A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Playboy, and Premiere, and to online sites Salon.com and Atlantic Monthly Online.
Journalist and screenwriter Josh Karp traces the rise and longtime prominence of the satirical National Lampoon style of sly, intellectual comedy in his historical overview A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever. Karp centers his account on the career of one man: Doug Kenney, a Harvard-educated screenwriter who worked on such comedy classics as Animal House and Caddyshack and who, in 1970, helped create the irreverent humor magazine National Lampoon. Kenney's mystique is heightened even more by his mysterious death in 1980 in which he either fell or jumped from a cliffside in Hawaii. Karp "delivers an iridescent, polychromatic portrait of the humorist, framed within an amusing anecdotal history of National Lampoon," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. During the decade prior to his death, Karp states, Kenney and other veterans of the Harvard Lampoon launched a magazine and a revolution in American comedy. It became a favorite of mainstream audiences and the counterculture alike. Karp follows the magazine's rise to prominence among hippies, college students, and others interested in alternatives. He also tracks it through its waning years, when its humor became less biting, its counterculture stand less relevant, and its position as an antiestablishment icon less assured. Drawing on more than 150 interviews, the book is "jammed with personalities and capsule histories," observed Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times Book Review.
Karp's "well-researched analysis of why NL succeeded, shuddered, and ultimately crashed and his biography of Kenney are compelling," commented Jack Helbig in Booklist. The stories of Kenney and the Lampoon, as well as the magazine's influence on other major comics such as Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, P.J. O'Rourke, and John Belushi, "are wonderfully told in this interview-driven, behind-the-scenes account," concluded Library Journal critic Barry X. Miller.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August 1, 2006, Jack Helbig, review of A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever, p. 12.
Entertainment Weekly, November 3, 2006, Josh Wolk, "Pumping Irony," review of A Futile and Stupid Gesture, p. 83.
Hollywood Reporter, September 26, 2006, Gregory McNamee, review of A Futile and Stupid Gesture, p. 20.
Library Journal, August 1, 2006, Barry X. Miller, review of A Futile and Stupid Gesture, p. 89.
New York Times Book Review, October 15, 2006, Virginia Heffernan, "Funny Business," review of A Futile and Stupid Gesture, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, June 19, 2006, review of A Futile and Stupid Gesture, p. 53.
Independent Publishers Group Web site,http://www.ipgbook.com/ (June 14, 2007), biography of Josh Karp.