The Lampoon

The Fourth Estate

WHO'S PUT the mean in meaningful?

Who put the con into confrontation?

Who put the numb in number?

Why, The Harvard Lampoon, an institution that finally made it back up to par in parody.

Their "meaningful confrontation number," though a little thin for the amount of advertising they got and the time they had to do it, is the best thing they've published in, like, two years. And their latest LP, "The Surprising Sheep and Other Mind Excursions," is a remarkable musical feat that's even been getting air play on Boston radio. All this in spite of the fact that the Lampoon had run upon hard times recently.


Hard times means that the Lampoon didn't make the killing they expected to on their Life parody last fall. As my paternal grandmother used to say about my father, "their eyes were bigger than their stomach." Just before the Life press run, they jacked up the number they would print from 400,000 to 650,000. They could only sell half of them, and the rest are rotting in warehouses from Sheboygan to El Paso. They lost $15,000 on the $200,000 deal. That's big business for you.

Now, the Lampoon has been big business ever since the fall of 1966 when they made over (over!) $100,000 profit from their parody of Playboy (who, by the by, printed it for them and helped them get ads from their own regulars). To say that the Lampoon has been in collusion with the corporate complex of this country's industrial power brokers would be a waste of idealistic breath.

This umbilical chord to the establishment adds a fine touch of irony to their issue on the confrontation. Another is why they did this issue in the first place. After all, the Lampoon had published just a single issue during the first nine tenths of this academic year--the only exception being the "movie worsts" issue (which is not a regular issue, as such, and whose publicity was so pre-ordained that radio station WRKO carried the winners of this year's awards in its headline news).

It seems that the Narthex of the Lampoon went over to "check out the scene" at University Hall at around midnight in the midst of the SDS occupation. He found the radicals so boring that he fell asleep in a big leather chair upstairs in the faculty room with his double-breasted blue blazer wrapped around him. He awoke when the police were at the door; by then the otiose Poonie didn't have a chance of leaving the building as the stairways were crowded with police-ready militants.

To make a long story short, he hired the four oldest lawyers in Boston, who were all prep school classmates of the judge, to get him off, and they did. The judge said that he had been there to cover it for the Lampoon. To make the university authorities believe his reportage, too, the Lampoon published this issue, which bears the red fist of Jester choking Ibis on its cover. Narthex is happy to remain anonymous.

The issue has a telling emphasis on visuals. Gone are the days (at least for the time being) when the Lampoon was staffed by good writers and otherwise cunning yuksters. The current regime is a crew of rock musicians (note the record), film-makers (the Jester-Blot saga is about that this time), and good cooks (they banquet more frequently than they publish).

THE WHOLE PHOTO series on "Expansion!" and "Disruption!" is pretty funny. The "Liberated" documents are really good. This is the kind of thing we'd like to see more of since the Lampoon seems to be good at it and since it seems to have been fairly easy for Mad magazine to handle month after month, year after year.

The funniest things are always those which most closely approximate the truth. Or what our fantasies would like to think might be true. This fact combined with the release of the extraordinary tensions caused by the politics of our times makes David McClelland's cartoon of Nathan Pusey's childhood psychoses just fantastic.

This issue marks the graduation of McClelland, the Lampoon's finest talent. There's not enough one can say to sum up the brilliance of McClelland's years on the Lampoon. His cartoons have been consistently the best work of each issue, and in some of the whole-issues-full of turgid print that have been passed down recently, his work has stood out as really fabulous. Why, he's the Ted Williams of cartoon-drawing. And his final "Inside Straight Nate: a subtle portrait of one of American education's great entertainers" compares to Williams' home run in his last time at bat.

Still appearing in print is one of the Lampoon's graduated greats, Peter Gabel '68, who writes in this issue a play based on the idea that working class laborers dislike the student rebels who claim to be their allies. This is a good example of where the Lampoon's ideas are OK, but not particularly interesting.