The National Lampoon brand is back from the dead. Did anyone miss it?
Consumers under 40 probably don’t even know what National Lampoon refers to beyond some moldy movies their parents love.
That didn’t stop PalmStar Media. The company scooped up the flailing brand for just south of $12 million according to Deadline.com. The deal gives PalmStar Media access to a trove of existing material. Comedy bits. Records. Hit movies like “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
The latter offers some potential ROI. The former? it’s hard to people clamoring for ’70s era comedy routines with hopelessly dated references.
Who’s Julie Nixon again?
On paper, the deal hardly sounds worthwhile. The National Lampoon name has been dormant for some time. Legal woes have dogged it for years. No one has held the banner low, high or anywhere in between.
Does anyone remember “National Lampoon’s Senior Trip” from 1995?
(Yes, that’s a very young Jeremy Renner among several actors not making us laugh…)
That isn’t stopping PalmStar Media. They’re planning to launch a whole new series of products stamped with the National Lampoon label.
It’s too soon to know what we’ll see, but educated guesses are far easier. More stink bombs hurled at the Trump administration, perhaps? Viral videos mocking red state America?
Sound cynical? That’s the current state of comedy in 2017. It’s endlessly liberal.
Now, if PalmStar Media really wanted to embrace the National Lampoon ethos it might try something different. Recall the excellent 2015 documentary, “Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.” That film showed just how irreverent the comedy franchise proved during the ’70s and ’80s.
“In your 20s you can go after anything at any time,” former National Lampoon star Chevy Chase says, looking back at the group’s heyday. That’s hardly true now. Some of the most buttoned-up souls are the safe space-clutching Millennials.
Is that sentence a trigger alert?
Much of the brand’s shtick would cause outrage in 2017. Would any comedy outlet trot out a bit dubbed “Welfare Monopoly” today?
The National Lampoon revival could genuinely be the boost modern comedy needs. Only it would have to follow these five ways to make an impact remotely close to its salad days:
Torch Social Justice Warriors
It’s time. No, it’s well past time for a comedy institution to bring these self-important souls down to size. “Saturday Night Live” won’t do it. Late night humorists ignore their crazier antics. Most comedians can’t be bothered.
Enter National Lampoon. The brand could differentiate itself instantly by attacking these oh, so woke folks. The potential material is endless. Here’s one: Did you know wood paneling is now racist? And … go!
Avoid Taking Political Sides
What’s the easiest way to kill comedy? Make it predictable. Today, even the sharped joke lobbed at President Donald Trump arrives past its “sell by” date. Trump jokes are hopelessly predictable. It doesn’t mean they’re not necessary, or even rip-roaring funny.
It’s merely an admission that we see them coming from every comic workin’ the beat. What’s the solution for National Lampoon? Mix in a few Democrat punch lines and suddenly you’ve caught audiences off balance.
Make the Whole Country Laugh (Not Just the Coasts)
There’s a reason comedians like Chad Prather and Larry the Cable Guy score big laughs. Their humor stems from states that don’t have coastlines. So-called “flyover country” is very real and very hungry for humor.
Start speaking to them, and you’re guaranteed a new, fresh audience. You might even lure some coastal elites along for the ride.
Give New Voices a Chance
YouTube might be the best thing to ever happen to comedians. Young stand-ups no longer have to toil for months, even years, before their big break. It could just take one very funny video clip to go viral.
Those new, unheard voices could be exactly what National Lampoon needs. Why not skip the Sarah Silvermans and Zach Galifianakises of the world and target fresh faces instead? They’ll work for cheap and have the raw energy that comes with untested talent.
The worst thing to happen to comedy (besides Gallagher’s Sledge-O-Matic) was the sight of stand-ups apologizing for their jokes.
How depressing. It’s par for the comedy course all the same. Just ask Daniel Tosh. The uber-irreverent “Tosh.0” host offered up a tame apology after a single comedy club audience member complained about his rape joke.
National Lampoon types wouldn’t be caught dead apologizing for a bad joke. If the revived brand wants to stay true to its legacy it’ll tell comedy scolds to stuff it.