriorata” accompanied by Paul Jacobs on piano—here’s a video I shot of it:
[58:35] Christopher Cerf, reminisces about the fringe newsletter parody he wrote with Henry Beard, “Americans United to Beat the Dutch” (“The A.U.T.B.D. Newsletter”)
[1:01:15] John Weidman, former editor, reminisces about his time as a writer for NL, followed by a tribute to Gerry Sussman (including an extensive reading from Sussman’s TV Guide parody)
[1:09:50] Rick Meyerowitz introduces a video clip prerecorded by Ted Mann in lieu of attending
[1:11:48] Ted Mann (on video), former editor, tells a story about John Weidman, with an apology to John
[1:16:32] Rick Meyerowitz talks about the significance of National Lampoon and its history, about his new book, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, and about the magazine’s amazing art directors, artists, and writers, many of whom were there
[1:25:30] Fred Graver, former editor (early eighties I think), reminisces about his time at the magazine
[1:32:00] Larry “Ratso” Sloman, editor in the late eighties (decked out in a gold lamé suit), reminisces about his time at the magazine and told stories about Gilbert Gottfried, who he hired to write for the Lampoon during his tenure (Gottfried was at the event)
[1:38:35] Paul Jacobs, Sarah Durkee, Christopher Cerf, and Alice Playten perform “Papa Was a Running-Dog Lackey of the Bourgeoisie” from Lemmings (Jacobs and Playten were both in the show back in 1973), which I recorded on my phone:
[1:41:40] Rick Meyerowitz and Paul Holdengräber invite everyone who spoke back onto the stage for thank-you’s and a round of applause and announce that they will all be signing copies of Rick’s new book, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead
And that was the end of the “show” portion of the evening.
At one time, there was a video of the entire thing at the NYPL website. Technically, it’s still there, but requires the now-defunct Adobe Flash Player to view. Fortunately, they also provide an audio link on the page so you can listen to the whole thing (1 hour 42 minutes). I’ve included start times [in brackets] in the listing above in case you want to skip directly to one of the presentations.
After the stage show, I got in line like everyone else to get my copy of the book (which Rick gave to me for helping him promote it—yeah, I know) and get it signed by everyone.
The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur. Naturally, I met all the Lampoon people who were signing books, like Christopher Cerf, Tony Hendra, Sean Kelly, Fred Graver, Larry “Ratso” Sloman, Peter Regret, and Brian McConnachie. (Rick was there, too, but I’d already met him.) Nearly all of them were aware of my Lampoon website, but I didn’t really get a chance to talk to them much there.
After I got my book signed, I met a few more people who were milling around the auditorium, such as illustrator Randy Enos (creator of Chicken Gutz) and his wife, who I talked to quite a bit, since I used to be an art director and we had some mutual acquaintances. I also met cartoonist Sam Gross, but we only shook hands. Other people I saw there, but didn’t meet or talk to were cartoonist Arnold Roth, former NatLamp publisher Jerry Taylor, former NL art director Peter Kleinman (who left early), cartoonist Stan Mack, writer Peter Kaminsky, and cartoonist Ron Barrett (who also left early).
After the book signing was over, I was invited to a private reception on the second floor of the library where all the speakers, performers, and other people related in some way to the magazine would be hanging out. Some of the people I met or talked to there were musicians Paul Jacobs and Sarah Durkee, Michel Choquette (who was talking the whole night about the impending publication of his long-delayed “Someday Funnies” book that had been in the works since the seventies), John Aboud (designer of “Someday Funnies”), Ed Subitzky and his wife/girlfriend Susie (who both said they loved my site—we ended up talking quite a while about comics and Michael Gross and other things), Dennis Perrin (author of “Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue from National Lampoon to Saturday Night Live, the Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous”), Sean Kelly, who was was shorter than I expected, and Brian McConnachie, who was taller than I expected. The one thing I remember about Brian is that he asked me (not completely seriously) when I was going to add a page about him on my site. It’s coming, Brian. It’s coming.
There was a clot of people in one corner of the room, with Gilbert Gottfried holding court, with Larry “Ratso” Sloman, Tony Hendra, and a few others. I was a bit intimidated about approaching them, so I never did.
All in all, the event was everything I hoped it would be and more, and I can’t thank Rick enough for inviting me. I never thought making a stupid website about National Lampoon would lead to something like this. And I can’t believe how many Lampoon contributors I met there. I only wish Michael Gross had been invited to speak (there was a bit of a brouhaha around that, but there’s no point in getting into it). Still, it was a peak experience for a long-time NatLamp fan like me, and I’ll never forget it. I don’t think anything like it could ever happen again.
In the years since the event, some of the people who were there (including some I met) have passed away. These include Sean Kelly, Tony Hendra, Alice Playten, Sam Gross, Bob Grossman, Jerry Taylor, and Gilbert Gottfried. R.I.P.
Michel Choquette’s book, “Someday Funnies,” did finally get published. I’ll write something about it here soon.
On a personal note, after the evening’s events, I took a cab to Brooklyn to meet up with some friends at a bar. When I got back to my hotel room around 2:00 in the morning, I realized my brand new iPhone 4 was gone.
I panicked, not just because it was new, but because all the photos and videos I shot at the event were on it. Remember, this was long before the days when your photos got sent up to “the cloud.” It was all on the phone, and nowhere else.
But I remembered that Apple had just introduced a new feature—“Find My iPhone.” So I opened my laptop and went to the page on Apple’s website, which showed a map, with a blue dot about ten blocks away. Apparently, my phone had slipped out of my pocket on the cab ride back to the hotel.
I clicked the button that would cause the phone to make a loud noise and display a message: “Please bring this phone back to the Courtyard Hotel where you dropped me off.” At first, nothing happened. I clicked the button again and suddenly the dot on the map started moving in the direction of my hotel.
I ran to the elevator. By the time I got down to the lobby, the cab was just pulling up outside. The driver looked astonished as he handed my phone back to me. He’d never heard you could do that. I thanked him with a $10 bill.
I don’t think I would have got much sleep that night if not for that new feature, and I would have lost all the photos and videos. Nice job, Apple.
Mark's Very Large Plug. You might think, as you wade through this site, that I have no life. Not true. I spend about two days a year working on Mark's Very Large National Lampoon Site. The rest of the time I make fonts. You can see my real website here.