Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead – Sundance 2015 Review

Written by ScottClark

For most people National Lampoon means Vacation and Animal House, two of the most important comedies to come out of the USA. Douglas Tirola’s documentary DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of the National Lampoon is an extraordinary look at the development of the institute from its low-budget satirical beginnings.

The most impressive aspect of Tirola’s work is hard to pin-point, is it the sheer honesty he coaxes from notoriously dickish comics? Is it thetrailer-for-the-national-lampoons-doc-drunk-stoned-brilliant-dead tidal wave of archive footage and behind the scenes photographs he manages to weave through this ingeniously constructed history? Perhaps the cameos from infamous US comedians- John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray to name a few. Perhaps it’s the way he manages to turn what’s essentially a biographic documentation into an advertisement for sheer absurdity and creative endeavour? No matter what, you’re going to leave DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD mourning a kind of inventive originality that will probably never be seen again. And that’s an important part of Tirola’s work; a kind of nostalgia-fringed cynicism that comes with the story of Lampoon genius Douglas Kenney and his death in the late 80’s.

A documentary about National Lampoon was always going to be a gut-wrenching exercise in hilarity, but this is ridiculous. The sheer volume of satirical cartoon and excerpts from stand-up is enough to fill hours of footage, add interviews and historical context and it’s a feature bursting at the seams with madcap genius. Joseph Krings and G. Jesse Martinez actualise a dream in terms of editing, stitching together all the pamphlets and sketches, the interviews and clips into a kind of tapestry of comic genius that will have you on the floor.

Witness the birth of a brand of comedy currently being pulverised by shitty repetition. Hear the first-hand accounts of this satirical frontline from the mouths of its founding fathers, see the enormous volume of still-scathing still-hilarious political parody that paved the way for countless activists and comedians alike. Douglas Tirola flaunts consummate skill as a documentarian and introduces the Lampoon to a generation that might very well be ignorant of its existence.

 

An incredible piece of work and the definitive history of the National Lampoon. But more, it’s a look at why comedy is important, where it comes from and where it could go, told through a rich variety of mediums and a candid collection of interviews with the heavy weights of, not simply the Lampoon but, contemporary comedy itself.

 

4/5

Scott Clark

Dir: Douglas Tirola

Stars:  Chevy Chase, Jud Apatow, Kevin Bacon, John Landis, John Belushi, Bill Murray

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