If you love comedy, the odds are good that some of your favorite television shows and movies were written by people who were heavily influenced by, or who actually wrote for, National Lampoon. The magazine, which was published from 1970-1998, made every topic fair game, from sex to politicians to genocide to Leonardo da Vinci. More than anything, it was smart, written by smart men and women who would go on to write hit television shows and movies such as Saturday Night Live and Animal House, among others. National Lampoon was uncompromising, intelligent and completely over-the-top. The magazine once published a 12,000-word story, written in satirical legalese, defining The Law Of The Jungle. Excerpt: “Like all animals, a badger enjoys the right to be tried by a jury of his order, in his own habitat, and according to the laws which govern his species, in this case a combination of the jus terrestris and the Varmint Code.”
A heaping portion of brilliant work, and many of the minds behind that work, are documented in Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made National Lampoon Insanely Great. The book, written by Rick Meyerowitz, is a greatest-hits collection of articles, cartoons, parody ads, recurring features and photographs. In addition to Law Of The Jungle, the book offers a photo essay of Hitler living out his later years in an island paradise, a Japanese version of the poem Casey at the Bat and essays by one of my favorite writers, P.J. O’Rourke.
O’Rourke is one of the many talented people featured. Among those you may have heard of: O’Rourke, SNL writer Anne Beatts, journalist Jeff Greenfield, writer Doug Kenney (Caddyshack, Animal House) and SNL writer Michael O’Donoghue. Many of the writers and artists are people you probably have not heard of, like Henry Beard, Christopher Cerf, Tony Hendra and Bruce McCall, but their biographies and work are no less compelling. I spent a long afternoon with the 320-page book and I was completely engrossed. If you love comedy, in particular the history of comedy, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is a must-have.