DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of the National Lampoon (2015) Script

Announcer: Due to the explicit sexual nature of the following National Lampoon Radio Hour, it is featured as adult entertainment and not recommended for children's ears without parental supervision.

Tonight's show will begin after this brief commercial word.

John Belushi: Good evening, uh, this is John Belushi and this is the National Lampoon Radio Hour.

- ?(music plays) ? - (applause)

Boy: Hi, Dad. Man: Hello there, son, how was school today?

Boy: Okay. Hey, I heard a really neatjoke at recess, you wanna hear it?

Man: Why, certainly, son. Go ahead.

Boy: Okay. Well, you see, there was this priest and this minister and this... Wait, what do you call it...

Rabbi, yeah. And they were in this car and--

Man: Hold it right there, son. Around this house, we don't make jokes about religion, do we?

Boy: Aw, but gee, Dad, it's a really cute joke.

Man: Don't "Aw, gee" me, son.

You start off with cute jokes about religion, and you end up with atheistic trash like this December issue of the National Lampoon.

It makes fun of saints and prayers and money and all that's sacred.

This issue of the National Lampoon is foul and repulsive, and this is where your cute little jokes will lead you, son.

Boy: Okay, Dad, I'm... I'm sorry.

Man: That's all right, son, you're forgiven.

Man: Oh, and son? Boy: Yes, Dad.

Man: You'll be sleeping with your mother tonight.

It's my turn with your sister.

?(David Bowie "Jean Genie" plays) ?

Billy Bob Thornton: I had this sense of humor that sort of didn't exist where I grew up.

?(music continues) ?

After reading that first National Lampoon, I went, "Wow, that's what I've been trying to say."

National Lampoon just meant a lot to me as a kid because it was what I wanted to do.

It woke me up to the idea that this was a job.

Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

Judd Apatow: And then you get all these generations afterwards of people like me who were just trying to be those guys.

It was sharp, crystal clear, and above all funny.

It just blew the whole shit house up.

?(music continues) ?

The National Lampoon was defining part of the zeitgeist.

Here was this totally outrageous voice that was screaming, "Here I come."

?(music continues) ?

Breasts... I would try to seek out the magazine on the off chance that there would be some breasts.

?(music continues) ?

Kevin Bacon: The humor was a little bit above my pay grade.


Meatloaf: The Lampoons are very intellectual.

Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller could have been part of National Lampoon.

We were taking on the idiocy of our own generation.

You know, overthrowing the ageist, racist, sexist, corporate pig monster is a full-time job.

They always had the best parties, the best drugs, the smartest people.

We could sell out more, and the moment we do sell out totally, we'll be dead.

?(music continues) ?

There's a time in everyone's life, and it's really between 17 and 22, when you talk to people in their middle age, they always talk about their high school or their college experience as the, quote unquote, "Best years of their lives."

And I'm thinking, "Well, why?"

And ultimately it's because, when you're 17, 18, you were expected to function as an adult, but you're a baby.

Have you ever gone to a college campus?

Those kids are babies.

But they're adults, so there's this wonderful freedom, sense of adventure.

"We can do anything we want! We're college students!"

And that's really how the whole thing started.

?(piano plays) ?

? Fight fiercely, Harvard fight, fight, fight ?

? Impress them with our prowess do ?

Meatloaf: What was it originally, the Harvard Lampoon, right?

Well, anybody that mentioned Harvard, I just went, "Fuck you."

The Harvard Lampoon was one of those famous things that nobody has ever seen a copy of.

? Fight, fight, fight... ?

Mike Reiss: The Harvard Lampoon is America's oldest humor magazine started at Harvard in 1876.

Man: John Updike was an editor, and George Plimpton was an editor.

Well, that's about it, you know?

Two famous writers in 125 years.

And we also had Fred Gwynne, the guy who played Herman Munster.

It goes off the table after that.

? Fight, fight, fight ?

Harvard Lampoon was just this extracurricular activity and was something you did before you went into the family law firm or became a banker.

Doug Kenney and Henry Beard were in the class after I left Harvard.

They were both incredibly brilliant, and incredibly funny and incredibly good friends, but they weren't the same at all.

Doug Kenney was really the heart and soul of the Lampoon.

Doug was the, sort of, the complete social opposite of Henry.

For one thing, he did not come from an upper-crust family.

Doug's father was the tennis pro at a golf club in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Have you ever seen Caddyshack? That's Doug.

You take drugs, Danny? Every day.


Tony Hendra: The very first time I met Doug, he was talking like William Makepeace Thackeray.

I mean, he was actually improvising his prose, right?

And it was Thackeray, it wasn't Dickens.

And about 30, 45 seconds after that, he was demonstrating that he could put his entire fist in his mouth.

So this was Doug, you know?

Sean Kelly: Doug was a performer.

Doug wanted to be a star.

And he was a smart, funny, complicated person who could write.

Now that's, uh, that's rare.

Bruce McCall: Henry was probably the smartest man I ever met.

He could have been a nuclear physicist, he could have been a Supreme Court judge, he could have been anything.

Kelly: I remember the first time Henry met my first wife.

Afterwards she said, "I've met Holden Caulfield."

Henry Beard: My father had graduated from Yale, and as a... a bit of youthful rebellion, I decided to go to Harvard.

Henry is about as private a person as you'll ever find.

He was mysterious and elusive.

The two of them together were an absolutely amazing team.

When I was at Harvard, we got a call one day from Betsy Talbot Blackwell, who was the editor-in-chief of Mademoiselle magazine.

She had seen a parody issue that the Harvard Lampoon had put out, and Betsy said, "You know, maybe I should ask these guys to do a parody of us, and we'll publish it in our own magazine."

She offered us $7,000 which seemed like nothing even then, but what she also offered was a free subscription ad.

We could do anything we wanted as long as we put the clothes in and as long as we showed the models, which, of course, led to a lot of good times.

And as a result of that parody issue, we got tens of thousands of subscriptions right away.

She gave us a national audience.

The discovery is that, rather than having to depend on Mademoiselle to make our magazines go national...

...the Harvard Lampoon could actually publish national magazines itself.

They did Time magazine, and they did Sports Illustrated and they did Life magazine.

Beard: Doug Kenney and I decided to do a parody of Lord of the Rings.

We sent a letter to Tolkien, who, honest to God, sent a letter back saying, "Yeah go right ahead, silly book."

I like the Playboy parody that they did where the centerfold girl was more tan around her bottom and top.

She had reversed tan lines.

Playboy was a big hit nationally, and Doug and Henry realized that maybe there was some way that the National Lampoon could exist.

Radio Announcer: Uh-uh-uh, don't touch that dial.

The National Lampoon will be right back after this insincere commercial message written by some cynical Nazis, solely for the purpose of ripping off your parents' money.

I think if you take yourself back to when you were in your 20s, all possibilities appear open to anybody.

You know, you could go after anything at any time.

P.J. O'Rourke: Doug and Henry had gone to New York in hopes of doing a 50/50 deal with some publishing group who would put up the money.

See, we met with some guys from Time and Life.

I can't tell you how off-putting they were.

Just saying, "Oh, you guys, you don't understand anything.

You don't have a chance. You're toast.

You're just not going anywhere."

Doug Kenney was not very happy about that and said, "You people are the kind of people who commute back and forth from Westport, Connecticut, in a station wagon.

We have nothing to do with you."

I thought, "Holy God", but he was right!

And that's how we ran into 21st Century Communications and Matty Simmons.

Matty Simmons: Doug Kenney, Henry Beard, and Rob Hoffman, three Harvard Lampoon editors, came into my office, and I was immediately impressed.

Matty belonged to another generation.

Very much New York, very much old-school publishing.

Ellis Weiner: This guy invented the Diners' Club card, which was the first credit card.

Janis Hirsch: I think he wished he was in the Rat Pack.

He, sort of, always had those bedroom eyes.

You'd be talking to him about something serious, and he'd take a phone call and say, "Oh, yeah, darling, baby, I love you so much, I love you.

Yeah, broccoli for dinner's fine. Yeah, thank you, good-bye."

Beard: He was very full of himself, knew the business inside out.

Distribution in those days was, you know, there were some criminal elements.

Matty wasn't one of them, but he had to deal with people like that.

O'Rourke: Magazines in the late '60s were thought to take about five years before they got into the black.

Rob intuited that this would either work or it wouldn't.

So he made a bet when he negotiated the deal.

He did a forced buyout after five years.

It was, kind of, a gutsy move.

Simmons: They owned 25%, I owned 75%.

And part of the deal was, after five years, I would buy them out.

If this magazine is successful, I might owe these guys five, six million dollars, but I made the deal.

And we started National Lampoon.

Their first hire was Michael O'Donoghue, and Michael O'Donoghue was not Harvard, Michael O'Donoghue was Buffalo.

?(T. Rex "Children of the Revolution" plays) ?

Boy, was he an angry bunny.

He probably as much as anyone gave the Lampoon its tone.

We're doing this in place of hitting you in the face.

He had this recipe box, you know the ones that ladies have with the recipes in them?

"Oh, baked beans..."

But his recipe box was full of things like battling buses of World War Il.

He just had hundreds of these things.

Chris Cerf: He would take any chance.

Even though we were perfectly happy to do tasteful things, he pushed the bounds even further.

Doug did the dirty stuff, Henry did the brainy stuff, and O'Donoghue did the outrageous stuff, the really transgressive stuff.

Tony Hendra was a British comic as part of a comedy team called Ullett and Hendra.

He and his partner Nick Ullett used to be on The Merv Griffin Show.

When you hear the buzz, it will be the correct time.


It is now the correct time.

(audience laughing)

Tony Hendra: Writing for television was like firing on one cylinder.

Working at the Lampoon was like firing on all six cylinders.

It was like you could talk about anything you wanted.

There was absolutely nothing that was, "You can't say that, Tony" or "That's not funny, Tony."

He had this extraordinarily educated-at-Cambridge accent and was very literate and worldly and yet behaved like a delinquent of 12 or 13.

I was a humble Canadian schoolteacher.

One day, my upstairs neighbor, Michel Choquette, came home and told me he was interested in starting to write for this National Lampoon magazine that was being started in New York.

I thought, well, maybe I can come down to New York and become rich and famous and get tremendous amounts of drugs and sex and things.

None of which panned out.

Sean Kelly actually fixed me up on a blind date with Michel Choquette.

And then Michel started taking me to New York with him because I was, quote unquote, "Helping him with his work."

I got into comedy the same way that Catherine the Great got into politics on my back.

I was working in a saloon on the West Side.

One night, somebody came over to me.

"There's a fellow back there stealing the ketchup."

And I go after him, and I said, "Excuse me, I know what you're doing."

And then I realize I'm standing here accusing somebody of stealing ketchup from a red rubber bottle.

So this is so sad.

Very shortly thereafter, Henry offered me a job, and I gleefully took it.

Doug and Henry had this idea about bringing in this very hippyish art studio called Cloud.

Cloud Studios was an independent design firm.

That's a generous term to use for those guys.

Bill Skurski: We were, quote unquote, "hippie artists" because we weren't out to be millionaires.

We were out to do the things we liked to do.

You know, we were turned on, and I don't mean by drugs, I mean by the ideas.

Doug liked to hang with people like Cloud Studio artists.

He like the fact that they were kind of freaky and wore costumes and had beards.

Michael Sullivan: Doug would come to parties that we had, and when Doug wasn't in the office working, he was probably high as a kite.

Kelly: Doug wanted to be a beat or a hippie.

Doug wanted to be trendy and with it.

I remember Doug asking, "Should I... Should I be for the Black Panthers?"

And he wasn't kidding.

I saw the first issue, um, which was terrible.

Sam Gross: They had this duck.

And they were gonna keep the duck as a logo on the cover like the Playboy bunny.

I said to Henry, "Get rid of the duck."

That's not the Playboy bunny where, you know, you can put it on a garter, make it a pasty or whatever.

Everything they did was, it had to be funny-looking, which means it was all sort of squirrely and hippie-like.

The issues were messy, they were confusing.

It wasn't bringing in the readers, and they weren't getting the sales on the newsstand.

I told them, "We've gotta replace your art director."

Doug was very upset, he wanted to keep Cloud, and he argued with me, but it was my call, I was the boss.

After we did the first seven issues, I got a call from Doug Kenney.

He said, "I'm sorry, but you're no longer the art director."

Great, knock yourself out.

When I brought Michael Gross in, Doug was kinda hostile.

My first issue when I walked in the door was the nostalgia issue, which was Doug Kenney's baby.

I knew when I was hired, I was hired against Doug's will.

In the sales pitch that I made, I referred to an article they'd done about postage stamps.

I said, "For these stamps to work, they should look like real stamps."

You should be fooled when you look at them.

Therefore the parody is empowered.

And in that little example, he transformed the magazine.

After that, Doug came into my office and said, "You were right about this guy."

As soon as Michael came aboard, the Lampoon began to look great.

?(King Floyd's "Groove Me" plays) ?

Cerf: And what the Lampoon began to be able to do was to create anything in any format, so that it looked like the original.

Michael O'Donoghue: You know, Ed Sullivan, we kid him a lot, but Ed Sullivan is one of the greats of this business, and I had a funny thought.

What if Ed Sullivan were tortured, and when I say tortured, what I mean is, what if steel needles, say six inches long, were plunged into Ed's eyes?

I... I think it would go something like this...

(continuous screaming)

You could walk into the Lampoon editorial office and get high just walking in.

But as long as it stayed in the editorial office, and as long as they were doing the terrific work they were doing, I didn't tell them what to do.

In the course of a given day, it was understood that the day didn't end when the office day ended.

Beatts: They would have these dinner meetings in, like, some of the worst restaurants in New York.

Brian McConnachie: There was a saloon called The Green Man.

It was hot, it smelled of cat stink.

And they would sit around a table and drink tons and tons of beer.

This would be paid for by Henry or Doug.

They would whip out their company American Express card and pay for dinner.

That's when we made up the next issue.

You had to either get Doug or Henry to react positively to your idea.

Ed Subitzky: The ideas would come out very rapid fire.

"How did he think of that?" And then...

"How did he think of that?"

"How did he think of that?"

We all do it the same way, you get drunk, you go home, you get up in the morning, and you write the piece.

Gross: Doug was who you went to really see if you had some wild and wacky brilliant but funny idea.

Doug would go, "I gotcha, you're in."

Beard: I mean, he was a workaholic.

I mean, he was unbelievably productive.

Like, he wrote the Letters column every month.

I mean, that's like 2200 very funny words of letters in, like, an hour and a half.

I mean, every single time there was something that had to be done, he really was focused on it.

Shary Flenniken: Doug was valuable in that sense.

Because he would stimulate your ideas.

So I don't think that there really was anyone else who could inspire other people like Doug.

People would come to Henry with ideas, and Henry would say, "Tempting, tempting."

Whatever idea you pitched him, he would say, "Tempting, tempting."

"Tempting" meant that that is so awful, it really blows chunks.

Or, I'm about to have an intellectual orgasm, it's so good.

Subitzky: Somehow Henry Beard would take this ragtag bunch of material and different types of personalities and brilliantly merge it together to make a magazine that was surprisingly coherent.

?(Dave Mason "Only You Know & I Know" plays) ?

Beard: It was like we had an attic full of culture that had been accumulating from 1945 to 1970.

And we opened the trap door, and nobody had been up there, and we just basically looted it.

Kelly: Michael O'Donoghue's Vietnamese Baby Book was an extraordinary piece of satire.

It was a baby book, but it was designed to be for a Vietnamese baby, and so it had things in it like "Baby's First Wound."


Simmons: It was incredibly dark, extremely political, and it was funny.

Michel Choquette came to me with an idea.

He had run into a guy who looked just like Adolf Hitler.

Flenniken: The piece was called Stranger in Paradise which was about Adolf Hitler really survived World War Two and was living on a tropical island somewhere in the Caribbean.

Simmons: I gave him a budget, and ten days later I got a telegram, it said, "Hitler eating too much, need more money."

I said, "Stop feeding Hitler and return to New York immediately."

And it was a brilliant article, which we resold to almost every foreign country.

Doug Kenney came up with the photo funnies concept.

Doug insisted that they be us and some girls we brought in.

I was so opposed. "Guys, we're a real magazine.

We don't need to take Polaroid's in a fuckin' office."

I was so wrong, because what Doug recognized is the audience identified with us.

They went, "These are, like, a bunch of jerk-offs like me."

Like, "You and me, Bernie, look!"

That's Doug Kenney's genius.

They did probably one of the greatest magazine covers ever done.

Beard: Ed Bluestone came to the office, and he said, "You're gonna get a dog, gonna put a pistol to its head, and you're gonna say

'If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog. '"

I said, "Ed, that's the most brilliant thing I've ever heard."

Gross: It was a huge, huge hit because it's what every magazine publisher wanted to do.

All they want to say is, "Buy the fucking magazine!"

We realized that artists, well-known established artists, people like Arnold Roth, the great cartoonist Gahan Wilson, Sam Gross.

Charlotte Rodriguez is just a wonderful illustrator.

Neal Adams.

They all had to have drawers full of wonderful stuff that had been rejected by more traditional publications that weren't rejected because they weren't funny or good, they were rejected because they were a little too raunchy, so we knew we were that outlet.

It didn't matter how strange your work was.

It didn't matter if your work was anti-republican, anti-democrat, anti-the-universe, whatever it was, you could bring it into them, and they would not touch it.

And that's one great thing about the Lampoon.

Never before and never since had that kind of freedom.

Gross: If you were smart and funny, you walked into Henry Beard's office or Doug Kenney's office, "Hello, can I come show you some stuff?"

He goes like this, he goes, "Brilliant, thank you, you're hired.

We don't pay much, but we're not gonna edit you.

We're not going to change you.

We're gonna let you be what you want to be."

We had one problem.

It was losing a lot of money.

Because we couldn't get advertising.

Jerry Taylor: They sold little, teeny mail order ads.

They needed a pro to come in, make it bigger, more legitimate.

Danny Abelson: Jerry Taylor was an extraordinarily successful and, sort of, charismatic ad guy.

Bill Lippe: We had a difficult time getting appointments with advertising prospects.

Taylor: It was always hard to be taken seriously, so I had a dress code.

Three piece suit, white shirt, vest, tie.

We walked in looking exactly like the guys from Time Inc.

But still nothing, zero, nothing mattered.

It was almost like they would vomit up this hostility on the desk.

And I would say, "Okay, that's cool.

You don't have to buy a subscription, but now let me tell you why I think our audience is a great target for your product."

Our readership drank more than the average adult.

And the first liquor advertisement that we had at the magazine was Jose Cuervo, and it made other people, "Oh, wow, they got a liquor advertisement in the Lampoon."

And then the snowball started.

?(King Floyd's "Groove Me" plays) ?

Taylor: I had a slogan, "National Lampoon.

There's nothing funny about the way it sells."

Tell me about National Lampoon. Why do you think it's so popular?

Well, I think they're very witty.

Yes, they're very witty, but they are designed to please and flatter a particular audience of fairly well-to-do nobodies who can afford to be nobodies.

?(Pacific Gas & Electric "Are You Ready?" plays) ?

I honestly think that the National Lampoon is the most entertaining magazine I have ever read.

It's often the only magazine that a lot of younger, hip people today, uh, read.

And why that is, is I think they trust us.

?(music continues) ?

It looks really good, it's funny to look at.

It's weird to look at. And if you read the printed stuff, if you look at things that aren't the pictures, occasionally you find something really good which you don't find anywhere else in the written humor form.

There was a lot of bad stuff going on.

Christopher Buckley: We'd just come out of the sixties.

We had the assassinations, Vietnam, now we had Watergate.

So it was a perfect storm moment of brilliant comic sensibilities hitting the culture in a crisis point.

Thornton: It was actually the first time that I realized that, through humor, you can tell the truth.

Apatow: In a mass media way, this kind of comedy didn't exist before then.

People weren't that frank and didn't attack the establishment comedically.

Beard: We're basically a humor magazine, and we publish things we consider to be funny.

It's just impossible to put out this kind of a publication and be, uh, completely unwilling to do something offensive.

I think it's sometimes conscious and sometimes just instinctive that we push things as far as they possibly can be pushed.

I've always had a bad attitude.

Interviewer: Always?

I'm earning a living off a bad attitude right now.

Teachers always said it would get me in trouble, but it's great, it's working for me.

In those days, magazines were a bigger deal.

People very much defined themselves by the magazines they read.

Simmons: It was the most popular magazine on college campuses in America and was the second most popular magazine on newsstands in America, second only to Cosmopolitan.

The biggest circulation we ever had was a million.

We had a pass along of maybe 12 or 15.

So we probably had 12 million readers.

I mean, it was huge.

It's our unerring charm that makes our readers swallow it month after month.

And frankly, that's what it's all about, isn't it?

Suddenly Doug Kenney disappeared.

When Doug left or disappeared, it was... It was a crisis.

One Sunday morning I came downstairs, and there was a note in the kitchen, and it said, "Henry, I'm gonzo.

I'm out of here, I'm gone, I'm finished, I'm done."

And he was gone.

Radio Announcer: And now the final question, for $25,000.

Name four famous Mickeys.

Man: Uh, Mickey Mouse.

Radio Announcer: That's number one.

Man: Mickey, Mickey Mantle.

Radio Announcer: Number two.

Man: Uh, Mickey Rooney.

Radio Announcer: That's number three.

Only one more, and you win $25,000.

Man: Mickey Way.

Radio Announcer: Mickey Way?

Man: The candy bar, they'll take that, won't they?

- The judges will take that? - (buzzer sounding)

Because I had had a previous career as half of a comedy team, I had experience in how to write and put together an album.

And I was paired with O'Donoghue, who wanted to do this album, so that's how Radio Dinner came to be.

Kelly: But the album itself was very much Michael O'Donoghue.

So Michael would say, "TV dinner? What about radio dinner?"

And then he'd go, "Yes," and he'd write down Radio Dinner.

And a year later when someone said, "Let's do an album," he'd go...

"Let's call it Radio Dinner."

Cerf: Still one of my favorites was a parody song that Michael O'Donoghue and I wrote and that Tony Hendra ended up performing, brilliantly, I might add.

? I resent performing for you fuckers ?

? Tell me, what do you know? ?

? A lot of faggot middle class kids ?

? Wearing long hair and trendy clothes ?

? I don't owe you fuckers anything ?

? And all I've got to say is fuck you... ?

Cerf: It was right after John Lennon had an interview in Rolling Stone, and we had the idea that if you just put in an occasional rhyme...

? The sky is blue... ?

You could set the whole interview to music.

? George said she gave off evil vibes ?

? I should have beat the fucking shit right out of him ?

? Him with his fucking Hare Krishna ?

Hendra: The album was actually a great success.

It got a tremendous amount of airplay.

It was also nominated for a Grammy, which was pretty good, first time out.

It showed that we could more than simply put out a magazine.

The truth is, Doug carried the magazine.

If I wrote a hundred words, he wrote a thousand, every month.

People hadn't really expected that he would disappear, but Doug was not a stable person.

Beard: He had an older brother who was the preferred son, the favorite son, and his older brother died at an early age, and it was a great loss to his parents, and his parents, kind of, treated Doug as the...

As the "Well, I guess that's all we've got left."

It probably did have some emotional impact on him.

Gross: And basically what happened is he had a nervous breakdown.

And he just couldn't take it anymore.

John Weidman: He needed a break.

He was having sort of a mid-life crisis at the age of 24, whatever.

He was trying to figure himself out, and he picked up and moved to Martha's Vineyard.

I think he wanted to try something else before 30.

He's got to do something new.

Hendra: He wanted to write Teenage Commies from Outer Space.

I went up to Martha's Vineyard to actually see Doug.

My idea was to take stuff and develop from the magazine and then put it on stage, and then Matty said it needed Doug's touch.

He looked completely wasted.

He'd obviously been dropping acid and eating very little.

He wanted to go for a walk 'cause he had something to show me.

And we walked out to where there's this peculiar, kind of, mud which runs right down to the sea.

And he said it was really groovy, really groovy in the summer to slather yourself with this stuff and just lie in the sun.

So I had pitched my idea, and he said, "No, man, I can't do that.

I'm too deep into my novel."

And it turned he'd written one and a half chapters.

? Aah... ?

The first album did so well, we've got to do another album.

Wouldn't it be fun to parody Woodstock?

We were going to do a three night show, record it, edit it, and that would be the second album.

But it got out of hand.

?(rock music plays) ?

? We are Lemmings! ?

?(guitar riff plays) ?

We needed a cast of people who could be very funny and could play an instrument or, at the very least, sing extremely well.

Simmons: Tony Hendra called me one night, and he said, "There's a guy here at Second City in Chicago, and he's the funniest actor I've ever seen in my life.

He's incredible."

So I said, "Bring him to New York."

John Belushi: Can I have your attention please?

The theme of Lemmings Woodshuck Festival was that everyone's come together to off themself.

Lemmings are animals that commit suicide by going over cliffs.

So they were giving advice on how they might do this along the way by the announcer, who was John.


Now we all know why we came here.

A million of us, we came here to off ourselves.

He made the character into this, kind of, manically agreeable murderous lunatic.

If your buddy is too stoned to off himself, do him a favor.

Roll him up in his sleeping bag and drag him over to where the tractors can run him down.

Chris Guest did a James Taylor that was genius.

? Farewell, New York City ?

? With your streets that flash like strobes ?

? Farewell, Carolina ?

? Where I left my frontal lobes ?

Hey! Chevy!

Hey! What's your name again?!

John. John, hey!

Chevy Chase: There was a sketch where John and I were two high school or college guys at urinals, just talking.

I can't even remember what it was about, but I do remember that they were laughing all through.

And it became clearer and clearer to me that they were laughing at John, whether he was saying anything or not.


I'm like this, talking to John.

And finally after, like, a week, I have to look over at him to see what the hell is going on, why are they always laughing? And he's like this.


Never knew it, never told me.

The little bastard just took me.


It was so good.

It was decided, because the ticket sales were so brisk, that we would simply leave the show open.

And at that point, from a record project, it actually become an off-Broadway show.

?(piano music plays) ?

It was in this little tiny club in the Village, but it was an underground hit, it was a cool thing to go see.

(indistinct singing) ? Well I'm standing here ?

? Singing my song ?

? Well, there ain't nothing to do, all my friends are gone ?

? I had sunshine and a country home ?

? I've been on the cover of Rolling Stone ?

- ? But it lonely ? - ? Yes it's lonely ?

Kelly: When we were with the actors, it got more rambunctious.

Because that was when actual uppers and downers and nose candy, and things, entered.

What about the acid? You gonna open the acid?

What acid?

What do you mean, "What acid," John?

What acid? The LSD 25, man.

You mean the LSD zero?

(audience laughing)

Tony would go to Matty and say he needed X bucks to buy marijuana for the cast.

And then Tony, of course, would immediately buy cocaine with it.

I mean, everybody can buy their own marijuana.

?(music continues) ?


Hey! Hey, you gotta get up!

Hup! Hup!




? What would you do ?

? If I sang out of tune? ?

One, two, three! - ? Lonely at the bottom ?

? Lonely, lonely, lonely ?

- ? Lonely at the bottom ? - ? I said my baby's lonely ?

? I said she lonely, I said she lonely ?

? I said she lonely, I said she lonely, I said... ?

(music stops)

(cheering and applause)

Gross: Henry Beard's office door hardly ever opened.

Henry Beard sat there and typed.

(typewriter keys clicking)

Pull it out, pull it out. Pages, pages, pages.

Genius, brilliant, intellectual and otherwise pages.

That's it.

Beard: Suddenly I was working a hundred hours a week.

You know, I would go home and go to bed and then wake up the next morning and go to the office and start writing again.

Hendra: Henry, really, had become the leader of the magazine.

When Doug was still there, it was a partnership, and when he left, Henry was the only person who could actually, sort of, be the final authority, and he had done that very, I think, grudgingly.

So when Doug sidled back into the office, sort of saying, "Hi, I'm back," no one had much patience for Doug.

He came back humbled, deeply humbled.

Deeply, sadly humbled.

Tail between his legs. He knew what he had done.

Gross: Doug brought the novel back, and Henry looks at it and goes, "Jesus, this is awful."

He... I... I read this thing, it just made no sense.

It was a complete nothing.

And what he did was, he opened up the window on Madison Avenue and just scaled the whole thing out.

Gross: There were people not talking to him.

And people were, like, doing this. They didn't even want to see him.

I was pissed at Doug, and I said, "Doug, you know, you fucking let me down.

You let us all down."

Julius: This is Julius... Ethel: And Ethel...

Both: Rosenberg.

Julius: Did you know that the majority of dead people are Jews?

Mm-hmm. 85% of all dead people are Jewish.

So remember, if you persecute Jews when you're alive, boy, are you going to get it when you're dead.

Doug had just gotten back from being AWOL for about a year, and I had just been hired.

And Michael O'Donoghue, in the early Lampoon, wrote a brief parody of a high school year book.

Matty Simmons had the idea of turning this into a special edition of doing a yearbook.

Matty gave us the job because, basically, we couldn't say no.

Doug was still in the doghouse, and I was a fresh hire.

Simmons: They weren't hot about the idea.

But I wanted to do it, and I pushed them.

O'Rourke: We're sitting around, bemoaning our fate.

"This is such a stupid idea.

How are we gonna talk him out of this?"

And we just started talking about high school.

And we started talking about how, really, there are only a dozen people in high school.

Well, there's the beautiful frigid girl, there's the stupid jock, there's the exchange student from "Absurd-istan."

You know, there's only a dozen, 18 people in high school.

?(Chuck Berry "School Days" plays) ?


O'Rourke: This is how you do it.

You cast these 18 characters, and you spin out a year of their life, and you can get a whole book out of this.

Hirsch: When I got to the Lampoon, Anne Beatts and Emily Prager were the only two women writers.

So I was desperate to work on anything.

And so I said to Doug Kenney, "I volunteer.

I will do anything you want to help you."

I walked with crutches, I had polio as a kid.

He said, "Oh, well, you know, there's always a handicapped kid in every school.

Can we borrow your crutches?"

And I went, "Well, not without me, you can't!"

And so he said "All right, well, will you be in it?"

And I was Ursula Wattersky.

I think P.J. was the women's gym teacher.

Brian McConnachie doing the optometrist club, and they're all, sort of, listing to the side.

It was a wonderful experience.

It was like producing an independent movie.

It was perfect for Doug because he had simultaneously been just a regular high school guy and Doug Kenney, super brain, watching from on high.

He wore his high school jacket all the time, Doug.

That was his natural costume.

Doug used his own picture as the dead student that the yearbook was dedicated to.

?(music continues) ?

It was a work of true satirical brilliance.

There were 50 storylines woven through it in all the different sections of it. It was really a comic masterpiece.

Gross: Doug was the personality of National Lampoon.

He understood...


(music stops)

Simmons: Michael O'Donoghue in the office was like a time bomb.

You never knew when it was going to go off.

Michael O'Donoghue was... Seemed to be the world's angriest guy.

Simmons: And he would scream and yell, and he would throw telephone books.

And the phone, he'd rip the phone out and throw it across the office, narrowly missing people.

He was prone to, when you're stuck, you turn around, you wanna get angry at somebody.

And you hit the people closest to you.

You start slapping them around.

Hendra: Michael was like a bundle of dynamite.

For some reason, we hit it off when I first came to the magazine.

And we were friends for a while.

As everybody was with Michael, for a while.

Beatts: Michael had gotten into a giant feud with Tony over the fact that Tony had slept with Michael's then-girlfriend, Amy.

Michael marched into my office and said, "You gotta fire him."

And he told me what happened. I said, "Michael, the one thing I never want to do is get involved with the personal lives of the people who work here."

Matty gave Michael the National Lampoon Radio Hour as a compensatory thing.

Like, okay, they have Lemmings, you can have the Radio Hour.

?(theme music plays) ?

- (knocking on door) Woman: Who is it?

Man: Tom the Baker, here.

Woman: Oh, Tom. Come on in.

(door opens)

You're not Tom the baker!

Woman 2: Watch out, he's got a knife.

(woman 1 gasping) Who are you?

Man: I'm Bob the rapist.

Woman: Oh, Bob. Woman 2: Oh, Bob.

Woman: Come on in, have some coffee.

Woman 2: Good to see you.

In the beginning of the Radio Hour, I guess it was envisioned that the editors would be the writers.

Michael had just sort of written Lemmings off and everybody in it.

One day, Chris Guest was supposed to come in and do a Peter O'Toole imitation, and he called up last minute to cancel.

And I said, "John can do Peter O'Toole."

And that's how everybody in Second City entered the Radio Hour.

Gilda Radner: Hi, I'm your host person, Gilda Radner, and I am going to read you the people who contributed.

John Belushi, Brian Doyle-Murray, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Harold "Rahmis", - Ed Subitzky. Harold Ramis: It's Ramis.

Gilda: What? Ramis: Ramis, not "Rahmis."

Hirsch: These guys were all Second City guys, and they learned a craft, which is writing sketches.

What's the point, Coach? The point is this, Shnobble.

There are winners and losers, but some guys don't even get to finish the game.

Yeah? What are you talking about?

There's a big coach somewhere in the universe, and he's taking one of us up.

Stefanski, you got Leukoplakia. Huh?

The doc says you might not last the season.

(all moaning)

I suppose that one of us ought to say something, Coach, and as the defensive captain...

Harold: Wait, that's not all.

Luciano has Huntington's Chorea.

Shaffer and Collins, you two have sickle cell anemia, highly advanced.

Thomson, Carson and McNulty, spinal meningitis.

(all moaning)

Okay, that's pretty good. You can go on to the next one.

Danny Abelson: For human nerds, the National Lampoon is like an obscure record label that first recorded Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.

You, sort of, can trace extraordinary talent back to this one little record label.

But we do a fair amount of music on the radio show.

We do, um, often performed by us because we're so awful, that we couldn't ever get professionals to sound as bad as we wanted the thing to sound.

? I wish I was a Negro ?

? With lots of Negro soul ?

? So I could stay true to my ethnic roots ?

? And still play rock'n'roll ?

? If I was a funky Negro ?

? Eating soul food barbecues ?

? I wouldn't have to sing the middle-class liberal ?

? Well-intentioned blues ?

We get some reaction from people accusing us of being racist or anti-Semitic, or we even got complaints from the Nazis that we were anti-Nazi or something.

Kenney: All of the editors, I think, to a certain degree, are unbelievable racists.

You ask, "Are we anti-Polack?"

Of course, we're anti-Polack, they're so dumb.

Interviewer: What about racism being dealt with in the way it is in Lampoon?

Oh, I suggest simply the hotter the issue, the more they cool it by hilarity.

Why does one laugh? Laughter is entirely a defense mechanism.

Laughter is a defense against hostility, a replacement for hostility, a, uh, a defense mechanism against guilt, embarrassment.

Michael did a thing about Kentucky Fried Chicken, except, of course, the Colonel was serving Kentucky Fried black people.

And you think, well, that's beyond tasteless.

Except it's, sort of, true.

We're a good, humorous say anything which is true, which you would do anything to deny is true.

Kelly: So I wouldn't say the Kentucky Fried joke was a racistjoke.

It was a joke against racism.

Judith Belushi: We had a very disgruntled sponsor who dropped us.

And I remember the memo we got after, it was from Matty.

"You can make fun of poor people, you can make fun of Indians, you can make fun of anything you want, but do not make fun of the Jews."

It is the job of a satirist, okay, to make people in power uncomfortable, really uncomfortable.

To the point where they go, "This has to be stopped."

? Well-intentioned blues ?

In the National Lampoon, what really gets people angry?

What do they... What do they sue you about?

Probably the most famous suit we ever had was the Volkswagen suit.

We had a picture of a Volkswagen.

We said if Teddy Kennedy had driven a Volkswagen, he'd be President today. Which is true, of course.

Teddy Kennedy would be President if he drove a car that floated.

Well, the first thing we did, and this was Matty, he sent out a news release, along with the ad, nationwide, saying that Volkswagen was suing us.

It got picked up in every newspaper in America.

They ran the ad, and the issue sold out.

I had let them get away with things that even shocked me.

One day, I got a call from the Vice President at NBC.

He said, "We have been talking about doing a Saturday night satire show.

Would you be interested?"

We had all sorts of things going on.

We had live shows on the road, we had the magazine, we had a book division.

It was the biggest radio show in the country.

It was on 600 stations.

We were the humor empire in the United States.

I said, "I really appreciate it, but it's too demanding."

National Lampoon was just a magazine, you know?

But suddenly, it was records and actors and musicians.

Abelson: There was an extraordinary change in the sense that the spotlight was suddenly being shared.

Well, I remember Chevy coming to the office and John Belushi coming to the office, and those guys had an energy to them that was very exciting.

And you felt that it must have been difficult for editors who'd been around for a long time to not be a part of that group.

The more famous and the more popular we got, the more people's egos were doing this.

Kelly: Michael and Tony were heading in their different directions.

It was very difficult, especially because you couldn't work for both of them at the same time, or they would consider you a traitor and a Mordred.

We don't need this, and this is supposed to be fun and happy and what not.

We're getting paid to be as silly as we can.

Simmons: We're talking about the smartest, most curious, free-spirited people.

These were not cageable people.

And people started leaving the Lampoon.

O'Donoghue, his girlfriend was Anne Beatts.

Beatts: Matty had given Michael Simmons my desk, and I was furious.

It had taken me all that many years to get a desk, and then suddenly I didn't have it anymore.

He called me up one morning, and he said, "I gotta talk to you, Anne Beatts must have an office at the radio show.

If you don't do this I'm gonna quit."

Matty said, "Well, if she doesn't like it, she can quit, and if you don't like it, you can quit."

And Michael said, "I quit."

And he quit.

And that was it.

Michael left, never came back.

Gross: I had been with the magazine four or five years.

Rock'n'roll is the best analogy.

You know, it's a band that just started to go bad.

So it was just time for me to move.

Bill Murray: Bless me Father, for I have sinned.

Brian Doyle-Murray: And how long has it been since your last confession, my son?

Murray: About four months, I guess, Father.

Doyle-Murray: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Murray: Uh... And I fucked this girl...

Uh... Excuse my French, Father, Uh... I went all the way with this girl.

Doyle-Murray: Don't be embarrassed, my son.

I've heard it all before.

I've heard much, much worse than that.

Murray: You heard cunnilingus?

Doyle-Murray: I hear that from second graders.

Murray: Wow. Wobbly warhead, you heard that?

Slam the warhead at her?

Doyle-Murray: Years ago, years ago.

Murray: Low clearance clit? You heard that?

Doyle-Murray: Dwarf cock. Murray: Bosom burger?

Doyle-Murray: Scrotum breath. Murray: Albino beaver?

Doyle-Murray: Iguana tits. Murray: Madam ovary?

Doyle-Murray: Slime slit. Murray: Mashy nipple lick?

Murray: Bug nuts. Doyle-Murray: Cock nose?

Doyle-Murray: Vagina. Murray: Oriental crack?

Doyle-Murray: Superdome pussy.

Murray: Afterbirth on toast, it's pizza.

Doyle-Murray: Punk piss. Murray: Hillbilly snatch.

Doyle-Murray: Boob puss. Murray: You heard Rhino Clit?

Doyle-Murray: Rhino Clit? That's disgusting.

That's terrible.

Nice mouth, you kiss your mother with that mouth?

You eat with that mouth?

Garbage mouth!

Man: Well, the Nat Lamp, as it is affectionately called by both its friends and enemies, has taken its anarchism off its pages and put it on the stage in revue form.

They are the cast of the new National Lampoon show, which opens this Friday at the new Palladium Cabaret at 120 West 51st Street.

I've given up a life of comfort and wealth.

Surely you can send something.

A dime, a dollar, a pair of socks, some 50 caliber tracer bullets or whatever you can to...

The Symbionese Liberation Army.

That's the SLA in L.A., 418 Tishman Building, Los Angeles, California.

I was reading the magazine.

I was very impressed with the writing in it, so I looked up on the masthead and found Matty Simmons' name and called him.

He had seen the National Lampoon show in Toronto.

Matty decided to do another stage show, using Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, and much of the same talent in the Radio Hour.

So I said to Ivan, "Why don't you come in and run it in New York?"

And now the National Lampoon Radio Hour single's bar of the air.

Your opportunity to meet some of today's most beautiful, bright, talented, sensitive, and unattached young men and women.

Will that perfect mate be you?

Hiya, fella.

Nice weather, isn't it?

I used to believe in ethical culture, but then I switched to Zen.

My hobbies are plants, and once I had an ant farm.

Ivan Reitman: I showed up to one of the early rehearsals, and there was, kind of, a discussion about some little thing that's going on.

And I just naturally say, "Well, wouldn't it be better if you..." I made some suggestion.

And suddenly the whole group stopped, and they looked at me, this outsider, and wondered, "Did he just say something?"

Did he have the nerve to actually open up his mouth and direct us?

Bill Murray, always the bravest of the group, sort of walked up to me very calmly, put his arm around me and patted me on my back, got my winter scarf and wrapped it very slowly around my neck.

And said, "Hey, thanks for dropping in, we'll see you."

And he patted me, and he ushered me out of the room.

It was very, very embarrassing.

Better luck next time.

Rehearsal warm-up!

Let's take first to the right eyebrow.

Ready, and one and two and three and four and five and six.

Now left, and two.

Come on! Up! Down!

And halt. Cross, and...

Reitman: Belushi was this sure great performer.

He was the center of The National Lampoon Show.

He, basically, acted as the director.

What are you doing here?

Who me? Yeah.

? Well, I'm a congressman from Cleveland ?

? I took kickbacks all the time ?

? Now I'm stuck here in prison for them ?

- ? Doing 99 ? Years?

No, hours. Wow.

Ramis: ? I'm a white collar criminal ?

? My wife's a debutante ?

? I'm stuck in prison farm for as long as I want ?

? Whoa... ?

Hendra: What was really remarkable about John was that he was the rock'n'roll of humor.

I mean, he represented those two things in perfect combination.

? You know, we gotta eat caviar ?


? We got a chauffeur and a car ?


? We got a church and a school ?

? We got a sauna and a pool... Whoa! ?

? Six months on prison farm... ?

He was very focused on the business side of it as well.

He was the one who would call me up every week and say, "Hey, you're not advertising enough" or "We should put these quotes on."

? My honey ?

? Told her to save my tennis things ?

Hirsch: I think it was Sean who said to Matty, put him on retainer. Give him $500 a week just to keep him here.

And Matty didn't do it.

Let's begin.

Repeat after me.

I would like I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines. to the wolverines.


Next, I am afraid I am afraid we are out we are out of badgers. of badgers.

Would you accept Would you accept a wolverine a wolverine in its place? in its place?

Next... (gasps)




Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!

Most of the cast of Saturday Night Live was taken right from the first company of The National Lampoon Show.

Announcer: Starring the Not For Ready Primetime Players!

The producer of Saturday Night Live watched our show for about a month and then hired the people in the show.

Tom Snyder: You're talking about Lorne Michaels, who produces?

Oh, yeah, I forgot his name.

Lorne Michaels... No, I know his name.

Are you mad at him?" No, I'm not mad at him.

Since he has most of my actors and many of my writers.

You could almost feel the energy sucked out of the magazine and into that show.

It was written by some Lampoon people.

It was starring some former Lampoon people.

And it was very glamorous, and it was a huge hit, from the beginning, and I gathered pretty quickly that if I liked Saturday Night Live, I should keep it to myself.

Rick Meyerowitz: Suddenly, what the Lampoon offered was available to a much larger audience.

The Lampoon lost its exceptionalism.

?(music plays) ?

? What would ya do ?

? If I sang out of tune ?


? Would you stand up and walk out on me? ?

? Oh, baby, I get high ?

? With a little help from my friends ?

? Oh, yeah, whoa... ?

I've described the Lampoon as the hippest place to be to write comedy.

And it was, until the hippest place to be to write comedy became Saturday Night Live.

Chevy Chase came over to the Lampoon offices, and, chuckling, he said, "Nobody gets laid writing for the National Lampoon anymore."

This friend of mine tells me that Michael Gross is leaving the Lampoon, the art director, and I should apply for the job.

And, I walk into the conference room, and Doug Kenney says to me, "Well, I have three questions: Can you get us drugs?

Can you get us nude models?

And do you have some place where we can go with the drugs and the nude models?"

And I thought very seriously and I said, "Yes, yes, and yes."

And Doug looked at me and he says, "Well, I have no further questions."

?(King Floyd's "Groove Me" plays) ?

Abelson: Peter had very little pretension in terms of art, as did Michael Gross.

Totally different kind of person but he got it, you know, and that's the thing that mattered.

He was a great looking guy who was not afraid to approach people of the opposite sex and suggest that they might get to know one another better, which was somewhat fascinating to all of us.

Every 30 days we were putting out this 100-page magazine.

Didn't matter how dirty, or how vile, or how perverted, or how sexual, or how twisted or violent it was.

If it was funny, and if Doug liked it, it was in.

Simmons: We knew all along that Doug and Henry Beard and Rob Hoffman would ask us to buy them out after five years.

However, the buyout said that they would buy it out at 21 times earnings, which was outrageous.

They stood to make a nice piece of change.

I owed them seven and a half million dollars.

So we met with them and we sat down and we talked.

For whatever reason, any reasonable alternative to the buyout was rejected.

So when push came to shove, we shoved.

I don't think Matty was prepared.

I don't think Matty Simmons really thought Doug and Henry would go through with it.

And they did.

Henry hinted a few times that, you know, this could be good for you guys. Meaning Sean, Tony and myself.

O'Rourke: Other people apparently felt that they were stake holders.

And, um, you know, they weren't.

They all thought Henry had promised them a lot of money and he walked out of that office the day the check was cashed.

He stood up on a desk and said, "I hated every minute of this.

Fuck you!" Then left.

Kelly: When Henry got up and told us that he was never going to talk to any of us again, it was such a shattering experience for all of us because he was the one we were trying to please.

I think the culture changed.

And you know, people grew up. It had a lifespan.

Radio Announcer: Never send care packages to the so-called starving families in Europe because they're not starving at all.

Can you afford to live in Europe? No.

You can't even afford to visit Europe.

And do you know what they do with the care packages you send?

They whack them with their polo mallets and kick them into their swimming pools.

The first time I saw Doug after the buyout, I said, "What are you going to do with all of this bread?

That's so great!"

And Doug said, "I'm going to Disneyland."

?(rock music plays) ?

Doug was going to quit.

He was wealthy now and he was going to quit.

And Matty was smart enough to know that

"Holy shit, if I lose Doug, I'm going to lose the heart and soul of this company."

And so he said, "Well, don't quit Doug, we're going to make a movie." And Doug went, "Really?"

Once I told Doug we were making a movie, we had to make a movie.

Ivan then started coming up with ideas with Harold Ramis.

Reitman: I knew that the High School Yearbook was the most popular thing that the National Lampoon had ever put out.

So I called up Doug Kenney and said, "Hey, why don't you help Harold write this high school movie?"

They started writing a screenplay that was Charlie Manson and his followers back when they were still in high school.

There was so much sex and drinking and what have you involved with it that I said, "We can't do this in high school.

We'll get lynched."

?(rock music plays) ?

So I spoke to Matty about shifting away from high school to college and we were thinking of using Chris Miller's stories.

Simmons: Chris Miller was the most popular short story writer in the history of the Lampoon.

Reitman: He specialized in stories based on his Dartmouth years.

Chris Miller: My stories were about college and getting loaded and living a wild life and sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, or the absence of those things.

Doug Kenney went crazy over it because they didn't do shit like that at Harvard.

Simmons: Ramis, Kenney and Miller worked for a full year on what became a 114 page treatment.

The biggest treatment anyone's ever seen.

And so, that really became Animal House.

(rock music stops)

After the buyout, we bumped along until P.J. took the title of Editor-in-Chief.

?(The Hombres "Let It All Hang Out" plays) ?

I went to work as Matty's assistant but I wound up as Editor-in-Chief because I had had some prior publishing experience.

I actually knew what on time and under budget meant.

The era of P.J. being the Editor-in-Chief, it was less high-brow and more approachable.

Editorial meetings were way different.

Before he was editor, editorial meetings were hanging out and trying to one-up each other and consisted of this free-flow of ideas.

When P.J. took over, he was the chair of every meeting.

He had an agenda on his legal pad.

He would read us things that he had written that he thought were particularly funny.

P.J. was one of those people that really worked hard.

It was not an endearing quality.

It needed a grown-up, but frankly, it stopped being fun.

"How to talk your wife into oral sex:

Beg, wheedle, plead, moan, groan and whine.

The object being to have her grab it in disgust and perform the dirty deed to shut you up."

By John Hughes.

?(rock music plays) ?

Apatow: I was always an enormous fan of John Hughes.

He did all of this humor about families and growing up and then really funny, dirty stuff.

When I was running the magazine, he was the best person I had working for me.

John could hue within, sort of, one degree of reality and make it hilarious.

Peter Kleinman: On the surface, he was all-American, you know, almost like this nice family guy.

And then you'd start reading his stuff, and it was the most sick, sexual, depraved, deviant stuff you've ever read.

P.J. O'Rourke and John Hughes and the kinds of articles they liked and wrote and edited were politically different and culturally and socially different than the stuff we had done.

And the kinds of readers changed also.

Simmons: I knew no one in Hollywood, but this is one of those things that has to happen.

You have to have luck to go with talent.

I got a phone call about a week later from a guy who said, "Mr. Simmons, I am the assistant to Ned Tanen at Universal Studios, and I just want you to know that I'm a huge Lampoon freak and if you ever want to do a movie, please call me."

We met with Ned Tanen and he said, "I hate this.

Everybody's a drunkard, a womanizer, they're doing drugs."

But he had two assistants: Sean Daniel and Thom Mount, who had always thought this project could work.

And they were pushing it.

As a National Lampoon fan, I just thought this is hilarious.

Not everyone thought it was as funny as I did.

In fact, it was held in total contempt.

My deal was that if any part of the National Lampoon show, which I produced, sort of, led to what was going to be a National Lampoon movie then I was going to have the opportunity to direct it.

But the only film I had directed up to that point was, uh, Cannibal Girls.

Announcer: They love every man they meet.

First to death, then for dinner.

Universal said, "Well, you can produce it but you can't direct it."

My girlfriend at the time was working as a script supervisor on Kentucky Fried Movie.

She said to me you have got to get to know the director of this movie, John Landis.

Sean approached me and said, "Would you be interested in making a film at Universal?"

And I was like, "Duh", and, uh, he gave me the script to Animal House.

Ned Tanen took me into his office and said, "Look, a lot of people around here hate this and don't think we should be doing it.

But if you believe in it, go away and bring us back a movie."

You can't spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes.

You fucked up! You trusted us!

I had never done a comedy, and I just was so over where my career was.

I was like, "I have to be in this movie."

(loud crack)

Thank you, sir. May I have another?

Bacon: I auditioned for John Landis and he said, "Yeah, this guy is smarmy, he's a smarmy guy. Can ya do that?"

I had no idea what the word smarmy meant, so I just, kind of, made this face and he was like, "That's great!"

My kid can't see, is it all right if he stands in front of you?


Landis: I really wanted the writers on set.

Universal of course, this is a low-budget picture, told me to go fuck myself, so...

What I did, was I said, "Look, get yourself to Eugene and I will hire you every day as actors."

Chris and Doug being there was important.

And Doug Kenney, really important because, you know, we made up a lot of stuff shooting.

What the hell we supposed to do, you moron?

Doug was always the smartest guy in the room, you know, and the richest guy. (chuckling)

And the one with the drugs.

So, it was a real special time because it was a chance to meet all these people that I had always revered.

You know, the Lampoon and that Doug had founded it and was as smart in person and funny in person as the magazine was.

Landis: I know that for Doug, he was in heaven.

He had the time of his life.

But Ned Tanen was very upset about it and very concerned and really we were in trouble for a while.

When he saw the movie he just...

He didn't like it and, uh, didn't find any of it funny.

Sean Daniel: Came time to preview the movie in front of an actual paying audience, the president of the corporation came, who had been one of the non-believers.

And all of the executives were there.

The time has come for someone to put his foot down, and that foot is me.

It was, you know, you're sitting there very nervous, "How will they like the movie?"


They went nuts.


Suddenly the studio went, "Oh, my God, this really worked."

Landis: And from that moment on, we went from being criminals... Suspects to heroes.

I remember seeing it with my mom. It was the first time I saw women's breasts in front of my mother.

I literally can remember how many people were in the theater and what it looked like and my red shamed face.

And you have to remember that Animal House created a genre.

?(Bobby Lewis "Tossin' and Turnin'" plays) ?

So we figured, "Wow, this is awesome."

Everybody's going to love the magazine now and see that we're more mainstream because of this movie which was a huge success.

What we didn't anticipate was that Hollywood now would rear it's voracious head and take away all of our wonderful, creative talent.

The second it came out somebody hired me to write about college kids drinking and having sex in cars and everybody wanted to have a meeting even if...

And I had nothing to do with the movie.

I just worked at the Lampoon for a while.

(jet engine roar)

Chris Miller: Doug came out to Hollywood and the search forjoy and for ecstasy was a major fact of life.

It was what we did.

?(Bobby Blue Bland "Turn On Your Love Light" Plays) ?

Beard: I realized that this is what he wanted to do.

I mean, Doug Kenney should be writing movies.

He was a producer.

He seemed to be running the whole show.

He was the engine that was making the wheels turn.

?(music continues) ?

Doug was just an upward road to fame.

Beverly D'Angelo: I remember going to Doug Kenney's house when I first came to Hollywood.

They were having the most fun in town.

They were what was going on in town.

Belushi: There was that part of him that enjoyed being a star.

Kleinman: Doug and Chevy had this great chemistry.

They could start going and you'd just sit back and just watch the party.

He considered himself the most handsome man in comedy.

He'd be in front of the mirror and say, "Look the most handsome man in comedy."

And then I'd stand behind him and go, "Almost."

Hendra: Wherever Doug was would be a party.

Just full of people, studio heads and guys from Denny's.

You know, I mean, just anyone he met.

And it would go on for hours, sometimes days.

Kleinman: Doug's career was really taking off, and meanwhile back at the ranch, everyone was making Disco Beavers From Outer Space.

? Disco beaver ?

? From outer space... ?

There was a giant beaver walking around throughout everything eating the floors.

So in the middle of the sketch, the floor would collapse and this beaver, who had eaten it, would pop up.

Do I really have to talk about Disco Beaver?

? Disco beaver... ?

Somebody at the Lampoon called me and said, "Look we have a whole bunch of kids coming in from Harvard...

?(rock music plays) ?

...and we'd like you to come to the magazine and just, kind of, tutor these guys."

I thought, okay, that sounds like fun.

Reiss: My first week at the National Lampoon, we were getting drunk at a park with bagpipers there.

I saw a fistfight.

There was a man secretly living in his office.

It was... It was a crazy place, like nothing I had ever seen before.

And, you know, for a guy just out of college this was a dream.

You know, you were able to actually write comedy for a living, which was astounding to me.

One thing that Mike and I did early, was these articles about how to write. And we did one that Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court Justice did, How to Write Dirty, where he instructed you how to write pornography.

I had the thought that Thurgood Marshall, he would never see this article, but if he did, I thought maybe he would even enjoy it, right?

He was so upset that he called the FBI and said, "What can I do to them?"

And the FBI said, "Well, there's a thing called Freedom of Speech, Mr. Justice, it protects them."

McConnachie: After Animal House, Harold and Doug went up to Florida and made Caddyshack.

Caddyshack was not a Lampoon movie, but it was a Doug Kenney movie and Doug Kenney was the Lampoon, so obviously it was a Lampoon movie.

I mean, it may not have been officially a Lampoon movie but with Chevy and Billy and Doug and Brian, I mean, it was a Lampoon movie.

That was the spirit of the Lampoon.

Doug was the producer of Caddyshack but it all seemed a little disorganized.

There was a kind of haphazard quality to the way in which the film was created.

Stop thinking.

Let things happen and be the ball.

Danny? Danny?

It was only, like, my second movie or something, I don't remember.

Everybody was smoking pot.


It's a little harsh.

It was a very nocturnal, uh, movie.


?(Kenny Loggins "I'm Alight" plays) ?

Cocaine was just always there.

Matheson: Cocaine wasn't bad for you. You'd do this and you'd go, "I can't believe this isn't bad for me!"

You know, 'cause it wasn't considered, at that time, to be a bad thing... for a while.

He's got a beautiful backswing.

That's... Oh, he got all of that one!

Judd Apatow: I remember when Caddyshack came out, Newsday gave it two and a half stars, and I'm like, "What? This is like the best movie ever!"

Caddyshack is not about the Mikado's daughter-in-law elect.

It's about as rotten a movie as has slopped the screen this summer.

Tim Matheson: Doug was very distraught and upset that Caddyshack wasn't as big as Animal House.

I said, "Jeez, you know, Animal House is a homerun.

So let's just say Caddyshack is a double or a triple. But who cares?"

Chevy Chase: But I was at Dangerfield's with Billy and maybe Harold promoting the picture and somebody came up to me after and he said, "You know, Doug is really..."

And I could see that Doug was like asleep on a table back there starting to get loaded at noon or whatever.

I had seen him depressed before but this was like he had achieved a level of depression that was impressive to me and I'm good at being depressed.

And it was about the movie.

He'd spent a year and a half of his life or something on this thing and what I got is like a talking gopher for Christ's sake.

It actually did fine, it kind of hit the mark a lot of films do.

It just wasn't his mark.

So I guess that's probably part of what happened to Doug, just feeling it should have done better...

...he could have done better.

Sean Kelly: At that point the magazine was on the skids in terms of its sales, and it was believed by management that the way to get it back to being a best-seller was to have more tits.

?(rock music plays) ?

Al Jean: They had this mandate that every sixth issue or second issue or every issue had to be a sex issue.

And we couldn't afford B-List tits.

We had like D and E-List tits.

And the more tits and ass we put on the cover, the more 7-11's and everybody put it under the counter so it didn't matter what was on the cover.

Then the phone rang and they said, "Do you want to quit your job and come to Hollywood?"

And we said, "Yes, who is this?"

The kids left to go write The Simpsons and every other thing that's huge.

We were in something of a death spiral.

Chris Miller: I was working on a movie called Club Sandwich.

We had to have a meeting with our producers and that was Michael Shamberg and Allen Greisman and Doug.

And in comes Doug, and behind him comes this coke dealer.

And, um, Doug says, "I'll be right with you guys!"

He lays a rail of this coke along his arm, and he goes...


And the entire amount of cocaine goes up his nose.

And then he says, "Okay, we're having a meeting now?"

And, uh...

I had been as big a drug abuser as anybody, and I had hung around with Doug a lot.

I had never seen Doug do something like that at 9:00 a.m. when a business meeting was about to be held.

Tim Matheson: You know Hollywood is one of those things.

They don't care what you do.

Just as long as you show up to work and you're okay then.

Whatever you do on your own time, that's what you do on your own time.

(phone ringing)

Man: Hello, this is a recorded message from your suicide prevention phone.

Now first of all why not stop, take a deep breath and think for a minute.

Can things really be all that bad?

Sure, the road of life can be pretty bumpy sometimes but isn't thatjust part in parcel of that rich tapestry we call living?

- (gunshot) - (gasp and thud)

You know, a wise man once said, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

Peter Kleinman: I mean, you know, I'm not a doctor but I guess Doug was an addict.

He had the disease of addiction, right?

Doug couldn't not be high.

Coming out to L.A. was very bad for Doug, I think.

The cocaine out here was everywhere and, uh...

Doug just went for it, uh... as hard as anybody has ever gone for it.

Doug wasn't... He wasn't as happy as I thought I might be if I had, you know, that kind of success and that kind of notoriety and money.

He was sort of, an emptiness, like, there was like a sadness.

He was having trouble.

And they said, you know, take him away, or... for a week or something.

So Doug and I went off together.

I took him to Hawaii.

I think that he and Chevy were, at that time, um... battling their attraction to drugs.

I remember at one point we were at the hotel on Maui on like the 15th floor.

I went to his room, and I told him I just couldn't take it anymore, I was so depressed.

Then I went back to my room and I took my boots off and left them right by the fence, the terrace, and then just went, "I got, uh, ah!"

The sound of somebody falling from the terrace or jumping.

And he came running and, of course, I'm hiding and for a second he really actually looked.


I'm telling you all this about Doug because I miss him very much, he was my best friend.

I had to come back to work finally, back to California, and I left him in Hawaii.

I got a call from Doug's girlfriend, um...

(clearing throat)

And he was missing and did I know where he was and I had no idea.

One day I was talking to him and the next day he was missing.

Doug being missing wasn't that unusual but this time it didn't feel right.

I flew back out.

We found Doug but he was at the bottom of what they call the Grand Canyon in Kauai.

John Weidman: I don't want to suggest for a minute that what happened to Doug was expected.

It was awful when I got the news, but it was not entirely incompatible with the life he had been living.

It was a tragic loss. He was the first person I knew that I considered a drug casualty.

John Landis: Was he stoned and fell off the cliff?

Was he suicidal and jumped off the cliff?

Or was he in fact murdered in a drug deal, which is what a lot of people think.

They said that there was a sign at the cliff where he died, that said, "Do not go beyond this point."

And as soon as I heard that I just saw Doug read it and say

"You mean here?"

He wrote me a chatty letter from Hawaii, and told me he looked forward to seeing me when he came to L.A.

He wanted to talk about something.

So I don't think he was...

I don't think he killed himself.

He was never a guy to take his life.

And having thought about it all this time over the years, I think that he... he slipped.

Which is stupid.

And, um... uh, it killed him. So... that was that.

I've heard every version of this and I have no idea.

Chris Miller very brilliantly said, "Doug was looking for a better place to jump from when he slipped."


Henry Beard: Had he lived, Doug Kenney would have been kind of force in American movie making, directorial force that John Hughes was, the kind of movies he made.

Dad, whoa!

? Walley World! ?

Matty Simmons: John Hughes wrote the short story Vacation '58.

I called him in, and I said, "John, I'm gonna make a movie of this."

(tires screeching)

I think you're all fucked in the head.

We're ten hours from the fucking fun park and you wanna bail out!

Judd Apatow: Vacation was my family. I went on those trips, and it was that heinous, you know, every single time.

Chevy: We're all gonna have so much fucking fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles.

You'll be whistling Zip-a-Dee- Doo-Dah out of your assholes!


It was rated R!

Dogs are being killed, adultery is being flaunted.

There's elderly abuse, incest, masturbation, kidnapping.

That's a lot of stuff that you wouldn't think of as being present in what has become like a beloved family film.

Good talk, son. Good talk, Dad.

I think Matty said something like, "Well, this is National Lampoon."

Peter Kleinman: If there was a golden age, and a silver age, and a platinum age, this would probably be the moldy rye bread age of the National Lampoon.

We were doing this horror and fantasy issue and we were trying to come up with the most horrible, gruesome, funny ideas.

And I said, "What about a baby in a blender?"

And everybody was like, "Aah, that's so funny, baby in a blender!"

There was supposed to be a satire of a famous old saying that went something like, "It's a worse mess than a baby in a blender."

So, we decided we would do it.

And I took a picture of a baby crying and took a picture of a blender and we actually stripped them together so it looked like the baby was in the blender.

And we put Satan's finger on the puree button.

Matty Simmons: There was a group called the Christian Coalition which hated us because we made fun of groups like the Christian Coalition.

They organized a group of right wing zealots and they sent letters around and we lost almost all our national advertising.

And it went downhill from there, and I'm gonna end it on that note.

?(David Bowie "Changes" plays) ?

The things that happened to us when we are young just seem so much more important than other things because they're happening for the first time.

Anne Beatts: You know, looking backwards is always a dangerous position.

You could really throw your neck out, but when I do look back at all of this, I feel lucky.

Ivan Reitman: The National Lampoon really changed my life.

It introduced me to this extraordinary group of performers that were really the finest comedic actors of their generation.

Tony Hendra: Some people might think this is an egregious comparison, but I would say that my years at the Lampoon, um, were not unlike the Paris of the twenties that Hemingway describes in A Moveable Feast.

Wherever two or more Lampoon people got together in those years, something explosive happened.

Janis Hirsch: I felt like I snuck in some magical clubhouse.

With those people there, you knew you were never going to see people like that again.

Sean Kelly: At the end of the year when I'm talking to students who are about to graduate, I say I wish them, that they get maybe five years in their whole working lives like the five years I got, where you're doing something, frankly, you would pay to do, except you're getting paid to do it.

Henry Beard: It's a time of dial telephone.

There's no Internet, there's no computers.

There wasn't that much that was shared, but what was shared was shared by everybody.

They absolutely had everything in common and in a way that never will happen again.

Michael Gross: I'm just so super proud of that period of our life, not to mention blessed.

I somehow was part of the greatest band of an era.

Really what is important, I think, is just those people.

They became all of modern comedy.

?(music continues) ?

Doug always had a predilection for sticking his dick in girls' ears.

Uh, it was something that he would surprise everybody by doing in the middle of a cocktail party or something.

There would be Doug with his dick in some girl's ear.

And he used to say to me, "Chris, I hope that somehow I'll go to heaven and I'll be able to stick my dick in the ear of Eleanor Roosevelt."

And so when Doug died, I figured he definitely got into heaven and probably, probably even right now, he's sticking his dick in the ear of Eleanor Roosevelt.

?(Lindsay Buckingham "Holiday Road" plays) ?

(dog barking to beat)

(indistinct chatter)


Man: (in Scottish accent) You've been listening to The National Lampoon Radio Hour.