2015 AFI DOCS FILM FESTIVAL: Drunk, Stoned Brillant Dead: The Story of The National Lampoon

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When I was a kid, I associated the National Lampoon with the magazine cover of the redhead kid with freckles and the gap between his teeth and the movie Animal House.

Did you know that Saturday Night Live would not be celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year or that Animal House may have never happened without The National Lampoon?  I know…right?  Neither did I!   Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead takes us into the history of The National Lampoon, which reigned in comedy from the 70’s through 2010.

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The National Lampoon started as the Harvard Lampoon at Harvard University and ultimately became a radio show, Broadway show a publication run by Matty Simmons and Doug McHenry.  The National Lampoon radio show –  The Lemmings show (whose announcer was John Belushi) included many of the original Saturday Night Live cast members, Belushi, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akroyd just to name a few.

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When the Lemmings show moved to Broadway, comedic geniuses Christopher Guest and John Belushi became known for their impersonations of James Taylor and Joe Cocker. When Lorne Michaels saw The Lemmings Show, he took most of their performers and built Saturday Night Live for NBC.

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The National Lampoon College movie, ultimately became the classic college film Animal House and created a whole new genre of film like American Pie, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and so many more.

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If all that weren’t enough, many of today’s comedy writers came from the National Lampoon like Judd Apatow, Mike Weiss (The Simpsons) and creator of The Family Guy and writers for The Tonight Show.

Ironically enough, a documentary on Saturday Night Live – LIVE FROM NEW YORK was also introduced this year at the Tribeca Film Festival proving that these two just can’t get away from each other!

Unfortunately, the demise of The National Lampoon came when Doug McHenry walked into the office one day, said he was done, left and never returned.  Lampoon staffers believed McHenry had a nervous breakdown/mid-life crisis at 24 years old and moved to Martha’s Vineyeard.  On 8/29/80 he was found dead at the bottom of a canyon in Hawaii.

All of the Lampoon employees said the magazine and Lampoon organization thrived mostly because what they created was done while these brilliant men were drunk and stoned and unfortunately at least one of them is now dead.

The 2015 AFI DOCS Film Festival featured Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead this weekend and it was one of the highlights at the Tribeca Film Festival this Spring.  There is no trailer available, but you can watch the full film on YouTube.com

 

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