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Now a Netflix original film starring Will Forte Domhnall Gleeson and Emmy Rossum Comic genius Doug Kenney cofounded National Lampoon cowrote Animal House and Caddyshack and changed the face of American comedy before mysteriously falling to his death at the age of 33 This is the first ever biography of Kenney the heart and soul of National Lampoon—reconstructing the history of that magazine as it redefined American humor complete with all its brilliant and eccentric characters Filled with vivid stories from New York Harvard Yard Hollywood and Middle America this chronicle shares how the magazine spawned a comedy revolution with the radio shows stage productions and film projects that launched the careers of John Belushi Bill Murray Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner while inspiring Saturday Night Live and everything else funny that’s happened since 1970 Based on than 130 interviews conducted with key players including Chevy Chase Harold Ramis P J O’Rourke John Landis and others and boasting behind the scenes stories of how Animal House and Caddyshack were made this book helps capture the nostalgia humor and enduring legacy that Doug Kenney instilled in National Lampoon America’s greatest humor magazine


10 thoughts on “A Futile and Stupid Gesture How Doug Kenney and INational LampoonI Changed Comedy Forever

  1. says:

    I didn't expect this to be a detailed biography of one of the founders of National Lampoon I now l know way about Doug Kenney than I ever wanted to know I grew up with National Lampoon I was the perfect age when the magazine was in its prime I had recently graduated from Mad Magazine which was an excellent humor publication for young wise asses when National Lampoon broke on the sceneInstead of this biography which is too too long I recommend watching the documentary film based on the story of National Lampoon The best line was provided by Chris Miller When he learned of Doug Kenney's suicidefall he felljumped off a cliff in Hawaii Miller He was looking for a better place to jump when he slipped


  2. says:

    At the root of modern American comedy lies the corpse of Doug Kenney Without him there would have been no National Lampoon no Animal House and no Caddyshack NL alumni went on to populate Saturday Night Live The Simpsons Spinal Tap SCTV all of the John Hughes films and many many other pillars that hold up our comedy world for better or worse This book captures Kenney's unusual genius and influence A lifelong NL fan I was shamefully unaware of Kenney's impact on my own sensibilities I knew he'd written some funny things and was there at the genesis but I was always drawn to the colorful writers editors and performers that flowed out of NL including Hughes Michael O'Donoghue Anne Beatts PJ O'Rourke Mike Reiss Al Jean and the army of SNL cast members and movie stars Kenney was the glue that held them all briefly togetherThe book is unflinching about Kenney's flaws and those of my comedy heroes It doesn't shy away from criticizing NL's fairly narrow worldview either Aside from Beatts and Shary Flenniken and some cartoonists female influences were few and far between at NL which often objectified women to sell magazines POC were non existent meanwhile except as fodder for some of the reactionary comedy it ran circa 1979 80The book is exhaustively researched and sometimes names uotes and facts are awkwardly shoved into the narrative in a seeming effort to clean out Karp's notebook Still if you love comedy and the history of comedy it's worth a read and certainly better than the not great Netflix movie they made of this


  3. says:

    After the sad death of Harold Ramis I watched Caddyshack and was motivated to order and read this book on the co writer of Animal House and Caddyshack Doug Kenney The book not only provided me with a lot of biographical information on Doug Kenney but also was a great chronicling of the subversive humor Kenney established with The National Lampoon magazine The 1964 Yearbook Parody Lemmings The National Lampoon Radio Hour and Animal House and CaddyshackI enjoyed this book a great deal and it's motivated me to haul out my collection of early 70's Lampoons in particular that phenomenal 1964 Dacron High School yearbook parody It was geniusRest in peace Doug Kenney


  4. says:

    It was funny and entertaining even though I have like zero interest in Lampoon stuff and I dont just say that because my husband wrote it Doug Kenney's life is a mysterious puzzle


  5. says:

    I wanted to read a bio of Doug Kenny This is a history of National Lampoon than it is a bio of Doug Kenney Granted the book starts and ends with Doug Kenney but most of what's in between is mostly about Nat'l Lampoon Of course you can't write about one without writing about the other but there are parts where Kenney has virtually nothing to do with the magazine he's moved on to other projects or he's taking giving himself a 'sabbatical' as it were What's he doing then? Sometimes Mr Karp tells us and sometimes not but he makes sure to tell us all about what's going on at the humor magazine Sorry but I really don't care to read a 2 or 3 page bio of each and every editor at the magazine especially if they had little than a passing connection to KenneyIn its own right it's a good book However I wanted a bio of Doug Kenney and on that note I thought it came up a little short Hence 3 stars


  6. says:

    When I was a junior and senior in high school there was nothing I loved then National Lampoon magazine I remember reading it by the exit doors of the Totowa Cinema while ushering for the Godfather The Lampoon was crucial to the developement of my sense of humor dark and twisted and I can remember going to see Lemmings the National Lampoon review at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic the summer of 1973 and watching John Belushi contort himself in an impewrsonation of Joe Cocker The highpoint of my colege life was interviewing and writing about the primary creator of the magazine Doug Kenney for the Villanovan Kenny's later monologue before a small group of students which he delivered standing in front of a giant Crucifix which he acknowledged by saying Hey he's got a sense of humor before falling to the ground flailing and saying I'm Blind remains etched in my memory Given all that I loved this book for bringing back my memories of the wild sick humor that National Lampoon gave me in my tortured awkward teen years Kenney and his fellow writers and they are all refernced in the book created most of what modern comedy is all about Karp isnot a terribly good writer but you can tell he loves the magazine and writes effectively about some of the greatest articles that were in the magazine To this day I remember reading Kenney's story First Blow Jobin my topbunk in Villanova's Corr Hall This funny dark parody is a masterpiece There are plenty of others described in the book Karp's book goes on to describe the creation of Animal House Written by Kenney and Chris Miller another stalwart of the Lampoon Miller and Kenney were both in the movie with Kenney truly memorable as Stork What are you a moron leading the marching band into the alley Kenney was one of the first famous cocaine casualties of the 80's falling or leaping I hope the former off a cliff in Kauai This was shortly after the release Caddy Shack a lesser film that Kenney wrote but hated after the movie's producer Jon Petershairdresser and Barbara Striesands lover imposed the mechanical gopher on the movie Caddyshack made Bill Murray a real star and needs me to mention another life highlight That being the time I flew back from the Democratic Convention and found myself seated next to Bill Murray Paralyzed with awe I was grateful that he fell asleep for awhile Later in the flight we had a great conversation spearked in part by my obseuious praise of his portrayal of Polonius in a modern filming of Hamletyou should check it out No overly obvious Bark like a dog Mrs Rabinowitz i'll show you the meaning of respect references to the star Murray was travelling with his family that day which thwarted my opportunity to offer to drive him home and insert myself in the role of Jilly Rizzo to his Frank Sinatra This is autobiography then book review but I will close it by referencing my opportunity to sit with and talk to PJ O'Rourke The last great editor of the Lampoon O'Rourke wrote the most blistering politically incorrect satire imaginable Nearly 30 years after collapsing in hysterics over O'Rourkes's savaging every ethnic group imaginable I had the opportuinty to introduce PJ as the after dinner commentatorspeaker to a group of pharmaceutical lobbyists I like to think we both got the joke Sorry for the lengthy digressions but Doug Kenney and his cohorts were and are my heroes


  7. says:

    In my younger days I would go grocery shopping with my Mom spending my time reading magazines I usually would be able to talk her into getting me a copy of Cracked magazine It was my kind of humor at the time perhaps a bit less topical than Mad I recall going with my cousin one time and finding a new magazine on the shelf – National Lampoon And somehow we convinced my Mom to buy a copy for us I remember getting this issue home and reading it and finding out it was a league apart from Cracked magazine In our family’s parlance it was a dirty magazine Mom figured it out too and this was the first thing that I ever had taken away from me This was the “travel issue” of Lampoon and I was a precocious 11 Years later I liberated this issue from Mom’s hiding place and I can recall a number of the articles many decades later as well as other issues and compilations I acuired over the years I also recall around the same age I was staying up late listening to the National Lampoon Radio Hour by hiding my radio earphone under my pillow so I could fake being asleep if I was checked on KIIK 104 in Davenport if I recall correctly This was where I got my first taste of many of the Saturday Night Live cast before that show premiered National Lampoon had a humor that stuck with me – it illustrated what being smart and funny was “A Futile and Stupid Gesture” was a joy to read The author mostly told the story of the Lampoon and Doug Kenney in chronological order bumping the changing years with news highlights of the year as well as bits from the magazine Kenney’s story as a creative comic genius turned Hollywood drug fiend was uite interesting The business history was also interesting but was somewhat convoluted and involved a lot of numbers that weren’t necessary for the story As the story moved beyond the magazine and to the broadway shows the radio show and the movies and pitiful TV show I found the book was adding a lot of interesting background to my memories of those shows especially the radio show Animal House and Caddyshack Overall I found this a great combination including personal nostalgia a business story and the story of a true character writer of many articles I’ve appreciated who lived a truly interesting life


  8. says:

    This is a biography of humorist Doug Kenney but even than that it's a biography of the National Lampoon in its heydaySo you'd think the book would be a bit funnier is all I'm sayingOh sure a serious treatment of NatLamp's history couldn't possibly be entirely composed of Nixon baiting Foto Funnies and Bluto's acne impressions especially since Kenney's mysterious and premature demise in Hawaii reverberates through the entire work sending premonitory ripples back to the magazine's very inception But this remarkably dry compendium of dates print runs and circulation figures revenue projections and other statistics of the publishing business is only occasionally leavened by reference to the biting humor that made NatLamp such an iconic part of the 1970sDoug Kenney himself could probably have made a funny routine out of that The Accountant's First Date perhaps in which the cost of dinner is divided to the penny based on the relative weights of food consumed and the tip calculated with a slide rule but not many real life dates would sit through such treatmentWriter Josh Karp has hold of a fascinating story here and his research was patently deep and meticulous—he managed to interview an astonishing array of participants in and devotees of the magazine and of Kenney himself It's by no means a bad job the book was just a little too much work to read for me to be really enthusiastic about it


  9. says:

    This book contains some horribly written passages and the author tends to make cosmic pronouncements about big topics like The 60s American humor and the like That said this a good biography of a central figure in American comic writing and editing The reader learns about the founding of the National Lampoon details about wild characters like Michael O'Donoghue and Bill Murray and the cocaine driven Hollywood scene of the late 1970s I especially enjoyed reading the summaries of pieces from the magazine which I recall reading in the original issues This was a very enjoyable read and I'm sorry it's over I'll always remember this as the first ebook I ever read on my iPad The future is now


  10. says:

    I am one of those people who loved the pointless vulgarity and hilarious character assassination of the National Lampoon in the 70s If you were too I suspect you will find this biography of Doug Kenney A sad story A former colleague who is one of the most dignified persons that I know appears in a photograph in this book Turns out he was Doug Kenney's roommate in college As Steven Wright says It's a small world but I wouldn't want to paint it