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.