Film Review: “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon”

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Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: the Story of the National Lampoon, 2015

dir. Douglas Tirola

Another fantastic documentary I watched at the EIFF this year.

National Lampoon for me has always been the brand of comedy films I was never really keen on, and this documentary has really opened my eyes to what it is that they’ve done for comedy in the US. The documentary goes from the very beginning, Doug Kenney and Henry Beard working at the Harvard Lampoon, to the very end, after Kenney’s death, Saturday Night Live, and all the classic movies (Animal House, Caddyshack.) It features talking heads from most of the important players at the time, including Henry Beard and Chevy Chase, as well as some people who were minimally involved or only inspired by them, like Kevin Bacon, Billy Bob Thorton, and Judd Apatow, and it takes us on a journey through time with amazing graphics and hilarious videos of John Belushi and Bill Murray.

The way the filmmakers crafted the documentary is really interesting, especially using the magazine’s own style and art to make animation and carry the story forward. There are many old pictures of the original crew, and the tone of the testimonies is indeed that they were creating something important. They show the initial struggles of the magazine with advertisers and clashes within the team, but also how they defined generations of comics. And it’s a little more bitter than sweet when Lorne Michaels comes along and takes a lot of their actors to his new NBC show Saturday Night Live.

Overall, I thought this was an extremely well-made documentary, well crafted as well as researched, with interesting testimonies and a lot of people who were actually involved in the process from the very beginning. I would definitely recommend this documentary as a fascinating look into what made modern US comedy what it is today.

review by Mariana Duarte


One thought on “Film Review: “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon”

    EIFF 2015 Round-Up – The Reviews « Filmology said:
    June 29, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    […] Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon […]


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