Almost all of these depressing and catastrophic developments were news to me. As I said earlier, in what has proved to be the most surprising frequent topic in this blog, I stopped paying much attention to the operation and its spin-offs after 1978 or so. (I’ve never even seen a “Vacation” movie since I regard Chevy Van Chaser as toxic unfunny.) But the NatLamp story is still enlightening on several levels.
One, in the contest to revive a once-notorious outsider magazine, Punk and CREEM now have to give up the Botch Crown to National Lampoon. Obviously no other publication has fallen as far or squandered so much energy.
Two, this is further confirmation of a most peculiar failure of understanding: reviving a brand is weak and lazy. It’s just throwing out an imitation. Inventing a hit brand is a lot harder, but the real task at hand.
Third, the piece touches on a crucial transformation: NatLamp started as a mixture of the subversive and the sophomoric. And it eventually went with the easier option. Part of that whole horrible wave where racist and sexist and generally bigoted humor was considered “bold” or “rule-breaking,” whereas the opposite type of satire was and is the tough way forward.
Yeh, I know — it’s cheap fun to satirize the squares and the Establishment. But those are extinct. The powerful and smug and cruel and hate-mongers and anti-thinkers are the targets of our time, and they can be fired upon.
Not tragic because these were all fellows of long careers and advanced years.
Nice Bob Weber tribute from David Sipress
Slightly odd earlier tribute from Mankoff (just let the reader decide if the work seems dated or not).
Even earlier non-tribute to William Hamilton.
I agree that Weber in particular was funny. Have to add that I think we will not see their like again because the single-panel magazine cartoonist gig does not draw on the same decent-sized talent pool it did 60 years ago.
From today’s NY Times. I think the guy was an absolute genius.
A bit before my time with the magazine, but I appreciate that he was that all-but-extinct breed: the fine artist who also excels at cartoons. He’s no Saul Steinberg (who is?), but I applaud his ability to make abstractions lively and witty and have fun with the long-vanished “controversy” of modern art.
For the first time probably ever, my Krazy Kat T (different color) looks kinda like its most famous incarnation (I bought the shirt years before the movie).
I may sometimes wish that the most mature parts of the Establishment as I knew it growing up were still around for corrective these days, but I don’t miss a particularly mild from of Establishment cartoon humor in the least. Frank Modell’s New Yorker spots and Mel Lazarus’s “Miss Peach” (“Mamma” was too one-note to be any good at all) provided the all-things-to-all-folk gags that were sure-fire nothingburgers. There were duller features. I always referred to “Fred Basset” as “Fred Bastard” to give it even a hint of spark, and thought a satire version where the dog rips the honky owner’s arm off was one of the best ever.
Yeah, no question, he invented the “New Yorker cartoon,” more or less. Also without question, he’s often not very funny a’tall. And the less said about his sexual humor, the better (though “Oh, grow up!” remains kinda amusing). His famous quip, “Back to the old drawing board” is both multi-situation useful, and even has bite with its original cartoon. To end on an inevitable down note, Arno’s most famous graphic — the guy drowning in his shower cabinet — is patently ridiculous: no shower door exists that can’t be instantly opened from the inside. But, gotta be said, he is right that, after you see the cartoon, the fantasy comes to you from time to time.