A Futile and Stupid Gesture
How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever
By Josh Karp
(Chicago Review Press, Hardcover, 9781556526022, 416pp.)
Publication Date: September 2006
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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The ultimate biography of National Lampoon and its cofounder Doug Kenney, this book offers the first complete history of the immensely popular magazine and its brilliant and eccentric characters. With wonderful stories of the comedy scene in New York City in the 1970s and National Lampoon’s place at the center of it, this chronicle shares how the magazine spawned a popular radio show and two long-running theatrical productions that helped launch the careers of John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Gilda Radner and went on to inspire Saturday Night Live. More than 130 interviews were conducted with people connected to Kenney and the magazine, including Chevy Chase, John Hughes, P. J. O’Rourke, Tony Hendra, Sean Kelly, Chris Miller, and Bruce McCall. These interviews and behind-the-scenes stories about the making of both Animal House and Caddyshack help to capture the nostalgia, humor, and popular culture that National Lampoon inspires.
Josh Karp is a freelance journalist who writes for a variety of national publications, including The Atlantic Monthly Online, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Playboy, Premiere, and Salon.com.
"[Karp has] written an essential American excavation of comedy that is, of itself, very, very, very, very, very, very funny." Bill Zehme, author, Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman
"A must-read for the curious, comedy aficionados, and subversively shy teenagers everywhere." Mark McKinney, actor, Kids in the Hall
"The definitive behind-the-scenes account of the man and publication that all but defined the comedy zeitgeist of the last 35 years." Rob Siegel, former editor, The Onion
"This book is as close as I'll come to meeting Doug Kenney. It's close enough." Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller
"The definitive profile of Kenney's brilliant comic mind and his too-short life." Richard Roeper, film critic, Chicago Sun-Times
"Jammed with personalities and capsule histories." The New York Times
"Karp makes a persuasive case for Kenney to be considered among the key architects of post-World War II humor." American Way
"The sharpest analysis yet of how success, self-doubt and drugs led one of his generation’s wittiest minds down a blind path." Philadelphia Citypaper