A Futile and Stupid Gesture (Paperback)

How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever

By Josh Karp

Chicago Review Press, 9781556527623, 416pp.

Publication Date: April 1, 2008

Other Editions of This Title:
MP3 CD (10/3/2017)
Hardcover (9/1/2006)

List Price: 19.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Now a Netflix original film starring Will Forte, Domhnall Gleeson, and Emmy Rossum.

Comic genius Doug Kenney cofounded National Lampoon, cowrote Animal House and Caddyshack, and changed the face of American comedy before mysteriously falling to his death at the age of 33. This is the first-ever biography of Kenney--the heart and soul of National Lampoon—reconstructing the history of that magazine as it redefined American humor, complete with all its brilliant and eccentric characters. Filled with vivid stories from New York, Harvard Yard, Hollywood, and Middle America, this chronicle shares how the magazine spawned a comedy revolution with the radio shows, stage productions, and film projects that launched the careers of John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Gilda Radner, while inspiring Saturday Night Live and everything else funny that’s happened since 1970. Based on more than 130 interviews conducted with key players including Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, P. J. O’Rourke, John Landis, and others and boasting behind-the-scenes stories of how Animal House and Caddyshack were made, this book helps capture the nostalgia, humor, and enduring legacy that Doug Kenney instilled in National Lampoon--America’s greatest humor magazine.

About the Author

Josh Karp is a freelance journalist who writes for a variety of publications, including The Atlantic Monthly Online, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Playboy, Premiere, and Salon.com. 

Praise For A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever

"Fun, fast, and furious."  —Library Journal

"Jammed with personalities and capsule histories."  —The New York Times

"Josh Karp has informed us well about one of the funniest and innovative humorists of the last century. Doug Kenny was a great friend of mine and it is a good read."  Chevy Chase, actor, Caddyshack

"Josh Karp achieves the unthinkable—he's written an essential American excavation of comedy that is, of itself, very, very, very, very, very, very funny. Doug Kenney would be extremely proud and humbled, if he weren't dead."  Bill Zehme, author, Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman

"The definitive profile of Kenney's brilliant comic mind and his too-short life."  —Richard Roeper, film critic, Chicago Sun-Times

"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

"A must-read for the curious, comedy aficionados, and subversively shy teenagers everywhere."  —Mark McKinney, actor, Kids in the Hall

"[This] is 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