Sunday, December 21, 2008

National Lampoon: From Animal House to the Big House

The SEC and the Justice Department announced last Monday a criminal prosecution against the owners of The National Lampoon for securities fraud. The SEC, which could not detect a $50 billion Ponzi Scheme, is rescuing us from an attempt to raise the share price of the Lampoon’s stock by $2.

From the sublime to the ridiculous; how low the Lampoon has fallen from its glory days!

The Lampoon was founded in 1970 by alumni of the Harvard Lampoon. The monthly National Lampoon soon received a cult following. Nothing was sacred to the early writers: Doug Kenney, P.J. O’Rourke, Michael O’Donoghue, Henry Beard, Robert Hoffman, Tony Hendra, Chris Miller, John Hughes, Sean Kelly, and Anne Beatts.

The most classic moment, if you can single out just one, was the Lampoon’s parody of a VW ad showing a Beetle floating in water. The Lampoon’s 1973 version had a caption under the floating Beetle:

“If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen, he’d be President today.”

VW sued. As part of the settlement, the Lampoon had to razor blade the offending pages out of the unsold issues.

The monthly Lampoon was soon followed by classic specials, such as the 1964 High School Yearbook Parody and the 199th Birthday Book, which preceded the nation’s Bicentennial. I still use in my Torts materials their brilliant, satirical version of the Kent State shootings.

And then came the Radio Hour, albeit only for a year, LP’s, Lemmings, and from the crazed geniuses of the Lampoon, Animal House – still the classic three decades later.

Ah, but brilliant young artists move on and sell out. P.J. pens for Forbes. The Lampoon has gone through several owners, all of whom have lowered its aspirations. It exists now to collect royalties from licensing out the National Lampoon name to what appears to be a series of low quality movies, such as Dorm Daze and Dorm Daze II.

The magazine’s last issue was in 1988, R.I.P.

The share price of National Lampoon was $1.87 in mid March. Daniel S. Laikin, 40% owner of the National Lampoon, was indicted in Philadelphia for offering kickbacks to a stock promoter to raise the value of the stock to $2.50-5.00 per share.

The stock closed last Friday at .87/share.

From farce to farcical, the Lampoon now brings us the Idiot’s Guide to Securities Fraud.

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