National Lampoon was a groundbreaking American humor magazine which originated in 1970 as an offshoot of the Harvard Lampoon.
National Lampoon reached its height of success and popularity during the 1970s, selling over a million copies of one particular issue in 1974. The influence of the Lampoon and its other productions had a disproportionately far-reaching effect on American humor. Though the magazine is no longer in print, its comedic influence on a previous generation of writers and performers was seismic. For itself, the magazine spawned films, radio, live theatre, recordings and television comedy shows.
Parody of every kind was a mainstay of the Lampoon's format, but sick humor and surrealist humor were also central to its appeal. At its best, the humor was intelligent, imaginative, and cutting edge, and it often pushed far beyond the boundaries of what might (even now) be considered appropriate and acceptable. As co-founder Henry Beard described the experience years later, "There was this big door that said, 'Thou shalt not.' We touched it, and it fell off its hinges."
The magazine lost much of its vitality in the 1980s, was bought out by an unrelated company and kept barely alive during the 1990s, and ceased publication altogether in 1998.
The legal rights to the name National Lampoon have been bought and sold at least twice by companies completely unrelated to the original staff, and the name is now merely a licensed brand used to identify certain films, TV shows and other projects.