A Futile and Stupid Gesture

Synopsis: In the 1970s and '80s, National Lampoon's success and influence creates a new media empire overseen in part by the brilliant and troubled Douglas Kenney.
Genre: Biography, Comedy
Director(s): David Wain
Production: Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes:
101 min

All right. Let's go.


Come on.


He can stay in the car for all I care.

You really want to start there?

Nobody cares about my f***ed up family.

- Everybody has a f***ed up family.

- Okay, but...

There's got to be a better way

to start a movie.

Could you just introduce yourself?

My name is Doug Kenney,

and you probably have never heard of me.

Maybe say something like,

"I'm the creative force

that redefined comedy."

No, that's blowing smoke up my own ass.

I can't do that.

I would say you did redefine comedy

for a generation.

I redefined comedy. Okay.

Yeah, I started The National Lampoon.

I did Animal House.

I did Caddyshack, and I...

Well, that's the main stuff.

What if you say, "I was the man

who changed comedy forever,

but I couldn't change myself."

Really? Blow me.

I was the man

who changed comedy forever...

but I couldn't change myself.

- I liked that. That was great.

- Oh, f***.

- We can start at whatever point you want.

- Let's start this film at Harvard

'cause that's where the fun stuff was.

Okay. Perfect. We're rolling, so go ahead.

Oh, okay.

It was the fall of 1964

when I first met Henry Beard.

Henry was from the right kind of family

on the Upper East Side.

He belonged at a place like Harvard.

I was a middle class Midwestern dork.

I got in, but it took a while to fit in.

Doug Kenney, Chagrin Falls.

Jesus Christ, not that one.


- My name tag is a picture of a penis.

- Hmm.

What's up

with the Barry Goldwater fan club?

They're double majoring

in white collar crime and applied hubris.


F*** those guys.


The crowd at Wimbledon gasps.

He charges the net.

F***ing Lampoon.

Turns out Henry and I weren't

the only troublemakers at Harvard.

We found the rest of them

at the campus publication

that had been around for a century,

run out of this strange little castle.

This is The Harvard Lampoon,

the only place on campus

that a goofy kid from Chagrin Falls

can feel like a king.

It's a humor magazine,

but mostly an excuse to party.

It's where I learned that being funny

is how I could fit in and meet girls.

In fact, I met my wife there.

We'll get back to her in a minute.

The person

who really mattered the most was Henry,

the oldest guy who was ever a teenager.

- Your shot.

- Hmm.

Tough spot.

What most people don't realize

is that sidespin has

no appreciable effect on the tangent line

unless the cue ball

has sufficient forward roll.


But can you do this?

- Exceptional lift.

- It's all in the wrist.


Oh, Henry.

- I think I should, uh...

- I think you should...

Peter, you look gorgeous.

- Lucy, you'll fill out some day.

- Thanks.

- And who is this?

- This is Alex. She's a friend of ours.

We take Psych together.

Doug Kenney, Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Alex Garcia-Mata.

A lot of vowels. You know, they are

the most sensual of letters.

I did not know that.

So, this is the super-secret castle

I've heard so much about?

Would you like to see the dungeon?

How scared should I be?

- Don't worry, you'll be fine.

- Reasonably.

"Does sex sell magazines?" Huh.

The answer, by the way, is yes.

That's how we afford

the finer things here.


You don't have to try so hard

to impress me.


If I was trying to impress you,

I would just do this.

Oh, my God. That is horrible.

I learned that from my mom.

It's a true story.

- Wow.

- You guys should meet.

- Yeah, maybe sometime.

- I would like that.

You're not really a preppy, are you?

You're not a hippie, either.

Well, I'm both.

- I'm a prippy.

- Mmm.

I think what you are is a kid

from Chagrin Falls, Ohio,

who borrowed his roommate's tuxedo

to look like he grew up

on the Upper East Side.

You do? Well, that is...

exactly right. Yeah.

No, you nailed it, in fact.

Well, you wear it well.

I hate to interrupt your mating ritual,

but we're about to be adulated upstairs.

- And I know how you feel about adulation.

- Oh, remind me how I feel?

- You like it.

- Oh, I love adulation.

- You love it.

- We should go upstairs then.

We call this

the William Randolph Hearst staircase.

- It's named after John Updike.

- Here they are!

Super-sirs, special guests.

As you know, the parodies that Doug

and Henry have been churning out

have paid for everything

you drunks are enjoying here tonight.

So it is my honor to unveil their latest,

with apologies to JRR Tolkien,

hot off the presses,

Bored of the Rings!

- They wrote a book?

- And all of their term papers.

And some of mine.

So, I'm guessing like a speech

would be in order at this point.

- Speech! Speech! Speech! Speech!

- That's enough. That's enough.

Little bit more than that though

because I get...

Yeah, that's enough. That's enough. Okay.

What is it about filling 200 pages

with atrocious Lord of the Rings puns

that feels so right and yet Saur-on?

I'm sorry, once I start punning

about these little guys,

it's tough to kick the hobbit.

That was bad,

but we only have our elves to blame.

Okay. Okay, always leave them

wanting more... dor.

Pretty good. It was pretty good.

Or fantastic.

That's what I call a book party.

Things get crazy

when the jackets come off.


Jackets. Book jackets?

That's the kind of joke that would

slay 'em at the legion hall back home.

- That's what you call a book party.

- That's what I call a book party.

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Michael Colton

Michael Colton (born 1975) is a screenwriter. With John Aboud, he was a regular commentator on Best Week Ever and other VH1 shows, including I Love the '80s. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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