Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
Directed by Douglas Tirola
A look at the history of the American comedy publication and production company, National Lampoon, from its beginning in the 1970s to 2010, featuring rare and never before seen footage, this is the mind boggling story of The National Lampoon from its subversive and electrifying beginnings, to rebirth as an unlikely Hollywood heavyweight, and beyond. A humour empire like no other, the impact of the magazines irreverent, often shocking, sensibility was nothing short of seismic: this is an institution whose (drunk stoned brilliant) alumni left their fingerprints all over popular culture. Both insanely great and breathtakingly innovative, The National Lampoon created the foundation of modern comic sensibility by setting the bar in comedy impossibly high.
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★★★½ review by Matt Singer on Letterboxd
Solid doc with solid interviews and solid animation paying homage to the great artwork featured in National Lampoon. I am legally disallowed from indicating my pleasure with thumbs so I give this movie two big toes up.
★★★½ review by MichaelEternity on Letterboxd
Fun Informative Cursory Incomplete: a cohesively assembled, often laugh-out-loud funny, equally cheerful and poignant oral history of the naughty humorist group, the R-rated Mad Magazine, that begat "Saturday Night Live" and a string of famous film comedies. Eye opening to me, as I never knew the extent of their influence nor all the familiar faces who were involved in its production even before "SNL" snatched them away (specifically John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill and Brian-Doyle Murray, Harold Ramis, John Hughes, Christopher Guest, Gilda Radner). This makes me retroactively lament that I wasn't around in the '70s to read this thing every month. I grew up on a diet of Mad and Cracked Magazines, but National Lampoon looks way funnier (and needless to say, more subversive and taboo) than either of those were.
Despite the generous displays of NL content thrown on screen and the playful imitation ones that are mixed in to give the talking head format some variety, this movie ends up feeling a little like one of the countless drive-by documentaries we've seen about various pop culture corners in recent years. They probably covered the main points and streamlined it in the viewer's best interests, but there were many references to parts of this story that I wanted to know more about, but which the movie didn't care to expand on. Hey, that's what books are for, and this documentary is based on one! Get thee to a library, I know, I know. But there is a certain superficiality to the layout of this that limits its potential. Regardless, it's a thoroughly entertaining tale, and unlike a lot of docs I've seen, I look forward to re-watching this one sometime down the road. Now I'm off to Amazon to see if there are any National Lampoon collected volumes for sale...
★★★★ review by Micko on Letterboxd
An interesting documentary charting the rise and fall of National Lampoon, starting off as a magazine that gradually became something of a cultural touchstone as it branched out into radio and film.
I've seen documentaries on Saturday Night Live and always heard the stories about how the "Not Ready For Primetime Players", like John Belushi and Chevy Chase, were snagged from sources such as National Lampoon. This one really puts into context the impact of that loss, clearly showing how the magazine and brand struggled to regain its former greatness after losing so much key talent.
I remember seeing copies of the mag around comic shops during the 90s but after watching this doco, I realise it was in its death spiral at that time. I don't remember actually ever buying a copy. I always assumed it was kind of like Mad magazine but more adult and racy.
It was much more than that though in the beginning. There's a lot of good material presented here that made me laugh out loud. It's a worthwhile look at a former icon of American humour.
★★★½ review by Savannah Oakes on Letterboxd
Not very high production value even for a documentary but an interesting story of which I knew almost nothing about. If you're even a little interested I suggest you check it out. The interview subjects are hilarious and open and the archival photos and videos are exciting.
★★★½ review by Marty McKee on Letterboxd
Literally every film comedy made today by Hollywood is influenced by NATIONAL LAMPOON, whether it knows it or not. It's impossible to even discuss comedy today without acknowledging LAMPOON, whether it's the way its acerbic, ironic style has infected the humor industry or the reach of television and films produced, written, and starring LAMPOON talent. Not to say that the comedy that followed echoes the sophistication, wit, and intelligence of the magazine, which it certainly does not, but there would be no SUPERBAD or THE HANGOVER or HORRIBLE BOSSES if NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE had never been made.
Which is my longwinded way of saying if you're interested in the progression of American comedy, you should probably see this documentary, which reaches out to so many of its brilliant creators for context. Everyone from Henry Beard, the magazine's co-creator, to actor Tim Matheson ("Otter") is here to discuss LAMPOON and its legacy. And for a dyed-in-the-wool NATIONAL LAMPOON RADIO HOUR fan like myself, footage of actors Bill Murray, Joe Flaherty, Harold Ramis, Gilda Radner, and Brian Doyle-Murray in the studio performing the football sketch is heaven.
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