Monday, July 4, 2011

Harvard Lampoon Life Magazine Parody (book)

Life Magazine Parody Written by
the staff of the Harvard Lampoon, Henry Beard and Doug Kenney, editors.

Doug Kenney may have been the most influential comic mind of the latter half of the 20th century.  He was the mind behind Bored of the Rings, the first editor of the National Lampoon,* and screenwriter of Animal House.  There is also a direct connection between the Lampoon and Saturday Night Life.  And Kenney got his first national exposure as editor of  the Harvard Lampoon Life Magazine Parody.

The Harvard Lampoon had a long history of doing parodies of popular magazines.  It was a regular fundraiser of theirs:  they'd do a parody issue and sell enough copies around Boston and the northeast to make some money.    In this case, they were able to get the issue out to a much wider audience.**

The magazine matched Life accurately, but that was the easy part.  The articles were straight ahead silliness, many based upon the idea that the world is going to end.  There are profiles of intellectuals (philosopher Eric Mouth and poet Harry Umbridge), fashion made out of food (including a "sleeveless bacon blouse" and a salami skirt made out of genoa and bologna***), a recipe for thermonuclear turkey, kids playing war a little too realistically, the adventure and excitement of cows and sheep, and columns paralleling the columnists in the actual magazine.****

The magazine sold decently, making some money for the Harvard Lampoon, and perhaps gave some impetus for the founding of the National Lampoon.  The original is hard to find, probably because it was basically meant to be recycled.  But it's still one of the funniest parodies around, and historically important as a springboard for most of what was successful in American humor.

*A subject for another day.  Henry Beard was no slouch, either.

**I picked it up in my home town on eastern Long Island.  It made me want to apply to Harvard to work on the Lampoon.  Alas, Harvard turned me down.

*** I have no evidence that Lada Gaga has ever seen an issue, but it make you wonder.

****Life Magazine enjoyed the parody enough to take out several full-page ads in it. There were multiple advertisers, and a modern reader might wonder if they were parodies themselves, but all the ads were genuine.


iamagenius said...

Loved the movie "Simple Plan".

You should enjoy "Blood Simple".

Anonymous said...

I actually bought it at a supermarket near Cerritos College in CA. Liked it so much I shared it with one of my profs; never got it back. Still haven't forgotten it.

Anonymous said...

People in my family still routinely use some of Eric Mouth's phrases: "ants at the picnic of civilization" and "chiggers in the thigh of democracy." And never forget the great headline gag (re-used by the Poon itself) "Flying Saucers: Threat or Menace?"

Unknown said...

I loved the recipe section - putting a turkey on a nuclear test site. Photograph included partially melted wine glass. "Turkey Holocaust," I think...and "UFO'S, Myth or Fantasy?"

Unknown said...

Oh, oh, oh - Anonymous got the UFO headline right! (Well, it was 40+ years ago...)