This comment was too interesting not to surface
All the talk about National Lampoon got me searching for digitized versions, and I found a ton of them at archive.org.
It’s fascinating reading these commentaries and then looking at the archive and seeing it all play out. Lots of talented people on the team, maybe a few seasons that didn’t go so well.
It’s similar to my experience reading old stuff from spy and being blown away one minute and depressed the next. Tony Hendra had a finger in that dying pie, too, if I recall correctly.
After reading your original post about sick humor, it got me thinking about Hunter S. Thompson. His earlier work definitely rode the sick humor train along the edge of hilarious political satire. But later on, like in his last two books before he offed himself, the humor was longer there. Similar to how O'Rourke's writing evolved , Thompson's later books became mean diatribes spewing venom in every direction. The drugs, lifestyle and bitterness had taken its toll on his creativity. So no truer a warnings was ever written than yours about how sick humor had to runs its course or else it eats its creator.
Really great article. Forgive me if this is a dumb question, but what's the difference between the "blow job" type and the "Law of the Jungle" type?
A reason that The Bystander resonates so well with me is that breath on the tinder of the Lampoon. Remembrances from those who were there, regardless of timeline, is immediate connection to my youth when NatLamp took over from Mad and became the lingua franca of that generation. I miss that connection and don’t really see its current cognate, although that might just as well be the myopia of age blinding me to whatever serves as elevated dick jokes nowadays. The Lampoon had the danger of teaching us to be mean in our humor and I know that although I enjoy the full-body-check style with a sap in hand for emphasis, that road had an end and wouldn’t easily empty out onto another boulevard. Would a touch of humanness at the wheel have made a cultural difference and smoothly routed to that new flow? We’ll never know but it’s interesting to think about.
I have a few regrets about being born in the wrong era. One is that I wanted to be on the staff of the NYer in the 1920s (thurber, benchley, parker etc) and the other is to have been on the staff of the Lampoon in the era this describes.
Maybe in another life and an alternate timeline. A man can dream...
I believe the Jewish writers were most inspired by the usual gang of idiots at Mad Magazine, which came across as Jewish because it embraced outsiders by circumstance as well as those who attained outsiderdom by pursuing their vision.
I’ve read a fair amount of ‘70s NL stuff, and it seems to prove the old adage (?) that satire does not age well. Once people don’t know about the stuff that’s being satirized, the satire doesn’t work.