National Lampoon April 1970 (Douglas Kenney) - Sexy Cover Issue

National Lampoon (NL) burst upon the humor scene in 1970 with a monthly magazine devoted to a single theme.  Subsequent issues during the first year presented articles and cartoons to parody and satire Greed, Paranoia, Nostalgia, Culture, etc.  Editors Douglas Kenney, Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman provided a variety of humor styles aimed at the college-educated young adult.  Michael O'Donoghue was listed as a contributing editor in the first issue.

NL's timing was perfect for me.  I had graduated from college in 1969 and was serving time at a naval air base in Central California when I spotted this new magazine at a newsstand.  I was familiar with the Harvard Lampoon parodies and had correctly assumed that NL was somehow related.  The quality of the publication was excellent and, of more importance was that NL was fearless in its exploration of new territories.

The first issue started with a complete letters page, all written by the editorial staff of course.  This policy was continued from issue to issue with several running jokes galloping around.  Many of the letters were critical of NL, including the one in the April issue that expressed its displeasure with the use of nickname "Binky" for Attorney General John Mitchell.  That letter was signed by "Spiggy Agnew".  The article following the letters was "Mrs. Agnew's Diary" in which Judy and Spiggy go visit the Nixons for a meat loaf lunch.  "Judy's" writing style is gossipy and rife with the ineptitude of the members of the Republican party.  The Nixon administration fueled this regular feature for several years.  Many of the subsequent articles were inventive and well-written, but Judy and the letters became the NL signature pages for me.

The body of the magazine presented excellent parodies of romance comics (David and Julie), men's magazines (Playbore), sex surveys (The Schoenstein Report) and expose magazines (Mondo Perverto).  The Playbore of the Month is drunk in the centerfold.  We also learn that she is a "check-out counter technician" with many incredible hobbies such as "underwater mineral research" and modeling with "pieces of hardened apricot sections."  The Playbore jokes have no punch lines.

Two of the articles were written by well-known humor authors: Richard Armour and Roger Price.  Both were mildly humorous in their usual style, but did not lampoon.  In future issues, the NL editorial staff concentrated on home-grown writers who defined the humor of the 1970s.

Of significant interest in the "Sexy Cover Issue" were the following:

"Pornocopia", the first offering by Michael O'Donoghue.  Writing in the style of Boccaccio, Cleland, de Sade and Jacqueline Susann among others.  O'Donoghue reviews sexy publications through history.  I did not pretend to understand all of it, but I did appreciate the effort.

The first appearance of the distinctive artistic style of Arnold Roth illustrated the Armour article.

The researcher for "The Schoenstein Report" apologized for an "unscientifically colloquial hyperbole" and then did it again in the next sentence.

"Mondo Perverto" had an advertisement for "Mrs. Keeler's Do-It-Yourself Sex-Change Kit."

"Love Letters from Aristotle Onassis" revealed for the first time the Greek method to win the heart of one attractive American widow.

The "Puzzle Page" was six tributes to the female mammary gland.

Thus was National Lampoon launched.  Graduates of Harvard Lampoon, cousins to Saturday Night Live and fathers of National Lampoon's Radio Hour and movies (Animal House, Vacation, etc.), the "Humor Magazine" established itself with the philosophy that "nothing is sacred."  Whereas other publications had limits, NL did not.  Black humor found a home in the 1970s. [Jamlog]