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The Original Is Funnier

The Harvard Lampoon's Cosmopolitan

By Dwight Cramer

WITH AN ATTEMPT at sabotaging the Harvard Independent, a cocktail party in their castle, and reportedly the largest press run ever for a single issue American magazine, the Harvard Lampoon has added Cosmopolitan to its ranks of parodied journals. They hope to go laughing all the way to the bank, but if they're reading their own work, they will be the only people laughing.

The Henry Kissinger centerfold seems to be one of the most popular parts of the magazine. Freshmen women in the Yard are posting it on their walls, and most people who buy the parody like it. But Lampoon president S. Eric Rayman '73 freely admits that the thing is a fake. It is apparently a 50-year-old cab driver whose belly is beginning to sag a bit, with Kissinger's head attached to it. No doubt that is what a lot of people, including the Lampoon, would like to think Kissinger looks like.

Kissinger's head has been showing up in quite a few places recently. The New York Review of Books also ran it, with a cartoon rendition of Metternich's body (clothed) to emphasize what it thinks of Kissinger. Kissinger himself has recently been seen in Saigon and Paris. Rayman claims that Kissinger was shown his head-on-a-cabdriver by an American soldier when he arrived in Saigon, so maybe he had something to think about while he was trying to get Thieu's head. There are endless ramifications. Still it is nice to know that Dan Ellsberg took the centerfold photo.

For Harvard people there are quite a few little inside jokes that relieve the general dreariness, or disgust. Lampoon editors have their pictures scattered all over the place, and anyone so inclined can waste a lot of time trying to find them. N-rm-n Ma-ler has written an account of a party at Harvard that sounds something like the one that the Advocate threw last Spring for Mailer in the Lampoon building. The appearance of John Marquand. Allston Burr Senior Tutor in Dudley House in a photo feature "Workaday Whirl" may give some people pleasure. And when the face game gets boring, it is always possible to try identifying the buildings--some of the pictures are taken with Widener, the Yard, and various other places as backdrops. If all else fails, it is always possible to go through the masthead and see how many people or things in the "Groupies." "National Monuments" and other categories can be identified.

But the rest of the world does not have that consolation, and all 750,000 copies weren't run off for the Harvard-Radcliffe community. What the outside faces is a series of articles running from "Barbi Speaks Out She's More than Just a Kewpie Doll" by the significantly named Randy Parley (Barbi's biggest bitch is that she has no sex organs) to "Dear Cosmopolitan," letters written by the equally significantly named Claire de Lune, Phillipe O'Faith and Ann Cephalitis. In between the Lampoon manages to hit highpoints ("Been Up so Long it Looks Like Down to Me," is which Lawnboy Watson, an astigmatic law school reject sings the blues). It also hits lots of lowpoints (Chins and Needles: Acupuncture Beauty Tips" by Sue Kiaki, and a bustline development advertisement featuring a Jackie Onassis testimonial--"I increased my bustline from 32 inches to a full 38 inches in just eight weeks").

"Games Sensuous Lovers Play" is a self-conscious attempt to be perverted and "The Empress' New Clothes" provides a look at the fall clothing lines of such imaginately named firms as COOP de la Cambridge and Skirt d'Issue, or Maurice de MassAve and Beachnut Buygum. The Cosmo parody does contain one fine cartoon carrying a cut line running "If you had said something funnier, this cartoon might have made the New Yorker." It might be the slogan for the issue.

COSMOPOLITAN itself poses some competition for the Lampoon, and they fail to meet it. Between the Hearst Corporation's reputation for intellectual journalism and Helen Gurley Brown's personal style in running her magazine, most of the potential areas in which a parody can play get squeezed out. The distance between an article like "The Bugaboo of Male Impotence" (in the October genuine Cosmopolitan) and "The Myth of the Male Orgasm" is not that great. The Lampoon carries a picture with its story showing a guy holding crossed fingers behind his back and tentatively approaching a girl waiting for him, in bed. The Cosmopolitan story has a picture of a dejected looking guy sitting at the foot of the bed while a bored looking girl lies at the other end of it. The relationship between the pictures is more of a before-and-after thing than a parody.

One of the fears of the Lampoon in putting out a Cosmopolitican parody was that college students would not be familiar with Cosmopolitan and much of the humor would miss its mark because of the audience's ignorance. One result might be that people would not buy the issue, and the Lampoon would lose as much money on it as they have on other parodies.

Any comparison of the parody and the genuine article is a pretty convincing demonstration that the only thing worse for the Lampoon than writing for an audience unfamiliar with Cosmopolitan would be writing for one that is familiar with it. The Lampoon's article on acupuncture beauty tips doesn't compete with Cosmopolitan's on the undiscovered joys of having a Chinese lover. It must be kind of galling at the Lampoon to realize that they've come closer to plagiarism than humor.

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