Once upon a time in the 1970s, there was this filthy, razor sharp, boundary smashing, laugh out loud satirical magazine called The National Lampoon. No topic was taboo. No cows were sacred. No hypocrisy was left un-skewered. It was glorious and, at its peak, it had a circulation of one million, largely without having ads – because corporate America so reviled it. And there’s absolutely nothing existing today to which to compare it. Three Harvard grads (Doug Kenney, Henry Beard, Robert Hoffman) birthed the magazine and it grew to be so popular among real hipsters, especially lefties, that the franchise extended to records, theater, and the hit movie National Lampoon’s Animal House.
This smart, tight, affectionate new 98-minute documentary, directed by Douglas Tirola, who co-wrote it with Mark Monroe, moves like a bullet as it charts the life and death of the magazine and the huge influence of its counter cultural empire. National Lampoon helped change comedy forever, just through its radio cast alone that included John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, Christopher Guest and pretty much anyone else that got snapped up for the original Saturday Night Live gang.
The jazzy Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is filled with talking heads you actually want to listen to. It’s also the closest most of us will ever get to hearing the funniest voices of the ‘70s shoo the breeze about what a strange, wacky, druggy, wildly creative time they had. It’s a sad, fun, spit in your eye movie.