Monday, February 1, 2016

Read this post or I will kill a dog

You probably noticed, but in addition to David Bowie and Glen Frey, there have been a lot of deaths in the musical world lately. And with it, the attendant gushy obituaries and sappy Facebook tomes.

I have not been a participant in that type of public weeping. Don't get me wrong, I love music as much as the next fellow, I'm listening to Mark Knopfler tear up the frets even as I am writing this piece.

But, because I never aspired to be a guitar player, singer, drummer or piano player, I don't see their passing as a monumental life milestone. I'm pretty sure when John Lennon was shot I was eating a beef burrito at Burrito King on Lincoln Blvd., then again, maybe I wasn't.

That is not to say I did not have childhood heroes. I did.

They all worked at the National Lampoon. In fact, I knew from reading the Adventures of Politeness Man, Pinto's First Lay and the intricate, dark and perverted tales told in National Lampoon's parody Kefauver High School Yearbook, my life course had been set.

I was blessed in a way few 14 year old kids are.

I knew exactly what I was going to be when I grew up -- a writer.

I ended up being a copywriter, but it's close.

Last week, I caught a documentary now playing on Showtime -- Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead, the story of the National Lampoon. It was like being a teenager all over again. And I will admit to pangs of nostalgia.

Maybe you're not the aficionado that I was and continue to be (in my garage you'll find crates of old Natlamp magazines, some from my childhood and some purchased on e-bay.) But in the movie you will see the faces of comedy legends who altered our cultural landscape in a way Jimmy Page or Roger Daltry never could.

There's John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and Chevy Chase, all NL alumni.

Not to mention the killer writers who worked behind the scenes: Doug Kenney, Michael O'donahue, Tony Hendra and PJ O'rourke. These are the genii who took humor to a different level. Who, with their love of language and their razor sharp wit, went beyond the juvenile, broad slapstick and layered in sly satire, shifted social mores and shook up the world of politics.

And unlike brethren publications, they included tits. Lots of tits.

If I may co-opt a sentiment recently expressed by one of my colleagues, these guys "towered over my imagination."

Of course that was then and this is now. Today, I'm a 44 year old copywriter with a mortgage, two pressing college tuitions and a Public Storage locker full of life's crushed dreams, so if one of my National Lampoon idols has a brain aneurysm or overdoses on Oxycontin don't expect any heartfelt paeans from me.

I've got banner ads to write.

1 comment:

Théo said...

I saw this doc at the NuArt with a Q&A with the producers afterwards. I was also warped early on by the Lampoon (and Mad, Stephen Potter, the Firesign Theatre, SNL, and later, the Preppy Handbook, Snooze, Viz and Spy, among others). Musicians seem to die at either 27 or 69 (or at any moment, if they are drummers). Messiahs like Doug Kenney and others I could name seem to die at 33 or 34. Everyone at the Nuart Q&A was hoping for a resurrection, but I think the Lampoon at its best (in the '70s) was an organic reaction to the establishment at the time, by people who were often the children and literal heirs to the old establishment, and who themselves became entrenched in the establishment soon thereafter, assuming they survived. It's not a contradiction to say the best of the Lampoon was both ingeniously perfect for the time and culturally tone-deaf in today's world. Bloviation offered at no charge.