There was no Internet when I was in my teens—we barely had FM radio and UHF television reception in Central Jersey and cable TV was unheard of—but somehow I managed to find plenty of inappropriate media influences.
I read comic books by the pile, which soon led me to investigate other newsstand publications. I knew about Playboy from my dad’s stash in the attic, and was a very young subscriber. I also discovered an antiestablishment humor magazine called the National Lampoon, which flipped a very different switch in my post-adolescent mind.
RICK MEYEROWITZ podcast excerpt: “Michael O’Donoghue was the guy who said, ‘Making people laugh is the lowest form of humor.’ And that became the credo of the National Lampoon.”
At first, I will admit, I mostly read the comics and the Foto Funnies, astounding by the women with enormous natural breasts and the long haired dudes who ultimately were verbally abused by them. But over time I came to appreciate the short stories, the political satire and the ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30’ attitude. (That’s kind of weird now that I’m 50 and one of them.)
Over time, I learned about the men—there were a few women, including Shary Flenniken and Anne Beatts, but not many—who created and promulgated the Lampoon. To me, Doug Kenney, Michael O’Donoughue, Rick Meyerowitz, Tony Hendra, Sean Kelly, Brian McConnachie, Gerry Sussman, P.J. O’Rourke were amazing talents. I wanted to produce offbeat, irreverent stuff like them.
Instead, I wound up interviewing them instead. I was a huge fan of Chris Miller’s work before he co-wrote Animal House. Interviewing him for the campus radio station at the University of Miami was—and still is—a big thrill. Cartoonists Arnold Roth has been a guest on this show, as was Gahan Wilson. So was writer Larry “Ratso” Sloman. And I was even quoted in a Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies—but in the Village Voice, not the Lampoon.
All of which leads me to this moment, in which one of the guys who was literally present at the birth of the magazine, is about to join me to talk about his wonderful new book, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great.