Satire can be a word that is hard to define. It’s like one of those “I know it when I see it” kind of things. However, if you’re looking for a clear example of it, you should see if you can find a copy of National Lampoon. The magazine, not the movie series, which ran from 1970 – 1998, is satire and parody at its finest.
DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of National Lampoon presents a thorough, entertaining documentary about the history of the magazine and the empire it spawned. The film covers the early days when the initial founders of the magazine worked for the Harvard Lampoon and how they evolved beyond Harvard (thank God) and its limitations and after some early mistakes, found their footing and eventually created a genre defining magazine.
They pushed boundaries in terms of writing, art work and attitude and out of their bold work emerged some of the greatest comedic talent we’re still enjoying today. If not for National Lampoon, we wouldn’t have SNL, The Simpsons, Family Guy and Animal House alongside more movies than you can imagine and not to mention the talent…
One thing that really amazed me was how the talent was cherry picked from the staff and from the comedians that were contributing to the magazine and its various offshoot projects. At one point, National Lampoon had a radio show on over 600 radio stations that featured the talents of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and his brother Brian Doyle-Murray, Ivan Reitman, John Hughes, and the list keeps going and going. And this is before SNL, so you can see where SNL got its starting lineup. Not to mention the Lampoon’s presence on Broadway and eventually movies.
Intertwined with the story of the magazine, is the story of one of its founders Doug Kenney. Kenney was seen as one of the masterminds behind the Lampoon’s universe and had a profound impact on many of the big comedians of our time now including Judd Apatow. People featured in the doc besides numerous contributors over the years includes Chevy Chase, Kevin Bacon, Beverly D’Angelo, Christopher Guest, and many more. There’s a lot of great, historic footage throughout this doc you won’t see anywhere else.
reviewed by Sean McKnight