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Douglas C. Kenney

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Douglas Clark Kenney was one of the innovative visionaries of what was eventually called the "new wave" of comedy during the 1970's. This extremely dark, irreverent and anarchic brand Kenney used as the basis to collectively found the National Lampoon with fellow satirists Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman. Beard was practicing law and Hoffman was practicing business before Kenney convinced them to abandon such "realistic goals" for a life in comedy.Their pointed wicked nihilistic style later went to influence countless innumerable other productions and affiliates in the biz of comedy, such as "Saturday Night Live"-that actually bought out much of the talent from the Lampoon. Lorne Michaels tried to convert Kenney as well, but Doug stuck to his guns-refusing to work for someone else and feeling betrayed that all the talent he worked so hard to recruit was jumping ship.Thomas Carney of The New Times probably summed it up best when he was tracing the origin of such a landmark in comedy history: "The National Lampoon was the first full-blown appearance of non-Jewish humor in years--not anti-Semitic, just non-Jewish. Its roots were W.A.S.P. and Irish Catholic, with a weird strain of Canadian detachment. . . . This was not Jewish street-smart humor as a defense mechanism; this was slash-and-burn stuff that alternated in pitch but moved very much on the offensive. It was always disrespect everything, mostly yourself, a sort of reverse deism."
 
Douglas Clark Kenney was one of the innovative visionaries of what was eventually called the "new wave" of comedy during the 1970's. This extremely dark, irreverent and anarchic brand Kenney used as the basis to collectively found the National Lampoon with fellow satirists Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman. Beard was practicing law and Hoffman was practicing business before Kenney convinced them to abandon such "realistic goals" for a life in comedy.Their pointed wicked nihilistic style later went to influence countless innumerable other productions and affiliates in the biz of comedy, such as "Saturday Night Live"-that actually bought out much of the talent from the Lampoon. Lorne Michaels tried to convert Kenney as well, but Doug stuck to his guns-refusing to work for someone else and feeling betrayed that all the talent he worked so hard to recruit was jumping ship.Thomas Carney of The New Times probably summed it up best when he was tracing the origin of such a landmark in comedy history: "The National Lampoon was the first full-blown appearance of non-Jewish humor in years--not anti-Semitic, just non-Jewish. Its roots were W.A.S.P. and Irish Catholic, with a weird strain of Canadian detachment. . . . This was not Jewish street-smart humor as a defense mechanism; this was slash-and-burn stuff that alternated in pitch but moved very much on the offensive. It was always disrespect everything, mostly yourself, a sort of reverse deism."
  
Kenney had been harvesting his own uniquely personal style of humor all his life. He was born in West Palm Beach, Florida of a rather privileged upbringing. The family moved to Mentor, Ohio in the early 1950s before settling in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. His older brother was the real prodigal son. Kenney lived in Chagrin Falls from 1958-1964 and attended Gilmour Academy, a Catholic boys prep high school in nearby Gates Mills, Ohio.While at Harvard, Kenney spent pretty much all his time indulging in leisure. He didn't really find what he really wanted to do with his life in class. He wrote for the school's satirical newsletter, ''The Harvard Lampoon''. He met his soon-to-be "partner in crime and comedy" Henry Beard. Beard's plans were to pursue law full-time. The two began making light of such things as Life, Time, and eventually... J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.Their latter, entitled Bored of the Rings, sold over three-quarters of a million copies. They were best-selling authors before they were college graduates. It was mostly a few puns and riffs on Tolkien's time-honored classic, but it hadn't ever been done before. And our hero Kenney decided he wanted to keep doing what he doing-the magazine and the book, but on a global scale. And so, Kenney, Beard, and Rob Hoffman to launch the National Lampoon following their graduation from Harvard.  
+
Kenney had been harvesting his own uniquely personal style of humor all his life. He was born in West Palm Beach, Florida of a rather privileged upbringing. The family moved to Mentor, Ohio in the early 1950s before settling in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. His older brother was the real prodigal son. Kenney lived in Chagrin Falls from 1958-1964 and attended Gilmour Academy, a Catholic boys prep high school in nearby Gates Mills, Ohio. While at Harvard, Kenney spent pretty much all his time indulging in leisure. He didn't really find what he really wanted to do with his life in class. He wrote for the school's satirical newsletter, ''The Harvard Lampoon''. He met his soon-to-be "partner in crime and comedy" Henry Beard. Beard's plans were to pursue law full-time. The two began making light of such things as Life, Time, and eventually... J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.Their latter, entitled Bored of the Rings, sold over three-quarters of a million copies. They were best-selling authors before they were college graduates. It was mostly a few puns and riffs on Tolkien's time-honored classic, but it hadn't ever been done before. And our hero Kenney decided he wanted to keep doing what he doing-the magazine and the book, but on a global scale. And so, Kenney, Beard, and Rob Hoffman to launch the National Lampoon following their graduation from Harvard.  
  
 
They got the money for such a class from Matty Simmons, Chairman of the Board of Twenty-First Century Communications, and the world premiere of the National Lampoon first appeared on newsstands in April, 1970. It featured a sultry woman and a horny duck on the cover. The duck was an attempt at giving the Lampoon a logo. Now unlike Bored of the Rings, Lampoon was not a best-seller and a must-read (and must-own) the moment it hit the news-racks. As John Cleese once observed, "No one likes anything original and foreign fresh out of the gate". The magazine was lousy with dilemma, such as sub-par production quality, sub-par sales, and constant bickering and discontent among those at the magazine. The writers and illustrators were especially bicker-some when first starting out.Doug took the plum high rank of editor-in-chief of the National Lampoon. Kenney reined over a platoon of writers who never seemed to be on the same page. Or even share the same breathing space. His ability to mediate squabbles kept open fighting to a minimum, and his tact as an editor enabled him to steer his writers in the direction he wanted without their being aware of any manipulation.
 
They got the money for such a class from Matty Simmons, Chairman of the Board of Twenty-First Century Communications, and the world premiere of the National Lampoon first appeared on newsstands in April, 1970. It featured a sultry woman and a horny duck on the cover. The duck was an attempt at giving the Lampoon a logo. Now unlike Bored of the Rings, Lampoon was not a best-seller and a must-read (and must-own) the moment it hit the news-racks. As John Cleese once observed, "No one likes anything original and foreign fresh out of the gate". The magazine was lousy with dilemma, such as sub-par production quality, sub-par sales, and constant bickering and discontent among those at the magazine. The writers and illustrators were especially bicker-some when first starting out.Doug took the plum high rank of editor-in-chief of the National Lampoon. Kenney reined over a platoon of writers who never seemed to be on the same page. Or even share the same breathing space. His ability to mediate squabbles kept open fighting to a minimum, and his tact as an editor enabled him to steer his writers in the direction he wanted without their being aware of any manipulation.
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Police found the abandoned vehicle the following day. Kenney's body was discovered at the bottom of a thirty-foot cliff three days later, on September 1st. Found in Kenney's hotel room were notes for projects he had been planning, jokes, and an outline for a new movie. "We also found," Chevy Chase told Rolling Stone magazine, "written on the back of a hotel receipt, a bunch of random thoughts that included the reasons why he loved Kathryn, and a gag line: "These last few days are among the happiest I've ever ignored."The Lampoon did continue the same brand of comedy it not only originated with at birth with Beard, Kenney and Hoffman. And even the same level of humor with the gang of satirists that once graced the hallowed ivy halls of the Lampoon. But thanks to "comic inflation", what made for once the most anarchic form of satire there ever was seemed juvenile and warmed-over (and worst of all, just plain not funny) by today's standards. The Lampoon radio show folded and the magazine eventually lost its audience. The movies continued somewhat, but somehow failed to do anything like "Animal House". They're were imitators and movies attempted to make in the same vein, but that same success and "lighting in a bottle" never really did happen.Some say the problem was literally that all the real talent from the Lampoon graduated and moved on to better things-at least more successful things. But it looks as though the problem was while the Lampoon was such a radical, anarchic and innovative voice and style for its time, that time had passed and what was once so daring now seem so tame and uninspired. Even comedies later made by Mel Brooks and Woody Allen were not especially sensational. But that hardly mattered. As Kenney became one more example of the live-fast, die-young (and before you peak) mantra that is all-too common. Another "candle in the wind".Many believe if Kenney had lived, his particular voice would have matured and he would have written that Great American Novel and serious work that he always felt he had in him.His story was finally told for real in the autobiography " A Futile and Stupid Gesture", which was adapted into a Netflix movie featuring Will Forte and Martin Mull-and done in the same spirit of not only the National Lampoon, but of Doug Kenney himself. Kenney would have been more than proud. He would have felt his life (and death) would have been entirely justified.
 
Police found the abandoned vehicle the following day. Kenney's body was discovered at the bottom of a thirty-foot cliff three days later, on September 1st. Found in Kenney's hotel room were notes for projects he had been planning, jokes, and an outline for a new movie. "We also found," Chevy Chase told Rolling Stone magazine, "written on the back of a hotel receipt, a bunch of random thoughts that included the reasons why he loved Kathryn, and a gag line: "These last few days are among the happiest I've ever ignored."The Lampoon did continue the same brand of comedy it not only originated with at birth with Beard, Kenney and Hoffman. And even the same level of humor with the gang of satirists that once graced the hallowed ivy halls of the Lampoon. But thanks to "comic inflation", what made for once the most anarchic form of satire there ever was seemed juvenile and warmed-over (and worst of all, just plain not funny) by today's standards. The Lampoon radio show folded and the magazine eventually lost its audience. The movies continued somewhat, but somehow failed to do anything like "Animal House". They're were imitators and movies attempted to make in the same vein, but that same success and "lighting in a bottle" never really did happen.Some say the problem was literally that all the real talent from the Lampoon graduated and moved on to better things-at least more successful things. But it looks as though the problem was while the Lampoon was such a radical, anarchic and innovative voice and style for its time, that time had passed and what was once so daring now seem so tame and uninspired. Even comedies later made by Mel Brooks and Woody Allen were not especially sensational. But that hardly mattered. As Kenney became one more example of the live-fast, die-young (and before you peak) mantra that is all-too common. Another "candle in the wind".Many believe if Kenney had lived, his particular voice would have matured and he would have written that Great American Novel and serious work that he always felt he had in him.His story was finally told for real in the autobiography " A Futile and Stupid Gesture", which was adapted into a Netflix movie featuring Will Forte and Martin Mull-and done in the same spirit of not only the National Lampoon, but of Doug Kenney himself. Kenney would have been more than proud. He would have felt his life (and death) would have been entirely justified.
  
==External links=
+
==External links==
 
*[http://www.nationallampoon.com/ National Lampoon]=
 
*[http://www.nationallampoon.com/ National Lampoon]=
 
*{{WP|Douglas Kenney}}
 
*{{WP|Douglas Kenney}}

Revision as of 08:36, 3 December 2018

Douglas Clark Kenney (December 10, 1947- August 29, 1980) was the co-author of Bored of the Rings. He was a creative mastermind at, and a co-founder of National Lampoon. He died falling of a cliff in Hawaii.

Douglas Clark Kenney was one of the innovative visionaries of what was eventually called the "new wave" of comedy during the 1970's. This extremely dark, irreverent and anarchic brand Kenney used as the basis to collectively found the National Lampoon with fellow satirists Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman. Beard was practicing law and Hoffman was practicing business before Kenney convinced them to abandon such "realistic goals" for a life in comedy.Their pointed wicked nihilistic style later went to influence countless innumerable other productions and affiliates in the biz of comedy, such as "Saturday Night Live"-that actually bought out much of the talent from the Lampoon. Lorne Michaels tried to convert Kenney as well, but Doug stuck to his guns-refusing to work for someone else and feeling betrayed that all the talent he worked so hard to recruit was jumping ship.Thomas Carney of The New Times probably summed it up best when he was tracing the origin of such a landmark in comedy history: "The National Lampoon was the first full-blown appearance of non-Jewish humor in years--not anti-Semitic, just non-Jewish. Its roots were W.A.S.P. and Irish Catholic, with a weird strain of Canadian detachment. . . . This was not Jewish street-smart humor as a defense mechanism; this was slash-and-burn stuff that alternated in pitch but moved very much on the offensive. It was always disrespect everything, mostly yourself, a sort of reverse deism."

Kenney had been harvesting his own uniquely personal style of humor all his life. He was born in West Palm Beach, Florida of a rather privileged upbringing. The family moved to Mentor, Ohio in the early 1950s before settling in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. His older brother was the real prodigal son. Kenney lived in Chagrin Falls from 1958-1964 and attended Gilmour Academy, a Catholic boys prep high school in nearby Gates Mills, Ohio. While at Harvard, Kenney spent pretty much all his time indulging in leisure. He didn't really find what he really wanted to do with his life in class. He wrote for the school's satirical newsletter, The Harvard Lampoon. He met his soon-to-be "partner in crime and comedy" Henry Beard. Beard's plans were to pursue law full-time. The two began making light of such things as Life, Time, and eventually... J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.Their latter, entitled Bored of the Rings, sold over three-quarters of a million copies. They were best-selling authors before they were college graduates. It was mostly a few puns and riffs on Tolkien's time-honored classic, but it hadn't ever been done before. And our hero Kenney decided he wanted to keep doing what he doing-the magazine and the book, but on a global scale. And so, Kenney, Beard, and Rob Hoffman to launch the National Lampoon following their graduation from Harvard.

They got the money for such a class from Matty Simmons, Chairman of the Board of Twenty-First Century Communications, and the world premiere of the National Lampoon first appeared on newsstands in April, 1970. It featured a sultry woman and a horny duck on the cover. The duck was an attempt at giving the Lampoon a logo. Now unlike Bored of the Rings, Lampoon was not a best-seller and a must-read (and must-own) the moment it hit the news-racks. As John Cleese once observed, "No one likes anything original and foreign fresh out of the gate". The magazine was lousy with dilemma, such as sub-par production quality, sub-par sales, and constant bickering and discontent among those at the magazine. The writers and illustrators were especially bicker-some when first starting out.Doug took the plum high rank of editor-in-chief of the National Lampoon. Kenney reined over a platoon of writers who never seemed to be on the same page. Or even share the same breathing space. His ability to mediate squabbles kept open fighting to a minimum, and his tact as an editor enabled him to steer his writers in the direction he wanted without their being aware of any manipulation.

Kenney seemed to have a natural aptitude for editing the work of his writers, without direct orders or rewrites. He didn't overwrite, override or reroute the artist's original artistic vision. And doing so earned Kenney the love of all of his beloved Lampoon. Michael O'Donoghue told the world: "When it came to editing, Doug was the master safe-cracker. He left no fingerprints."

National Lampoon circulation began to rise steadily, and was placed on the same mantel of worth as something like Mad magazine. Lampoon got it's foot in the door thanks to the controversy over the cover of the September, 1970 issue. Simmons had been pushing for more sex appeal in the magazine, and Kenney complied by releasing a notable issue of an 1930's circa Minnie Mouse exposing herself on the cover in an almost seductress kind of way. The works of Disney were always known and considered for their good nature and wholesome innocence. But debasing and degenerating an icon like Mickey's girlfriend had given the Lampoon the kind of publicity and demand it had needed to get the magazine where its makers had always dreamed of it going. As well as a $10 million lawsuit. The Lampoon set out to lampoon everybody and everything. That was its purpose.National Lampoon was an established prosperity by the summer of 1971. Doug's most desperate and wishful of dreams had been made into a flesh-and-blood reality. Alas, the seemingly endless office hours and bedlam among the newspaper men and women of the Lampoon had begun to wear on poor Doug. Anson reported that by early 1971, our little Doug had "started getting drunk regularly. When he was not drinking, he was smoking dope, doing his best to get stoned. Increasingly, he trailed off in the middle of sentences. More than once, his friends noticed, there seemed to be tears in his eyes for no apparent reason. It was probably the drugs. He would proclaim one thing--'I'm the best goddamn comedy writer in the world'--and contradict it seconds later--'I'm not worth a shit.' "

Kenney's brief marriage to Alex Garcia-Mata was also coming unglued, and, as Anson observed, his jokes about snipers trying to "get" him began to develop paranoid overtones. Everyone he knew suggested that he try to take a breather, relax... try to pace himself. He seemed overwhelmed. To be burning himself out. Working on this magazine and his own brand of W.A.S.P.-Aryan comedy seemed to be all he wanted to do, but all he could do. In any other endeavor, he seemed to be at a complete loss. He threw himself face-first totally into his own self-invented art. He was living at Lampoon's home offices and was caught with another woman. Alex left him promptly. Doug teamed up with Brian-Doyle Murray and Harold Ramis to pen "Caddyshack", what he considered revenge for his father on the way he was abused when he worked as a caddy at the local country club. Doug was unhappy with the way the movie turned out and so was writer/director Harold Ramis. The film was intended to focus on the caddies themselves the way Animal House focused primarily on Delta House and Ramis' later efforts such as Stripes and Meatballs focused the characters of Murray and Ramis on the campers of Camp Northstar. But Caddyshack made the more experience comic veterans (Chase, Dangerfield, Ted Knight and Bill Murray the stars). Nevertheless, the film was one of the biggest hits on the year and is still considered a classic. Kenney and Ramis were both unhappy with the way the film turned out. Still the success of Caddyshack made Kenney as sought-after as Hitler in Hollywood.The success just didn't seem to be enough. Or much of anything, really.

Kenney still felt he wasn't doing what he should be doing. What he was put on this Earth to do. He dreamt of writing the Great American Novel. Apparently, Bored of the Rings wasn't it.Bored of the Rings was all but completely forgotten for a while until the live-action saga by Peter Jackson hit the screen. Since then, it seemed like the perfect send-up of Tolkien's epic tale. And the rest, as they say... is history. Lampoon history.One was another hot happening innovative comedic writer Cornelius Chase. The man Channel One Underground Television. Few know that he wrote for the far-more successful (in every way possible) Mad Magazine. His real career started in writing comedy. He would eventually be world-famous for performing it-or rather, failing to perform it properly.Both Kenney and Beard personally asked Chase to write for their laugh rag, but Chase declined as Mad paid better. It was also just a better source of comedy. Chase did eventually come aboard to write and perform for The National Lampoon Radio Hour. And he and Kenney became the best of friends.After his death, The Lampoon continued. Not as well as it did before. Although it kept the same spirit and tone and humor it always had, the following certainly wasn't what it used to be. As one talent for the Lampoon once explained: "It wasn't really all that funny. It was supposed to be anarchic and hip. And if you didn't like it, you just didn't get the joke".

His post-divorce girlfriend Kathryn Walker finally joined Kenney in Hawaii by late August. When she arrived he looked "physically wasted", but seemed in better spirits than he had been for a long time. After Chase returned to the mainland, Kenney and Walker spent several days on the island making plans for their future. Kenney seemed determined, with a new outlook for his career and life. Walker then returned to California to prepare for a Labor Day party she and Kenney were to host, but he promised her by telephone two days later that he would arrive home on August 30."Two thousand miles across the ocean, Doug Kenney prepared to go," wrote Anson, reconstructing Kenney's last hours. "He finished the memo he had been writing to himself, rose, picked up a bar of soap, walked to the bathroom mirror, and scribbled out 'I love you' across it. Sometime afterward he got in his Jeep and drove the winding road to Hanapepe lookout."

Police found the abandoned vehicle the following day. Kenney's body was discovered at the bottom of a thirty-foot cliff three days later, on September 1st. Found in Kenney's hotel room were notes for projects he had been planning, jokes, and an outline for a new movie. "We also found," Chevy Chase told Rolling Stone magazine, "written on the back of a hotel receipt, a bunch of random thoughts that included the reasons why he loved Kathryn, and a gag line: "These last few days are among the happiest I've ever ignored."The Lampoon did continue the same brand of comedy it not only originated with at birth with Beard, Kenney and Hoffman. And even the same level of humor with the gang of satirists that once graced the hallowed ivy halls of the Lampoon. But thanks to "comic inflation", what made for once the most anarchic form of satire there ever was seemed juvenile and warmed-over (and worst of all, just plain not funny) by today's standards. The Lampoon radio show folded and the magazine eventually lost its audience. The movies continued somewhat, but somehow failed to do anything like "Animal House". They're were imitators and movies attempted to make in the same vein, but that same success and "lighting in a bottle" never really did happen.Some say the problem was literally that all the real talent from the Lampoon graduated and moved on to better things-at least more successful things. But it looks as though the problem was while the Lampoon was such a radical, anarchic and innovative voice and style for its time, that time had passed and what was once so daring now seem so tame and uninspired. Even comedies later made by Mel Brooks and Woody Allen were not especially sensational. But that hardly mattered. As Kenney became one more example of the live-fast, die-young (and before you peak) mantra that is all-too common. Another "candle in the wind".Many believe if Kenney had lived, his particular voice would have matured and he would have written that Great American Novel and serious work that he always felt he had in him.His story was finally told for real in the autobiography " A Futile and Stupid Gesture", which was adapted into a Netflix movie featuring Will Forte and Martin Mull-and done in the same spirit of not only the National Lampoon, but of Doug Kenney himself. Kenney would have been more than proud. He would have felt his life (and death) would have been entirely justified.

External links