Yesterday’s Sunday New York Times piece by Jake Tapper about the continuing pattern of degradation for the National Lampoon “brand” had, of course, a familiar ring. The dumbing down of Lampoon-provided humor began 27 years ago with the success of National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and, at the command of thick-fingered-vulgarian publisher Matty Simmons, changing the long-since-disappeared magazine’s orientation from something to be savored by witty hipsters to one that was basically about hormones and getting laid. Tapper’s article starts by mentioning one of those celebrate-the-inner-gorilla recreational events for spring-breakers on South Padre Island, Texas, called the National Lampoon Greek Games. “Greek Games are part of what the new owners of National Lampoon Inc. are calling a resuscitation of an American comedic treasure,” Tapper writes. “But veterans of the original National Lampoon and others who were greatly influenced by it are horrified by the wet T-shirt contests and worse. The new efforts may, in some sense, revive National Lampoon, but in another sense, they show how one of the most ambitious and influential experiments in comedy — which began with a group of young geniuses sending up J. R. R. Tolkien (1969’s “Bored of the Rings”) — is ending with beer-soaked soft-core porn.” I wrote more or less the same piece in August ’03 when the 25th anniversary DVD of National Lampoon’s Animal House had just been released. That John Landis film “has long been celebrated for bringing a new fuck-all mood — ’60s juvenilia mixed with a kind of loutish, upfront randy-ness– to the Hollywood formula comedy, and for singlehandedly spawning the dim-bulb, horny-guy, getting-laid genre,” I wrote. “National Lampoon humor had once signified a very bright, wittily subversive kind of humor. After the movie it meant Bluto and beaver shots and a kind of stiff-banana attitude. I’m not saying the National Lampoon magazine was anything like Collier’s or The Atlantic. One of my all-time favorite pieces of fiction in that magazine was Chris Miller’s ‘First Blow Job.’ But it WAS Collier’s, in a way, compared to what the magazine became in the post-Animal House late ’70s, after Simmons decided to emphasize the oafish stuff that made the film so popular.” Here’s an excellent website about those early-to-mid ’70s National Lampoon issues called mark’sverylarge…extremely thorough, all the covers, etc.