R.I.P. Anne Beatts

Anne Beatts, regular contributing editor in the early years of National Lampoon, has died at the age of 74. She was also one of writers of Saturday Night Live in its first few seasons and created the tv series Square Pegs in 1982. (NY Times obit here.)

She was born in upstate New York, but moved to Canada with her mother and attended McGill University. While working as an advertising copywriter in Montreal, she met writers Sean Kelly and Michel Choquette and became romantically involved with Choquette. The three of them began writing for National Lampoon in 1970 and 1971, Beatts sharing bylines with Choquette at first. Later, she and Micheal O’Donoghue paired up and the two of them left the magazine and went to Saturday Night Live.

One of her best known pieces in National Lampoon was the infamous Volkswagen ad parody (based on an idea by Phil Socci) in The Encyclopedia of Humor (1973). It showed a VW floating in water (real VW ads around this time actually used this gimmick) with the headline: “If Ted Kennedy had driven a Volkswagen, he’d be President today”. (Volkswagen sued because they used the VW logo.)

Interview with Anne Beatts on Maximum Fun from 2007: Part 1, Part 2

R.I.P., Anne.

Tony Hendra, R.I.P.

Hendra’s 1987 book Going Too Far, featuring a caricature by Rick Meyerowitz

Tony Hendra passed away at the age of 79 on March 4, 2021. You can read the full obituary at The New York Times.

Hendra was a contributing editor from 1970-71, managing editor in 1972, an editor from 1973-76, and senior editor in 1977, after which he parted ways with the magazine.

In his early years at the magazine, he was responsible for gems like The Wide World of Meat (with photo collages by Ron Barrett), Dragula (illustrated by Neal Adams), and The Joys of Wife Tasting. He became a collaborator with Michael O’Donoghue, including the first National Lampoon record, Radio Dinner, until their falling out in 1973. He was also producer of Lemmings.

After leaving the magazine, he continued to be active in humor and comedy. In 1979, with Christopher Cerf and Peter Ebling, he wrote the book The ’80s: A Look Back, which presented a fictitious history of the eighties from the year 1990, and, a decade later, The ’90s: A Look Back. In 1983, he and Sean Kelly wrote Not The Bible, a parody of, you know, The Bible, and some other parodies, including Not The New York Times and Off the Wall Street Journal.

He wrote some other books that weren’t parodies or humor books, including the bestselling Father Joe in 2004. The only one I’ve actually read is Going Too Far (1987), which in many ways inspired me to make this website in the late nineties. Going Too Far was a history of what he termed “boomer humor” since it was dominated by baby boomers. This included things like anti-establishment comedians such as Lenny Bruce and Mort Saul, Second City, the Smothers Brothers, Woody Allen, National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, and Animal House. In particular, this was the first in-depth history of National Lampoon that I’d ever read. I was already kind of a NatLamp nerd, but this book put it into high gear. This site probably wouldn’t exist otherwise.

Aside from writing, Hendra will also be remembered for his portrayal of the band manager Ian Faith in This Is Spinal Tap (1984). He was also the producer (with Matty Simmons) of the National Lampoon HBO special Disco Beaver From Outer Space in 1978 (but airing in 1979).

I came close to meeting Hendra a few times. Back when I worked as a graphic designer at Minnesota Public Radio and he was promoting Not The Bible in 1983, I saw him waiting in the lobby with Sean Kelly. I didn’t have the nerve to approach them. Another time was at the New York Public Library event to promote Rick Meyerowitz’s book Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead in 2010. Hendra was there with dozens of other former Lampoon alums, many of whom I did talk to, but I somehow never managed to talk to him.

R.I.P., Tony.

Gerald Taylor, R.I.P.

Jerry Taylor, who was National Lampoon‘s associate publisher from 1971-72 and publisher from 1973-75 (the Golden Age) has died at the age of 85. He was also executive producer on most of the National Lampoon record albums, such as Radio Dinner and Lemmings. Aside from Lampoon stuff, he was creator, publisher and executive editor of the Harvard Lampoon parodies of People and Newsweek as well as parodies of Playboy, Cosmopolitan, and Rolling Stone, and was involved on a similar level with many other magazine-related things throughout his career.

Like many of the business staff at National Lampoon, he was sometimes used as a model in photo shoots. The most prominent example was the Kelly Girls parody from the November 1975 (“Work”) issue, where he was featured as an executive demonstrating the “Henry VIII desk” on the opening page.

Full obit here.

Kelly Girls parody

Is Your Name Tim Murphy?

I tried answering the question you emailed me recently, but your email address is no good, so my reply could not be delivered. If you want the answer, try again from a valid email address.

If your name is not Tim Murphy, never mind.

Happy 50th, National Lampoon!

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.)

National Lampoon number 1, April 1970 "Sexy Cover" issue

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!

NatLamp Subscription Promos

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:

Subscription renewal "ransom" note