Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

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 Jason the Feature Creature on Letterboxd

    Doug Kenney was a genius and it’s a shame he left the earth so soon. National Lampoon was the breeding ground for all of the 70’s greatest comedians and comedy directors. Their influence is insurmountable. It makes you wonder what would have been if Lorne Michaels hadn’t ransacked their line-up. Maybe some of these comedy titans would have created more projects as a whole.

    Who doesn’t want more John Hughes and Harold Ramis collaborations, or John Belushi and Christopher Guest? Oh and not to mention, John Landis, Bill Murray, Ivan Reitman, John Candy, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase and all the other criminally underrated contributors to the multimedia platform.

    This documentary is educational, heartwarming and funny. If you haven’t watched the biopic, ‘A Futile and Stupid Gesture,’ you are truly missing out. It is an expertly crafted homage directed by none other than ‘King of Silly’, David Wain. Wain and his troupe would have fit right in with Kenney if he continued with the Lampoon through the 90’s.

  • ★★★★½ review by dantesring on Letterboxd

    What is shocking in this day and age is that there was a time in America where popular humor could be outrageous, gross and offensive. There are moments in this really good documentary that made me sit up up straight at the brazenness of it all. Sadly, I feel that time has past as we are so caught up in righteous political correctness that the advantage of the absurd has been lost completely.

    The film documents the rise and fall of the National Lampoon empire from its humble beginnings as a Harvard based quarterly to the comic juggernaut it became in the mid to late 70's. It focuses on the true characters that made up the team with primary focus on Doug Kinney, the spiritual father of the brand. It is told with a ton of archival footage from the magazine and the various projects that sprung out of it, the radio show and Lemmings, the stage musical.

    It is very apparent that there is a lot of love for the material and for the insane people that drove it from the filmmakers. It is breathtaking the amount of archival footage, featuring Belushi and other comedic luminaries. The colors of the magazine pages pop off the screen and the score is strong, filled with classics and deep cuts from the time.

    The breath of interviewees that they were able to get also speaks to how powerful an influence this had on peoples lives. There is no shying away from the drug use or the craziness that ran rampant behind the scenes, but the film does paint a scenario where the lunatics were the smartest in the building. What is even more telling is how many of them were casulties to their vices.

    It is a heartbreaking story as well, especially as it relates to Kinney. A genius and the creative leader, he was a man that never truly seemed comfortable in any situation. His arc mirrors that of the Lampoon himself which folded shortly after his death.

    The one thing that Lampoon was bale to do was to use humor as a truth telling device. Often the more offensive it was, the more the underlying reality would be made clear. Humor, to my mind, should be sacrosanct, able to poke fun to reveal hidden truths. There are many who feel opposed to this, but sometimes the truth hurts. We are in real danger of losing our ability to have a varied cultural discussion and this film shows we need the Lampoon more now than ever.

  • ★★★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.

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