The American Bystander

The American Bystander is a new quarterly humor magazine being launched on Kickstarter. (If you don’t know what Kickstarter is, it’s a way for people, like maybe you, to help back new creative ventures. It’s sort of like public tv for artists, writers, and other creative types.)

Many of the folks behind The American Bystander are former Lampoon writers and artists, such as Brian McConnachie (who will be editor-in-chief), Ellis Weiner, Mike Reiss (also known for The Simpsons), Ron Barrett, Jack Ziegler, John Caldwell, Roz Chast, Robert Grossman, Frank Springer, Edward Sorel, R.O. Blechman, Mimi Pond, B.K. Taylor, and M.K. Brown. Other contributors are coming from SNL, The Simpsons, and Monty Python. It’ll be like a comedy all-star supergroup. Full disclosure: I designed the logo, so I’m kind of involved, too.

I think it’s going to be amazing, and it looks like they are well on the way to being funded.

A comedy mind is a terrible thing to waste. Won’t you help?

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead Debuts

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, the new documentary film about the National Lampoon, is making the festival circuits right now. At some point, you will be able to see it, but in the mean time you can download the poster, featuring Rick Meyerowitz’s iconic Mona Gorilla.

(Side note: Rick wrote a large-format book with the same title, and even the same font. The film is using it with his permission, of course. But I’m glad they also chose to use Rick’s Mona Gorilla art. I honestly can’t think of an image more associated with the magazine than that. Rick specifically chose not to use it on his book, and I respect his choice, but I’m glad they chose to use it for the film.)

NatLamp Documentary Coming Soon

A new documentary about National Lampoon will be out in the near future. It’s called Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon and just got picked up for distribution. You can read about it on the Variety website. And, oh, just noticed, there’s even a review here. Sounds pretty great.

Comics Journal Interviews Michael Gross

Terrific interview with Michael Gross, former NatLamp art director, at The Comics Journal. Michael went to Hollywood after his Lampoon days and was one of the producers of “Ghostbusters”, “Heavy Metal: The Movie”, and many others. Highly recommended for fans of the golden age of the National Lampoon.

Henry Beard Talks at Length About National Lampoon

How did I miss this? Almost two years ago, Mike Sacks interviewed National Lampoon cofounder Henry Beard for the website Splitsider.com (link). It’s the interview I’ve always hoped he would give. A lot has been written about National Lampoon over the years, and all of the major players have told their stories, except Beard. Until now. (Well, until November 2012.) Better late than never. Highly recommended.

Chicken Gutz Rides Again!

Randall Enos has revived Chicken Gutz, the monthly strip he did in National Lampoon back in the seventies, as a daily web comic. It was a favorite of mine way back when, so this is pretty cool. The new strips look and feel just like the classic ones. I hope he keeps it up. Check it out: chickengutz.blogspot.com

A New Lampoon Book

Well, I guess that’s a pretty good reason to curtail the hiatus briefly.

There have been more than a few books written about National Lampoon and the people who worked there, but none of them puts the history of the magazine and its spin-offs in context the way Ellin Stein’s That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream does.

If you think of the Lampoon phenomenon as a big tree, with the magazine as the trunk, other books have drawn more detailed pictures of certain parts of the tree, or even from a point of view inside the tree.

Stein’s book is the first to step back and draw a full picture of the tree, from its roots in the Harvard Lampoon to the many branches and twigs that have grown from it over the years, including many that barely get mentioned in other books. The book has clearly been in the works for a long time. It includes material I’ve never seen before gathered from a number of people who have since died.

If you want to know about some particular aspect of National Lampoon—the life of Doug Kenney, the life of Michael O’Donoghue, Tony Hendra’s take on it all, Rick Meyerowitz’s favorite stuff from the magazine, or Chris Miller’s history of Animal House—there are other good books to choose from.

But for anyone who is interested in the big picture of National Lampoon‘s history and cultural influence, Ellin Stein’s That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick is the one to get.