In addition to issues of National Lampoon, the following works have been of help in compiling this site, and are recommended if you can find them:
Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue from National Lampoon to Saturday Night Live, the Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous
By Dennis Perrin, Avon Books, 1998. This biography of the man who set the tone for National Lampoon in its formative years focuses mainly on his life and work up until his final break with Saturday Night Live in 1982. It covers in meticulous detail (including excerpts) his early career in experimental theater and as a struggling writer; his four-year reign at National Lampoon; and his ground-breaking (and ultimately co-opted) work for Saturday Night Live. (The last twelve years of his life, which were much less public, fly by in only one chapter.) Perrin’s account of O’Donoghue’s Lampoon days compliments the accounts given in Hendra’s and Simmons’ books (see below) without being redundant. The story of O’Donoghue’s early life and career puts his later work in context and gives it greater meaning. The parade of alliances, tantrums, and feuds is presented in all its tragic drama, and much of the book is devoted to his personal eccentricities and foibles. O’Donoghue’s work is presented as is without much explanation as to why so many found his work both brilliant and funny (as if it went without saying), and this is the only real shortcoming of this riveting book.
If You Don’t Buy This Book, We’ll Kill This Dog! Life, Laughs, Love, & Death at National Lampoon
By Matty Simmons, Barricade Books, 1994. Straight from the horse’s mouth, here is the most complete (as of 1994) account of the history of National Lampoon, written by its long-time publisher. Simmons has a tendency to ramble, but the material is so fascinating, in the end it doesn’t matter. Reading his account of the ill-fated take-over by actor Tim Matheson and Dan Grodnik and the subsequent sale of the magazine to J2 Communications is like watching a car accident in slow motion, with the survivors walking away with little more than the name plate. In addition to the magazine, other NatLamp enterprises (such as the stage shows, movies, and television shows) are covered in detail. Finally, the book contains anecdotes and personal sketches of virtually everyone associated with Lampoon, many of whom went on to much bigger things. This book is a great read for any fan of National Lampoon.
Going Too Far: The Rise and Demise of Sick, Gross, Black, Sophomoric, Weirdo, Pinko, Anarchist, Underground, Anti-Establishment Humor
By Tony Hendra, Doubleday, 1987. A fascinating and entertaining chronicle of what former Lampoon editor Hendra calls “Boomer humor,” from its birth (Mort Sahl) to its death (Saturday Night Live). Contains an extensive history of the National Lampoon from his point of view as an insider. Probably the most cogent analysis of what made the magazine what it was in its most fertile period.
The Life and Death of a Comic Genius: Doug Kenney, 1946-1980
By Robert Sam Anson, Esquire Magazine, October 1981. An account of Doug Kenney’s life from his childhood in Ohio, his Harvard Lampoon days, the founding of the National Lampoon, his rise to success in Hollywood, to his tragic and puzzling death. (Note: Those close to Kenney, including those who had provided background material to Anson, were appalled by Anson’s take on Kenney, which portrays him as a neurotic basket-case destroyed by his success, very different from the man they knew.)
National Lampoon Tenth Anniversary Anthology, 1970-1980
Edited by P. J. O’Rourke, Simon & Schuster, 1979. In addition to some classic pieces from the first ten years of the magazine (though not as lavishly produced as in their original form in many cases), this hard-cover volume contains some information about who worked for NatLamp when, a brief history of the magazine, and a listing of special editions, books, records, movies, tv and radio shows, and stage shows produced by National Lampoon, Inc. This collection was compiled at a time when P. J. O’Rourke was at the helm, and reflects the schism between O’Rourke and some of the earlier contributors. Fans of the early years of NatLamp will be disappointed by the absence of material by George W. S. Trow, Anne Beatts, and Ed Bluestone, due to “copyright conflicts, legal entanglements,” etc.
They Only Laughed When It Hurt
New Times magazine, August 21, 1978. (Details pending.)
In addition to the above mentioned sources, I hope to dig up some articles I remember reading in the ’70s that appeared in Print Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and Time Magazine. There was also a parody of Print Magazine , done by the NatLamp staff, that appeared in Print Magazine.
Further Reading (and Viewing and Listening)
Since I originally created this site, back in the late nineties, a number of other books and things have been published or released:
Panel Discussion About National Lampoon
Featuring Rick Meyerowitz, Tony Hendra, and Peter Kleinman, moderated by Steven Heller
Rare Gallery, NYC, November 2015. Watch a video of the event online here. (Unfortunately it appears the video has been removed.)
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
A documentary directed by Douglas Tirola, Magnolia Pictures, 2015. Available on DVD and BluRay as well as streaming on Netflix. More info here.
The Michael Gross Interview
By Shaun Clancy, The Comics Journal, March 2015. Read the interview online here.
Creative Conversation: Michael Gross
Hosted by Jorge Oliver, Pratt Institute, 2014. Former NatLamp art director Michael Gross talks about his life and career at his alma mater. Watch a video of the event online here.
Stranger Than Life: Cartoons and Comics 1970-2013
By M.K. Brown, Fantagraphics, 2014. More info at Fantagraphics
Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers
By Mike Sacks, Penguin, 2014. Includes an interview with Henry Beard. The book on Amazon
Ray and Joe: The Story Of A Man And His Dead Friend And Other Classic Comics
By Charles Rodrigues, Fantagraphics, 2013. More info at Fantagraphics
Talking to National Lampoon Co-Founder Henry Beard About Humor Writing, the Lampoon and More
Interview by Mike Sacks, Splitsider, November 2012. Read the interview online here.
That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream
By Ellin Stein, W.W. Norton & Company, 2013. The book on Amazon
Fat, Drunk, & Stupid: The Inside Story Behind the Making of Animal House
By Matty Simmons, St. Martin’s Press, 2012. The book on Amazon
By Gahan Wilson, Fantagraphics, 2011. The book on Amazon
Sam Gross: Sex, Race, and Frogs
Interview by Richard Gehr, The Comics Journal, March 2011. Read the interview online here.
National Lampoon Revisited
Live from the New York Public Library, December 2010. This was an event to publicize the launch of Rick Meyerowitz’s book Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead. A large number of NatLamp alumni were present. (I was there, too. Woo!) Watch a video of the event online here. (Requires Flash)
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great
By Rick Meyerowitz, Harry N. Abrams, 2010. More info on Wikipedia. NPR interview with Rick Meyerowitz. My interview with Rick about the book.
National Lampoon Complete DVD-ROM
Published by GIT Corp, 2007. Contains searchable scans (in PDF format) of all the regular issues of National Lampoon magazine, 1970-1998. Scan quality is adequate for reading. A few pages missing or rotated. Displays watermark in any PDF viewer except Adobe Reader. Does NOT include special issues, anthologies, books, calendars, poster books, t-shirts, posters, record albums, radio shows, off-Broadway productions, or movies. Currently, getting hard to find and going for ridiculous prices, even used.
Anne Beatts Radio Interview
Hosted by Jesse Thorn, The Sound of Young America, 2007. Part One and Part Two.
A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever
By Josh Karp, Chicago Review Press, 2006. More info on Wikipedia. The book on Amazon. Interview with Josh Karp on NPR. My interview with Josh about the book on this site.
The Real Animal House
By Chris Miller, Little, Brown and Company, 2006. The book on Amazon. My interview with Chris Miller about the book on this site.
Belushi: A Biography
By Judith Jacklin Belushi and Tanner Colby, Rugged Land, 2005. The book on Amazon
How to Cook Your Daughter: A Memoir
By Jessica Hendra and Blake Morrison, Harper, 2005. The book on Amazon
National Lampoon Grows Up by Dumbing Down
By Jake Tapper, The New York Times, 2005. The original piece on The New York Times site. See also Matty Simmons’ response.
The Forgotten Design Legacy of the National Lampoon
By Micheal Bierut, The Design Observer, 2004. Read the article online here.
The Comics of National Lampoon
Comic Book Artist magazine, February 2003. Available here.
A Brief History of National Lampoon
Harper’s magazine, June 2002
Thin Ice: Coming of Age in Canada
By Bruce McCall, Random House, 1997. Bruce McCall is one of my favorite NatLamp contributors. He wrote and illustrated his articles. Thin Ice is the story of his life before all this, being a kid in Canada, becoming a sports car nut, and becoming an illustrator at an advertising art studio that catered to the Detroit automotive industry. National Lampoon is barely mentioned, but this memoir gives a glimpse into the formative years of the mind that gave us the Bulgemobiles. The book on Amazon