Your Unauthorized Guide to the Golden Age of National Lampoon Magazine

Douglas C. Kenney

< Previous | Next >


Editor-in-Chief, 1970-72
Senior Editor, 1973-74
Editor, 1975-76

One of the founders of the National Lampoon, with Henry Beard and Rob Hoffman. Kenney had previously collaborated with Beard at the Harvard Lampoon where the pair had been at the head of the young newcomers who had infused new life into the then stagnant college humor magazine.

Though he had been a social climber at Harvard, at NatLamp he seemed to identify more with the counterculture. According to Hendra (in “Going Too Far”), Kenney objected when art director Michael Gross was brought in to overhaul the magazine’s unkempt design, as he felt the new look was too “establishment” for his taste. After seeing what Gross could do, he changed his mind. In the end, Kenney probably benefitted more than anyone from Gross’s talent for imitating virtually any graphic style. Later, Kenney would tell people that he and Gross “invented” nostalgia.

Indeed, Kenney is best known for his “nostalgia” pieces—teen anxiety in middle-class America was a common theme—culminating with the “1964 High School Yearbook Parody” in 1974 (co-edited by P. J. O’Rourke).

Kenney was also responsible for “Mrs. Agnew’s Diary,” a regular department that lampooned the Nixon administration. Written in the breathless style of a suburban housewife’s diary, it chronicles her life with “Spiggy” and the Nixons, oblivious to the shady political games being played by those around her.

Beard, Kenney, and Hoffmann had a 5-year buyout clause in their contract with NatLamp‘s publisher, 21st Century Communications. The three excercised the option when the time came in 1974, to the tune of $7-million divided among them. Beard left as soon as the contract was settled; Hoffmann had left in 1971 to finish graduate school. Kenney stayed on until 1977, when he wrote the screenplay for Animal House (with Chris Miller and Harold Ramis), the highest box-office comedy ever made at the time.

Kenney went on to write Caddyshack. Not long after, in 1980 when he was only 33 years old, he fell to his death after stepping onto a crumbling precipice during a vacation in Hawaii. There has been some speculation over whether it might have been suicide, but those who had been with him in the days before it happened believe it was an accident.


Audio recording of Doug Kenney speaking at UCLA in 1972

A Futile and Stupid Gesture, Josh Karp’s 2006 biography of Doug Kenney. Amazon link.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture, the 2018 film based on Josh Karp’s book. Netflix link.

Other works by Doug Kenney


Bored of the Rings: A Parody of J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings
Henry N. Beard & Douglas C. Kenney, 1969


National Lampoon’s Animal House
Screenplay by Doug Kenney, Chris Miller, & Harold Ramis

Screenplay by Doug Kenney

Original material (excluding quoted material) © 1997-2024 Mark Simonson.
Mark's Very Large National Lampoon Site is not affiliated with National Lampoon or National Lampoon Inc.
Click here for the real thing.