Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is the best book of 2010.
It’s not just the pantheon of writers and artists that created the best American humor magazine ever. It’s not just the special editions they published every year, along with the monthly mag.
It’s not just the writers who acted in or wrote the Lampoon movies.
It’s not just the single best parody of high school yearbooks.
It’s not just the topical humor or skewering covers.
It’s not just Mr. Mike, who went on to SNL during the heyday of Lampoon.
It’s not just the second best Lampoon movie.
Or the best cover.
Or the best Lampoon movie . . . for years the top-grossing comedy ever made.
It’s an aggregate. It’s the whole. It’s everything.
For a brief shining moment — okay, a long, shining moment that lasted just over a decade — Lampoon kicked America’s collective ass. Lampoon lasted longer than that — technically, products are still appearing with the Lampoon name on them — but it was 1970 until about 1983 that Lampoon had a stranglehold on American comedy — and then, suddenly, it was gone, never again to return to its sacrilegious, sophomoric glory.
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is as close to a comprehensive The Best of Lampoon book that we’re ever going to get. It looks at the magazine not as one big collective volume, but as the product of singular individuals — and here the best pieces from Lampoon are presented chronologically — mostly — by author or artist, the true foci of this book. It’s all about the creators and what they did –the subtitle is The Writers and Artists who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great.
And that’s the whole truth. The whole is better than the individual pieces (although there are certain pieces that I’ll never forget, especially Letters from the Editors, the Tales of the Adelphian Lodge, Kit and Kaboodle (the precursors to Itchy and Scratchy), and the original “Vacation” story by John Hughes, which is not about Roy Wally, but about Walt Disney). And this book celebrates the whole through the lens of each individual creator.
If you were a teen in the ’70s, you know exactly what impact this magazine had on our generation, not to mention our culture. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead captures the long gone magic, the forgotten heresies, the rudeness, the nudeness, the 100% absolute funny. The ’80s are not so much highlighted — hell, John Hughes and “Vacation” aren’t really mentioned — because the ’70s is where it all really happened. Doug Kenney, Animal House‘s Stork, who “walked off a mountain” in Hawaii. Michael O’Donoghue, the guy on SNL who did impressions of Sinatra, Presley and Tony Orlando and Dawn . . . with “steel needles, say, um, fifteen, eighteen inches long — with real sharp points,” jabbed into their eyes. Gahan Wilson, legendary Playboy and NL cartoonist of the macabre. Sam Gross. Sean Kelly. Ann Beatts. Tony Hendra. P. J. O’Rourke. There are so many, most of whom you’ve never heard of, but who still write and produce almost anonymously, and wonderfully.
They’re mostly all here in a celebration of satire, the likes of which will never again be seen on a monthly basis. Hell, even Mad has gone quarterly now.
It was the worst of times —
— but Lampoon made it the best.