New doc takes T.O.’s Lorne Michaels to the com­edy wood­shed

Richmond Hill Post - - COMIC STRIPPED -

notes, ”Any­one could come to the of­fice and show their stuff. If it was funny, you were hired on the spot.”

The Lam­poon be­came big busi­ness, branch­ing out into stage shows and movies like Va­ca­tion and An­i­mal House, a game changer on the level of Jaws. By the mid-’70s, the Na­tional Lam­poon had dis­rupted the tame and timid world of the Amer­i­can laugh­ter ma­chine.

The mag­a­zine was en­joy­ing some suc­cess with its stage shows, Ra­dio Din­ner and then Lem­mings, a spo­ton satire of Wood­stock, com­plete with pre­cise and hys­ter­i­cal im­i­ta­tions of Joan Baez, Joe Cocker and oth­ers. What a cast they had as­sem­bled: John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Chris Guest and writ­ers such as Anne Beatts and Harold Ramis.

Michaels, cast­ing the first sea­son of Satur­day Night Live, scooped them all up, all but de­stroy­ing the Lam­poon show.

Of course there’s noth­ing il­le­gal about this, and there’s noth­ing wrong about per­form­ers trad­ing up to a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity. But for decades, the of­fi­cial story has been that Michaels some­how found all this great tal­ent from nowhere, but this doc­u­men­tary in­sists: he got them from Na­tional Lam­poon.

Michaels also, to be fair, found his cast and writ­ers from Sec­ond City and else­where. But his­tory is writ­ten by the win­ners, and the Lam­poon ceased pub­li­ca­tion in 1998. Satur­day Night Live sol­diers on, hav­ing the last word by dint of its sur­vival. But Drunk Stoned Bril­liant Dead serves as a bril­liant epi­taph for a hu­mour mag­a­zine that re­fuses to be writ­ten off. MARK BRES­LIN

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