The Italian Ghostbusters Fan Club has announced that they will be posting an interview on July 7 with Michael Gross, former National Lampoon art director who also happened to be the associate producer on Ghostbusters. Update: Sadly, the site no longer seems to exist.
A lot of people come here looking for information about National Lampoon beyond the “golden age” (as I like to call it). I admit there was a lot of good, funny stuff outside of the narrow scope of this site. But I just don’t have the time or interest (for the moment) to cover it all.
Nevertheless, to better serve those who fondly remember later issues, who arrive here only to be disappointed by the specificity of Mark’s Very Large National Lampoon site, I have a very special gift: A downloadable, fully searchable database listing every issue of National Lampoon ever published, including issue dates, themes, etc. Okay, it’s just a tiny 8k text file, but what a text file.
This useful little document was compiled by reader Stephen Higham a while back. Why I didn’t think to make this available sooner, I don’t know. The important thing is that it is here, now.
Tip: To download the file to your computer (rather than view it in your Web browser in its raw, unadulterated form), right-click (Windows users) or control-click (Mac users) and choose “Download to disk” from the menu that pops up. If you have a spreadsheet, you can just open or import it. If not, you can open it in a word processor and fiddle with the tabs to get the columns to line up.
The February 2003 issue of Comic Book Artist magazine is completely devoted to National Lampoon artists and writers. It is a bit behind schedule, but should be hitting the newsstands about now.
I helped a little with the issue (including drawing the logo), but editor Jon Cooke deserves virtually all the credit for putting together an amazing amount of material, including:
• Covers by Gahan Wilson and Mark Bodé.
• Interviews with Gahan Wilson, Michael Gross, Neal Adams, Frank Springer, Ed Subitzky, M.K. Brown, Alan Kupperberg, Mark Bodé, and more.
• Extensive samples of artwork are also featured, including some very rare stuff.
I haven’t seen the issue myself yet, but I’m very excited to get my hands on it. Some of the former NL contributors featured in the issue have been under the radar for a long time.
In 1969, not long before founding National Lampoon, Doug Kenney and Henry Beard wrote a parody of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings called Bored of the Rings (published by the Harvard Lampoon). A few years ago I acquired a copy. I had long wanted to read this classic parody, but, never having read the original Tolkien books, I set it aside.
Earlier this year, after thoroughly enjoying the first two installments of the movie adaptation, I finally got around to reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was pretty good (better than the movies, in fact), but, more importantly, I could finally sink my teeth into Bored of the Rings.
I don’t think I would call it the funniest thing I’ve ever read, but I found myself giggling constantly as I read it. It captures Tolkien’s style perfectly, while at the same time mocking it. All the character and place names are re-cast as familiar brand names (Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin become Frito, Spam, Moxie, and Pepsi). Well, familiar brand names in 1969, anyway. In fact, so many brand names are used in the book, I think it would be impossible to make into a movie today. The legal costs would be prohibitive. It follows the plot of the original at least as closely as the movies, and in only 160 pages.
Not surprisingly, there are some drug references and sex, but not nearly as much as I expected. My favorite parts turned out to be my least favorite parts of the Tolkien books: the songs. In the original, I found the songs to be tedious and self-indulgent, and mostly skipped over them. Maybe because of this, in Bored, they are the highlight. Here is a sample (in ancient “elvish”):
A Unicef clearasil
Gibberish ‘n’ drivel
O Mennen mylar muriel
With a hey derry tum gardol
O Yuban necco glamorene?
Enden nytol, vaseline!
Sing hey nonny nembutal.
Anyway, it’s all pretty silly, so anyone who takes Tolkien too seriously will likely be offended. But if you’ve read the original, it makes a nice dessert. And thanks to the renewed interest brought on by the movie adaptations, it’s available again. So you shouldn’t have to hunt around for a copy of the original paperback like I did.
Tony Scheuren was a multi-talented artist who performed on and wrote music for numerous National Lampoon projects, including the road show cast of Lemmings (1973), The Missing Whitehouse Tapes (1974), National Lampoon Radio Hour, Goodbye Pop (1975), as well as some of the later albums. Despite his talent, the fame and fortune acheived by some of his fellow performers eluded him. Alcoholism led to his untimely death at the age of 45 in 1993.
Many of you reading here, if you know his name at all, probably only know him for his uncanny parodies of Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Neil Young and others. But he was also involved in several rock bands, including a group called Chamaeleon Church which had a young drummer named Chevy Chase.
After his death, Scheuren’s family sifted through several hundred reel-to-reel tapes of songs he had written and recorded in his home studio over the years which were never commercially released. A CD of some of these songs, Gaining On You, was released last Fall. More info about Tony and the CD is available on the Beacon Agency website. (Thanks to Margot Scheuren.)
Long-time writer, editor, and number-one lyricist for National Lampoon (1970-1984), Sean Kelly has a bio page now. (About time.)
Things have been awfully busy out in the L.A. headquarters of your favorite brand:
• On September 5, 2002, National Lampoon acquired Burly Bear Network, a TV network distributed to colleges and universities.
• On October 10, 2002, National Lampoon struck a deal with ZelnickMedia in order to “build the legendary Lampoon brand.”
• On October 24, 2002, National Lampoon announced the launch of “National Lampoon Books.” The first title will be a reprint of the 1964 High School Yearbook Parody, originally published in 1974 and probably the most successful venture the magazine undertook during its heyday. It’s schedule to be released in about a year and will include a “where are they now” addendum.
• On November 5, 2002, National Lampoon officially changed its name from “J2 Communications, Inc.” to “National Lampoon, Inc.” (And about time, too.)
• And, most recently, on November 18, 2002, former National Lampoon publisher Matty Simmons has rejoined the company to “help reconnect the company to the wide network of National Lampoon alumni and return the company to its comedic roots.”
Other planned announcements include the first practical demonstration of porcine flight, the exhumation and reanimation of Doug Kenney and Michael O’Donoghue, and affordable health insurance for every man, woman, and child in the U.S.
Seriously, the future looks bright for National Lampoon fans. You can read more about these announcements on Yahoo! Finance.
Reader Tony Buford points out that Vincent “Web Pages That Suck” Flanders is ripping off the classic National Lampoon “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog” cover.
I appreciate Flanders’ often very funny insights on understanding how web design works (or doesn’t), but he’s not the most original creative thinker in the world, consistently relying on old clichés to get his points across (or to sell his books, in this case). This is not necessarilly a bad thing since it allows him to very quickly connect with his audience, but it is true.
In any case, he’s not the first to copy the “dog” idea, and I’ve yet to see anyone top the original. Here are some others I’ve seen:
• National Lampoon ripped itself off on the April 1985 cover showing an apparently French woman (she’s wearing a beret and holding a poodle, so she must be French) with a gun to her head accompanied by the line “Buy Zees Magazine or We’ll Shoot Zees French ‘Ookair!”
• Spy magazine did a variation of it in the mid-’90s, though I can’t remember who they threatened to shoot
• Mad magazine copied it on their October 1997 cover with “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Virtual Pet!”
• Former NatLamp publisher Matty Simmons re-staged the photo less successfully on the cover of his 1994 book “If You Don’t Buy This Book We’ll Kill This Dog: Life, Laughs, Love and Death at National Lampoon“
Incidently, former NatLamp art director Michael Gross is selling signed prints of his original concept sketch of the cover on the Classifieds page. Update: Michael passed away in 2015, so I don’t think these are available anymore. Plus, I pulled the plug on the Classifieds page. You had your chance. Just saying.
Mark’s Very Large National Lampoon Site has been chosen as the September 2, 2002 site of the day by Seven Wonders in the “Humor and the Unusual” category. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of the site, though they claim to be one of the longest-running Web award sites. Probably they’re hoping I’ll provide a link to their site. No big deal. I’ll be a sport. I’d like to thank all those who voted for me. I’d also like to thank all the little people who made Mark’s Very Large National Lampoon Site possible… (damn, they’re playing the music already!) … Thank you! Thanks everyone! Update: Seven Wonders is long gone. So much for that.