A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever by Josh Karp
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was drawn to this by the Netflix movie, which is a much more entertaining rundown of the rise and fall of Doug Kenney and the National Lampoon empire. Karp's book has much more detail and nuance, but gets bogged down in the effort to complete a well-rounded portrait rather than focus on Kenney's foibles and the wackiness that went on off the clock.
Reading like a textbook, albeit an often fascinating textbook stuffed with all sorts of inappropriate, cocaine-fueled 1970s mayhem, the book chronicles the origins of biting political satire that reshaped the whole of the entertainment medium, spawning the likes of "Animal House," "Caddyshack," the "Vacation" series, "Saturday Night Live" and the indomitable John Hughes.
Kenney emerges as a lost soul; a genius incapable of handling the success or especially the perceived failure that the highs and lows of life thrust upon him as he ran roughshod through the print world and Hollywood. The finest moments are those that get intimate with Kenney and his most meaningful relationships, particularly with Chevy Chase.
This is an instance in which you can get all the good stuff by watching the Netflix movie and save the book only to sate the need of fully nerding out.
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