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

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  72 ratings  ·  13 reviews
The ultimatebiography of National Lampoon and its cofounder Doug Kenney, this book offers the first complete history of the immensely popular magazine and its brilliant and eccentric characters. With wonderful stories of the comedy scene in New York City in the 1970s and National Lampoon’s place at the center of it, this chronicle shares how the magazine spawned a popular...more
Hardcover, 402 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Chicago Review Press
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Michael Martin
After the sad death of Harold Ramis, I watched "Caddyshack" and was motivated to order and read this book on the co-writer of Animal House and Caddyshack, Doug Kenney. The book not only provided me with a lot of biographical information on Doug Kenney, but also was a great chronicling of the subversive humor Kenney established with The National Lampoon magazine, The 1964 Yearbook Parody, Lemmings, The National Lampoon Radio Hour, and Animal House and Caddyshack.

I enjoyed this book a great deal,...more
It was funny and entertaining even though I have like zero interest in Lampoon stuff and I dont just say that because my husband wrote it. Doug Kenney's life is a mysterious puzzle.
Charles Cassady
A unheralded, ill-fated Ohio slacker re-invented America satire and humor in the 1970s. That's they?re story and they?re sticking to it.

Biography of National Lampoon magazine co-founder Doug Kenney, a "hick kid from Ohio" raised primarily in a quaint small town outside Cleveland. Going onto Harvard, Kenney, according to author Karp and a small circle of admirers and survivors (while trying to kick cocaine, Kenney died in a freak fall off a cliff in Hawaii in 1980), became the most quintessential...more
Oct 20, 2009 Alan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who've already read through the annual report and prospectus.
Recommended to Alan by: Its cover and its subject
This is a biography of humorist Doug Kenney, but even more than that it's a biography of the National Lampoon in its heyday.

So... you'd think the book would be a bit funnier, is all I'm saying.

Oh, sure, a serious treatment of NatLamp's history couldn't possibly be entirely composed of Nixon-baiting, Foto Funnies and Bluto's acne impressions, especially since Kenney's mysterious and premature demise in Hawaii reverberates through the entire work, sending premonitory ripples back to the magazine's...more
Bill Gordon
This book contains some horribly-written passages, and the author tends to make cosmic pronouncements about big topics like The 60s, American humor and the like. That said this a good biography of a central figure in American comic writing and editing. The reader learns about the founding of the National Lampoon, details about wild characters like Michael O'Donoghue and Bill Murray and the cocaine-driven Hollywood scene of the late 1970s. I especially enjoyed reading the summaries of pieces from...more
I'm fascinated by comedy and have read several books on the subject. As a Gen-Xer, my cornerstones of comedy include Mad, Saturday Night Live, and the National Lampoon. And like it or not, much of modern humor is directly attributable to writers from that latter magazine. One of the co-creators of the National Lampoon was a brilliant genius named Doug Kenney. This work serves both as biography of Kenney, who died tragically in 1980, and a history of the National Lampoon. While the author would'v...more
No,I don't only read books about National Lampoon and Animal House. I read a review of the Matty Simmons book and this previous book was mentioned so I read it first while waiting for the other book to be published. It's a biography of Doug Kenney, whose name I first heard when I was a teenager listening to the National Lampoon Radio Hour, on WSDM, I think it was, on Sunday evenings. I was interested in the inner workings of National Lampoon and I also discovered that one of the Lampoon writers...more
Peter Smith
Doug Kenney founded the National Lampoon, wrote Animal House and Caddyshack. So that makes him a comedy legend. But for such an influential guy, I hardly knew anything about him. This book gives a nice, but somewhat light, review of his life. It also focuses on the National Lampoon from its beginning, through its early-to-mid '70's heyday, to its eventual decline. The two narratives intertwine at the beginning since Kenney was there from the beginning to when he started having success with movie...more
This along with Going Too Far by Tony Hendra is a must-read for any big fans of National Lampoon. All the stories are there and the bigger than life comedy writers and artists, many of whom went on to write for SNL. It seems everybody knew everybody... people like Gahan Wilson, Michael O'Donoghue, all the Not Ready For Prime Time Players and the cast of SCTV plus people like PJ O'Rourke, Tony Hendra, everyone from Animal House, Lemmings, the world of underground comix and more.

It's a lot of fun...more
Gene Curry
I am one of those people who loved the pointless vulgarity and hilarious character assassination of the National Lampoon in the 70s. If you were too, I suspect you will find this biography of Doug Kenney. A sad story. A former colleague, who is one of the most dignified persons that I know, appears in a photograph in this book. Turns out he was Doug Kenney's roommate in college. As Steven Wright says, "It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it".
Joe Hack
If, like me, you grew up reading National Lampoon, watching Saturday Night Live and obsessing over the Simpsons, this is a must read. While sometimes reading like a textbook, I found the writing to be adequate and focused. Josh Karp injects his two cents of wisdom about the 60's into the book, but hey, it's his book, he's entitled. Reading it caused me to go out and find more back issues of the magazine.
half a turd so far. if i weren't interested in the subject matter, the writing/research/etc would have shunted me away three paragraphs in.
Aug 09, 2011 Marie added it
zero stars. couldn't finish it - soooo boring
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