Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adam Meyerowitz Fondly Recalls Early National Lampoon

National Public Radio has a story about Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, a new book by Adam Meyerowitz about the first decade of National Lampoon magazine.

That decade would be the 1970s, which was all around a very innovative decade for American magazines. All-time circulation highs were hit by National Lampoon, Playboy, TV Guide. Politics, culture, and more were played out in the pages of popular and niche magazines. National Lampoon grew out of counter-culture Ivy League geniuses (and all-around pains), and at its height, millions of readers were loving its take-downs of everyone from the much-hated Richard Nixon to the left-wing icon Che Guevara. It inspired Saturday Night Live, hit the big-time with Animal House (and later Vacation), spawned books, produced a popular national comedy radio program, and launched the careers of Henry Beard, P.J. O'Rourke, Jeff Greenfield, Doug Kenney, Chevy Chase, John Hughes, and many others.

NPR's story concerns itself with Meyerowitz's comments about the writing and artistic talents behind the magazine. The magazine was loaded with an unprecedented number of strong talents. It didn't manage to hold on to them too long, and by the early 1980s, a once-gradual decline in circulation escalated until, within the decade, the magazine first reduced circulation from monthly to bimonthly, and then was ignominiously sold.

Meyerowitz was there in the early years, when, to be honest, I was too young to read it. But I belatedly came to appreciate the madcap genius of the magazine. And to mourn its descent in the 1980s into repetitive, over-sexed humorlessness.

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