In 1973, National Lampoon created one of the most iconic magazine covers of all time and, in doing so, pretty much predicted the internet “clickbait” culture that we see today. As we see in this exclusive clip from Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, even then, this is the kind of cover every magazine publisher wished they could have printed. (Today, this is pretty much every headline… Well, minus the subtleties of simply threatening a dog.)
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Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is a new documentary about the famed humor magazine that went on to produce a stage show, radio show, many famous movies (Animal House, Vacation) and provide three members (Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner) of Saturday Night Live’s original cast. (A fourth Lampoon alumnus, Bill Murray, would join in SNL’s second season).
In select theaters today and available on VOD, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is a wonderful look at not just the infamous National Lampoon, but, also what was going on culturally in comedy before everything exploded with Saturday Night Live. (The doc features many scenes of future SNL players, along with legends like Harold Ramis, working on Lampoon radio and stage sketches.) In fact, a case could be made that SNL brought on the downfall of National Lampoon by a) poaching some of their best talent and b) making it so all of a sudden, the National Lampoon weren’t the coolest group on the block anymore — a case backed up by some of the Lampoon writers’ attitude toward SNL.
If you enjoy the history of SNL (which, let’s face it, has been told maybe too many times), here’s a look at a related element of ’70s comedy that doesn’t get enough attention: the influence of the most important humor publication of all time and what that meant in an era before SNL — when it wasn’t so easy and so mainstream to skew and parody the establishment.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.