The strange, sad tale of Doug Kenney begins with his birth in 1946, but really picks up around 1970, when Kenney and his pals Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman founded a humor magazine. Titling it after the Harvard mag they had all worked on, The Harvard Lampoon, they dubbed it National Lampoon and set a wicked, satirical eye on every more of good taste within their ken. Indulging in the graphically sexual, sophomorically scatological, and blithely incendiary, the Lampoon team set the course of comedy for decades to come.
But Kenney’s journey came to a tragic and premature end at age 33. Messed up on Dionysian quantities of liquor and coke, in a brutal depressive spiral following negative reviews for his Caddyshack script, he sought refuge in Hawaii with a rotation of friends and loved ones to keep him company. But with his girlfriend Kathryn Walker and best pal Chevy Chase only able to stay so long before returning to work, Kenney was eventually left alone, and fell from a cliff. The local authorities ruled his death accidental, though Kenney’s close friend Harold Ramis joked with typically macabre good humor that he “probably fell while he was looking for a good place to jump.”
A new item from The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Kenney will be immortalized by Will Forte in a new feature-length biopic to be developed for Netflix. As if the pedigree wasn’t strong enough already, the film will be helmed by David Wain, one of the finest working comedic directors and a clear student of the National Lampoon school of humor writing. The film, titled A Futile and Stupid Gesture after the 2006 biography on which it is based, will track Kenney’s meteoric rise and literal fall with a budget in the $15-20 million range, gunning for a start in April. Without Kenney, there would be no Animal House, no Saturday Night Live, no National Lampoon at all. He left a huge absence in the world of comedy, and if anyone can give him a fitting tribute, Forte and Wain are up to the task.