Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

Movies, Documentary
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Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

With a feel for the outrageous, it celebrates a rudeness that’s in short supply.

Charting a transition from Harvard campus newsletter to a national brand that encompassed movies, albums, tours and books, Douglas Tirola’s upbeat doc on National Lampoon already feels essential for celebrating a hard-fought moment of American comic subversion. The gang, which included John Belushi, Harold Ramis and a brilliant team of writers and artists, lived hard and suffered consequences, but it went as far as it could go.

Generously funded in 1969 by a former credit-card exec (Matty Simmons, the kind of deep-pocketed imp who rarely exists these days), the evolving magazine sharpened its bite. Firing its original hippie art director, Lampoon took on a new stylist, Michael Gross, who brought photorealism to soon-to-be-classic covers like “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.” Wildly inappropriate content earned them a huge fan base, cresting at a million-copy circulation. And as argued by talking heads like Judd Apatow, a new generation was inspired to follow its raunchy nose. 

Tirola’s punchy timeline hits the breaks at the ’80s flameout, wobbling in its handling of self-destructive editor Doug Kenney. But until the defunct Lampoon starts magically reappearing in your mailbox, this excellently titled pic will do nicely.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Rated: N/R
Release date: Friday September 25 2015
Duration: 98 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Douglas Tirola
Screenwriter: Douglas Tirola, Mark Monroe

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After missing it's debut at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, I finally had the opportunity to catch Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, the documentary chronicling the outrageous story of the National Lampoon brand. The story was told by the pioneers that were responsible for getting the magazine off the ground and the comedians and performers that made it what it was. The epic history of the brand was nothing short of outlandish, run like a frat party with abundant, booze, drugs, and parties. For those that are only familiar with National Lampoons as Chevy Chase's family vacations, this documentary is a must!