The May 2017 issue of Vanity Fair featured an article by Benjamin Wallace called “Can Anyone Repair National Lampoon’s Devastated Brand?” (online version here). I was alerted to its existence back when the issue was still on the stands (thanks to reader Logan Lee), but I put off reading it, dreading a depressing read.
I wasn’t wrong about that. I started Mark’s Very Large National Lampoon Site back in 1996. At the time, I didn’t know if National Lampoon was even in business anymore. But I soon found out that it still existed, albeit a shadow of its former self. Somehow, it’s not in any better shape now than it was then.
The Vanity Fair article chronicles the Lampoon from around that period to the present. Some of it I’ve learned of as a consequence of running this site. Over the years, I’ve corresponded occasionally by email with some of the folks featured in the article—Dan Laikin and Scott Rubin in particular. But for the most part, it has been a distant sideshow for me. It never seemed like what they were doing was likely to amount to much in terms of reviving the Lampoon name. If they succeeded, cool. But my interest has always been with the early years of the magazine.
The article connects bits and pieces I’ve picked up in the two decades of doing this site, stuff I honestly hadn’t paid all that much attention to. Things always seemed kind of shaky over there, but it sounds like it was even worse than I’d imagined. As a former staffer is quoted as saying, the joke around the office was that they were all in a movie called National Lampoon’s National Lampoon.
So, if you’re wondering what the hell happened to your favorite humor “brand”, be sure to check it out.