Former publisher of the National Lampoon Matty Simmons has died at the age of 93. Besides helping to found the magazine with editors Henry Beard, Doug Kenney, and Rob Hoffman, Simmons was responsible for taking National Lampoon to Hollywood with the hit comedy Animal House and the Vacation movie series.
I can’t believe I forgot about this, but someone in one of the comment threads reminded me. Fifty years ago this month, the first issue of National Lampoon hit the stands. (Read the inside story of that first cover here.)
So far, I haven’t seen any notice of this in the media. But it’s not surprising since, as a brand, National Lampoon is practically dead, and the magazine has not been published since the embarrassing November 1998 (“Failure”) issue over twenty years ago.
There have been a few events in recent years, such as the National Lampoon documentary and the Doug Kenney biopic, not to mention the impending release of anthologies of Trots & Bonnie and B.K. Taylor’s NatLamp comics this year, but no “gala” events that I know of.
National Lampoon actually did celebrate their 50th anniversary once before with issue number 50 in May 1974, with the cover printed in metallic gold ink. Too bad the magazine isn’t around to celebrate fifty years.
Anyway, happy 50th, National Lampoon, wherever you are!
Reader Cullum Rogers, who runs the amazing Magazine Parody website, recently did a detailed post about a NatLamp subscription promo from the late seventies that was probably not widely seen. It’s a parody of the typical Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes offer that was so ubiquitous back then. As a NatLamp subscriber at the time, I probably never saw this (that I can recall anyway), so I found the post pretty interesting—and informative beyond the promo itself.
National Lampoon’s subscription promos were usually funny (or meant to be). One renewal promo I remember from around 1974 took the form of a series of ransom letters, one of which I happen to still have:
At long last, a collection of B.K. Taylor’s National Lampoon comics will be published. For years, readers of my site have asked about such a collection and it’s finally happening.
Taylor created both “The Appletons” and “Timberland Tales” comic strips which appeared for over a decade in the Funny Pages section of National Lampoon, generally alternating between the two from issue to issue.
The book will be published by Fantagraphics Books in March 2020 but is available for pre-order now.
Reader David Beckham sent me a link to a nice video tribute he made about Michael Gross. (Gross died in 2015 of cancer.)
I’ve been on the email list for the Gahan Wilson Fundraiser (see below or here), and today the guy running it, Gahan’s step-son Paul, posted a link to an interview with Gahan from back in 2011 for the Mr. Media podcast. It’s mostly about his relationship with Playboy magazine, but National Lampoon comes up a few times. You can listen to the interview on YouTube.
Randall Enos is a regular contributor to cartoonist Daryl Cagle’s website. Recently, he told the story of the origin and development of his Chicken Gutz comic strip (a personal favorite of mine), which appeared in the Funny Pages section of National Lampoon starting in the early ’70s.
Thanks to reader Michael Simmons for the link.
Longtime National Lampoon contributing cartoonist Gahan Wilson is suffering from dementia. His step son, Paul Winters, has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help fund his memory care. Click the link if you want to help.
Wilson is known to NatLamp readers for his warped, often macabre sense of humor. He did many covers for the magazine, as well as feature articles, cartoons, and the long-running, autobiographical comic strip Nuts.