This is definitely a sad week for guys associated with the National Lampoon‘s heyday. Three days ago Ivan Reitman, whose first big score came from producing National Lampoon’s Animal House (’78), died in Montecito at age 75. And now P.J. O’Rourke, who served as editor-in-chief of the National Lampoon in the late ’70s and for many decades was one of HE’s favorite satirists and comic essayists, has passed from lung cancer at age 74.
I’ve been chuckling at the flip, iconoclastic, world-weary smirkings and pot-shots of P.J. O’Rourke since the mid ’70s — a long journey. I can’t think of another rightie libertarian whose stuff I’ve laughed at quite so often. Come to think of it I can’t think of another rightie libertarian whose stuff I’ve laughed at, period.
One way or another I’ve always been a fan of his material. (For the most part.) Mainly, I suppose, because O’Rourke was editor-in-chief at the National Lampoon during that legendary publication’s last decently creative period, or ’78 through ’80, and because I truly worshipped that mag back in the day so there’s a carry-over effect.
O’Rourke is the author of 16 satiric, smart-ass books (including last year’s “The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again),” which I haven’t yet read) and is currently a monthly columnist for the Daily Beast.
Two of my favorite O’Rourke books are “Holidays in Hell” and “Modern Manners“. I’ve also always loved the title of “Republican Party Reptile“, or more precisely the illustration of Dwight D. Eisenhower wearing a mohawk (which was dumped when O’Rourke’s publisher explained that relatively few targeted readers knew or cared who Eisenhower was). Honestly? I’ve never read “Republican Party Reptile”. No offense but why would I? I’m a leftie, and in some respects I’m selfish enough as it is.