Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead

A few cartoons from the book...

Cartoon by Charles Rodrigues

Cartoon by Sam Gross

...and excerpts of an interview with Rick Meyerowitz from Mark's Very Large National Lampoon Site:

For fans of the National Lampoon, Rick Meyerowitz's new book, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great, is easily the biggest thing to happen in the last 30 years.

It's a large-format book with over 300 pages of lavishly reproduced material, mainly from the first decade of the magazine, and dozens of essays and stories written by former
Lampoon writers and artists. This is the book I've long wished someone would write, and who better to do it than the artist who created the Mona Gorilla.

Rick Meyerowitz: You look at The New Yorker and see when they run the occasional Sam Gross cartoon how funny it is, but it's not a Lampoon idea. His real home was at the National Lampoon.

Mark: He's not doing tampon cartoons in The New Yorker?

Rick: (laughs) I spoke at the Sun Valley writers' festival a couple of weeks ago, in Idaho. I gave a talk about the book and I discovered that they're not going to laugh a whole lot over Chris Cerf's rather intellectual script of the "Constitutional Comics". But when I showed that tampon cartoon by Sam Gross, people screamed their heads off. They fell out of their chairs. I loved that. And I thought, put more Sam Gross and Charlie Rodrigues cartoons in my talk.


Even though it made fun of many things, there was real literacy behind the Lampoon. To paraphrase P.J. O'Rourke, who wrote about Doug Kenney, he said, Doug was primarily smart, not primarily funny. You can say that about everybody at the Lampoon. These were primarily smart guys. This was a literary enterprise. This was not just a, you know, tits and ass magazine that it became later on.


This is a book about what I really know, the writers and artists. As soon as that thought came to me, I understood how I could make a book. I have unique access. I could go to Charlie Rodrigues's widow, and I could go to Gahan Wilson, and Sam Gross, and Randy Enos, and Stan Mack, and Wayne McGloughlin, and I could say, give me your original art. Let me have it in my house for a while. And, we're going to make incredible photographs or scans and reproduce this stuff digitally in a way it never was before, and have it look smashing on the page.


I went to Montreal and visited Michel Choquette, and I got the Hitler article ["Stranger in Paradise"]. Not only did I get the Hitler article, I got the outtakes, which was amazing, and I used several of them. If you compare the Hitler article as it's reproduced in the book with the one that was reproduced in the magazine, you'll see there's an extraordinary difference.

I told Michel from the very beginning, that I want to repurpose this article. I want to take the article and make it look like a modern travel magazine article, and make it glow with digital reproduction in a way that it never did in the Lampoon. But the text would be the same, though we added a few lines of text because for the new photos in there, like Hitler getting a haircut.


I wrote this book for the 35 people I profiled in the book, including the dead ones. I wrote this book for Doug Kenney. I wrote this book for Gerry Sussman. I wrote this book for Sean Kelly. And I wrote it for Charlie Rodrigues. I wrote this book for me. This is a book about us, that small group. But I also wrote it for you. I wanted this book not to be an exercise in nostalgia or to be sentimental. I wanted this book to be modern. I wanted it to look sharp in the book store.

I wanted a cover that was not that fucking dog with the gun to its head.

"Rick its a masterpiece, and in no small part because of your writing (as well as editing). You did a beautiful job of putting everything in historical context. I like the consistently friendly tone of your writing that makes one feel like they were there, and I love the personal connection to all involved. It's oh, so well told. I can't imagine anyone doing a better job than you have done."Michael Gross

The talents that worked on this magazine were not primarily funny, they were primarily smart. The only fight I had about something in this book was about Henry Beard's monumental, gigantic "Law of the Jungle", which no one will ever read. I read that thing and I thought, this is a work of genius. This has to go in the book. How am I going to include the twelve pages of this work without killing the book. I managed to do it. I decided that would be the only thing of Henry's in his chapter. 

The reason I included it in full is to make a point. That this was a place where a man could do twelve pages of a law brief, that looks like it was written as a Supreme Court brief, and that it was okay. Somebody could do it. And not only could do it, but could do it brilliantly, and knew how to do it. Louise Gikow—she was the copy editor on that—says, he wrote it in three languages, English, Latin, and Legalese. It takes your breath away. 

John Weidman, who would write a parody of the New York Bar Exam, and who used to sit in class at Yale Law School between Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas, wrote the article [Law of the Jungle], but Henry rewrote it, and rewrote it much better than John could ever have done. Henry didn't go to law school. Henry was just brilliant. So, I wanted to say, here's this piece. Look what they were capable of. Look how smart they were. Look how literate they were. Look how contemporary this stuff is. That's what I'm trying to say in this book. 

That's why that fucking dog is not on the cover.

No comments:

Post a Comment