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Spit Take Saturday: That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick!

9780393074093_p0_v1_s260x420Welcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.” 

Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.

So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!

The cover of That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream, is a telling sign of just how much author Ellin Stein immersed herself in researching her new book. An illustration by longtime Lampoon artist Bruce McCall depicts a hand holding a skewer run through such figures as Santa Claus, an angel, the Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam and a panda bear. Stein respects her subject, internalizes and even admires it, though she is willing to break out the blade herself wherever necessary.

Comedy and culture make interesting dance partners. To what extent one influences or reflects the other is a fluid question. The founders—Henry Beard, Doug Kenney and Rob Hoffman—developed their taste for near all-encompassing rebellion at the Harvard Lampoon, which took a leap forward from its twee past during their tenure in the 60s. The output increased, and the humor changed. They found success parodying other media like Time, Life and especially Playboy. And the targets shifted. It was no longer the self-deprecating “me like a schmuck” attitude and more a cutthroat “you like a schmuck” mentality, as Stein points out. That fight against the accepted and the unquestioned carried over when National Lampoon started in 1970, and continued until Nixon left office and the counterculture seemed to have won. Then, sadly, it faded.

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