Harvard Lampoon (John Aboud III) - November 1994

(Harvard Lampoon Visited)  For the purpose of this exercise (Jamlog), "classic humor" began in the U.S. when Harvard Lampoon (HL) started poking fun at its sister publications Harvard Advocate and especially Harvard Crimson in 1876.  This subject is certainly open for debate.  I realize that humor existed prior to 1876 and I also realize that the early HL humor was tame compared to classics such as Mad (1955), National Lampoon (1970) and the HL magazine parodies that appeared from 1925 (Literary Digest) to present.

I offer this date (1876) as the origin of classic humor because it is convenient and because HL has made significant contributions to the growth of the art form.  In reality, parody and satire probably became accepted forms of humor in the U.S. in the post-World War II era.  Humor, as most other forms of entertainment, is closely linked to the culture of the civilization in which it exists.  Whereas the humor of the early HL efforts may seem inferior to post-war stuff, I would imagine that the nineteenth century consumer would be amazed but not amused by today's television situation comedies.

Upon rereading the Hundredth Anniversary Issue (1976) of HL, I discovered ample evidence of satire as well as the parody that distinguished future issues.  From the beginning, HL presented dark (and often black) humor that shocked some and confirmed its basic belief that no subject was sacred or immune to lampoon.

Since HL was published in Cambridge with limited distribution, and since it was published seventy years before I was born, it did not influence me in the same manner as Mad and National Lampoon (NL).  When I purchased HL Vol. CLXXXIV No. 2 (November 1994) "The World of Crazy #", I was the curious outsider.  The comments that follow are those of my "visit" to the current product.

I do not understand what the "#" sign means in the title.

The cover has several images of people, animals and fruit superimposed on a background of a red structure which I assume is part of Harvard.

"Vanitas" (Weiner '95, Narthex) gives us "welcome to our world of crazy."  My Latin dictionary defines "vanitas" as "emptiness, worthlessness, unreality, untruth, vanity, boasting, ostentation."

"Jester, Ibis, Blot" (Aboud III '95, President) carries on the tradition from the nineteenth century of the comments and antics of these HL symbols.  Blot speaks with a voice that parodies Forrest Gump.  The message: "Forrest Blot is not only a simpleton, but also quite crazy."

"Ibis Inklings" (Carlock '95, Ibis): The sacred bird offers jokes for the crazies.  Watch out for that "gravity spasm."

"Charlotte & Arnaud" (Ehasz '95, Ehasz): Men are dogs, women are cats.

"Study Tips" (Moland '97) reminds us that studying is important but you gotta have video games and that CD is short for "Cauliflower Doodler."

"Clue" (Schur '97) diverts from the theme but offers an excellent one-page parody of the board game and the recent trend of certain games (Trivial Pursuit) to seek every possible spin-off of the original.

"Everything Is True" (Weiner again) takes us on a journey to the inside of the crazy brain.

The feature article is the annual "Worst Films of 1994" which manages to find fault with all of the year's major movies.  It is introduced on a pessimistic note regarding the proliferation of "Worst" lists ("Maybe we'll do CD-ROM Worsts next year").  Gump (#1) is reduced to a two-word review: "lucky retard."  The article ends with a parody of Harvard Crimson trying to upstage HL with its own lists.  Crimson also has a two-word review of Gump: "Tightest Rump."

The remainder of the issue seems to consist of short filler articles, some of which are faithful to the "World of Crazy" theme.  As with the body of the magazine, the writing works but the art is somewhat inferior.

My conclusion is that the future of classic humor is in the good hands of the undergrads of HL.  Today [1994-1995], Harvard Lampoon is much better than National Lampoon.  Having written that, I would advise the editors of HL to lose the toilet humor.  We got enough of that in junior high school. [Jamlog]