Bicentennial Burlesques, 1975-76 (and 2008)

Louis Glanzman’s portraits of Jefferson and Washington on Time‘s 1975-76 specials.

In addition to bringing tall ships and fireworks, the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 provided a perfect excuse to swell the nation’s small stock of 18th-century magazines. Time‘s special issues were the most impressive, representing two years work by 26 researchers and writers. “Independence,” dated July 4, 1776, came out in May 1975 with a vulpine Thomas Jefferson on the cover; it was sent to 4.7 million subscribers and sold 1.3 million copies on the stands. “The New Nation” did nearly as well a year later. Dated Sept. 26, 1789, it led with the start of George Washington’s administration and the passage of the Bill of Rights. Names making news in other sections include Adam Smith, Voltaire and Captain Bligh of H.M.S. Bounty. Though too straight-faced and factual to qualify as self-parodies, the past Times can’t help resembling souvenirs from an elaborate masquerade party.

National Lampoon‘s Hamilton had no use for “radical nonfenfe.”

The 199th Birthday Book (1975), a National Lampoon newsstand special edited by Tony Hendra, is not as overwhelming as NL‘s high-school yearbook and Sunday newspaper parodies, but it takes the same care with details and leaves few patriotic icons ungored. Its bogus artifacts include an 1876 Electoral College humor magazine, “The Spittoon,” and three pages of Kiplinger-style investment tips from a hard-nosed Alexander Hamilton unlikely to inspire any musicals.

Mock-colonial scenes by Norman Mingo and George Woodbridge in Madde (1976),

“Madde,” a 24-page, comic-book-size “Centennial Year [sic] Collectors’ Item” in Mad Special #19 (Fall 1976) subjects the whole Revolutionary era to the Usual Gang’s usual treatment. (I’m still not sure Dave Berg was entirely in on the joke when he did “The Lighter Side of Valley Forge.”) The Onion, founded twelve years after the Big Whoop, did its bit in 2008 with a 225-year old, eight-page issue dated October 6, 1783, early in the nation’s first post-war era. “40,000 Pounds of Slave Have Been Lost at Sea,” one headline announces — a bit of deadpan brutality worthy of the 1794 “New Times.” —VCR

The 1783 Onion (2008), with Ben’s latest brainstorms.

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Online: “The Washington Post,” 2019

Top of fake Post front page.

Very early edition of the May 1 “Washington Post,” on stands January 16, 2019.

Parody OfThe Washington PostTitle: “The Washington Post”
Parody By: Jacques Servin, L.A. Kauffman, Onnesha Roychoudhuri.
Date: May 1, 2019 (distributed Jan. 16, 2019). Format: Eight-page broadsheet.
Contributors: L.A. Kauffman, Onnesha Roychoudhuri, Jacques Servin, etc.
Availability: Online as a PDF here at my-washingtonpost.com.

How did I miss this? Back in January, protesters marked the second anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration by handing out 25,000 copies of an eight-page fake Washington Post at the White House and D.C.’s Union Station. Dated May 1 of this year, the ersatz “Post” foresees The Donald being driven from office by a wave of women-led demonstrations to the sound of worldwide rejoicing. There are a handful of copies on eBay, but you can read and download the whole thing at this link.

The stunt was conceived last summer by Jacques Servin, half of the anti-corporate performance duo known as The Yes Men, as a way to rally support for Trump’s impeachment. Other organizers included longtime activist L.A. Kauffman and Brooklyn writer Onnesha Roychoudhuri, who helped shift the focus toward mass action with a 16-page insert called “Bye-Bye: A Guide to Bringing Him Down.” Masha Gessen of newyorker.com calls it “maybe the best primer now available on understanding protest.”

Parodies of the New York Times, New York Post and Boston Globe.

The Yes Men’s “Times” (2008) and “New York Post” (2009), the Globe’s 2016 mock front.

The Yes Men did something similar right after Barack Obama’s election in 2008, distributing 80,000 copies of a fourteen-page “New York Times” dated July 4, 2009, seven months in the future. It proclaimed “Iraq War Ends” and basked in the dawn of a New Progressive Era. (It’s online here, see also Steve Lambert’s link-filled post.) The “Times” was followed in September 2009 by a less sanguine “New York Post” that gave climate change 32 pages of classic tabloid scare treatment (“We’re Screwed: What You’re Not Being Told”). The mock WaPo isn’t quite as breathless, but it does assume the Current Predicament can be popped like a soap bubble and leave no mess behind.

"Trump Time" cover, 2016This latest “Post” is the third recent parody set in a Trumpian near-future, after the Boston Globe‘s fake front page in April 2016 headlined “Deportations to Begin” (online here) and Hachette’s supposedly post-election “Trump Time” two months later. “Trump Time” authors Tom Connor and Jim Downey, best known for “Is Martha Stuart Living?,” state right off that their fake newsmag is “not intended to be anything but funny,” but that very shallowness makes it the scariest to reread. The whole joke in “Trump Time” is that “Donald K. [sic]  Trump” in the White House would be the same rudderless dirigible as ever and laughably miscast: Imagine a President putting grifters in the Cabinet! Stoking ethnic tensions! Bashing “Loser Countries I Can Bomb the S#!t Out Of!!” Gotta be a joke, right?  —VCR

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“A Word with Punch,” 1847

Word with Punch cover

Parody Of: Punch. Title: “A Word with Punch.” Date: November 11, 1847.
Parody By: Alfred Bunn. Format: 12-page magazine. Contributors: Albert Smith, Shirley Brooks, George Augustus Sala. Availability: Nowhere online;  held by the British Library and a few other collections.

Strange as it seems, the first (known) magazine parody was conceived not by professional humorists but by one of their victims. Punch’s first star writer, Douglas Jerrold, was nicknamed “the Little Wasp” for his stinging humor and slight frame. In 1843, he began skewering a flamboyant theatrical impresario named Alfred Bunn, whom he called “the Poet Bunn” for his supposed literary pretensions. Jerrold never explained why Bunn was chosen, but for four years Punch ridiculed his productions, his management of Drury Lane and Covent Garden theaters and, especially, his 1846 breach-of-contract suit against soprano Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale.”

Bunn in Punch, 1845

“The Poet Bunn” seen by Punch, Oct. 11, 1845.

In October, a fed-up Bunn met with editor Albert Smith and writer Shirley Brooks of The Man in the Moon, a year-old humor monthly, who had their own quarrels with Punch. With another Moon man, George Augustus Sala, they created a twelve-page “squib” that turned the tables on Bunn’s chief tormentors at the magazine: Jerrold, editor Mark Lemon and writer Gilbert á Beckett. “A Word with Punch” isn’t an exact replica — there’s no political cartoon and too little art in general — but it’s close enough to make browsers look twice. It’s about the size and heft of Punch, with the same two-column format and the same price, three pence. The cover blares the word “Punch” in the real thing’s distinctive lettering below the much smaller “A Word with.” Below that, Mr. Punch stands glumly in a pillory amid discarded toys resembling his contributors while dog Toby hangs from a gallows.

Fake Warren's Blacking ad from A Word with Punch

A fake ad twists Lemon.

On the back, a parody of the famous Warren’s Blacking ad shows Lemon reflected as an ass; another ad offers old issues of Punch “in any quantity, and at any price, on the premises.” Inside are several columns of Punch-like anecdotes, puns and poems, but the heart is Bunn’s seven-page takedown of Jerrold, Lemon and á Beckett, called “Wronghead,” “Thickhead” and “Sleekhead” respectively. With relish and in detail, he exhumes their many theatrical flops, reprints their favor-begging correspondence and nit-picks their verse for faulty images, a blood sport back then. He calls Lemon “The Literary Pot-Boy” because he once ran a tavern. After quoting a bankruptcy petition from 1834 listing thirteen(!) failed magazines á Beckett had owned or edited, he tut-tuts:

Editor of thirteen periodicals and lessee of a theatre into the bargain! And all total failures! Poetry, prose, wit, humour, conceit, slander, sarcasm, and every order of ribaldry going for nothing! Where has been the public taste? – the people ought really to be ashamed of themselves for persisting in not buying so much genuine genius!

Caricatures of three Punch men

Mr. Punch’s “puppets” in Bunn’s parody.

He grudgingly acknowledges Jerrold’s “infinite ability” before calling him “one of the most ill-conditioned, spiteful, vindictive and venomous writers in existence. … [W]hatever honey was in his composition has long since turned to gall.” After all that, speaking directly to Punch, he warns:

In carrying out the purport of this little squib, I have confined myself … to matters of a literary nature…. Your puppets, who have assailed, ridiculed and caricatured me for years, without any reason whatever, will not … abandon this branch of their trade now that I have given them reason…. In that case, I am prepared to pay back any compliment I receive with the highest rate of interest allowed by law, and shall let you, and perhaps them, into a secret or two worth knowing.

Ever the showman, Bunn had 10,000 handbills printed to promote the parody and arranged for national distribution. It appeared on November 11 and may have sold as many as 6,000 copies.

Real Punch covers from the 1840s

Richard Doyle’s 1846 and 1847 Punch covers; the latter was used until 1956.

The response from Punch was … silence, at least in print, though there were reports of staff being dispatched to buy up all the copies of “A Word with Punch” they could locate. The attacks on Bunn ceased immediately and were never renewed, and the “secret or two” he claimed to know stayed secret; one Punch biographer called it “the only defeat of its kind in the magazine’s history.” As a bonus, two months later the courts ruled for Bunn against Jenny Lind, who had to pay him £2,000 damages. — VCR

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Online: Punch’s “Time,” 1960

Punch Time, cover.

Parody Of: Time. Title: “Time.” In: Punch, December 14, 1960.
Length: 10 pages, 2 in color. Contributors: Norman Mansbridge, William Hewison (art); no writer credits. Availability: Online right here; print copies scarce but findable.

Punch cover, December 13, 1960

Punch, 12/14/60

Here’s a last-minute Christmas present — all 10 pages of Punch magazine’s 1960 parody of Time. Though it was founded in 1841, Punch didn’t really go in for parodying other publications until Malcolm Muggeridge was editor in 1953-1957. The first and most famous spoof during his tenure was “The N*w Y*rk*r” (April 7, 1954), an eight-page payback for a mauling Harold Ross and Co. had administered two decades before (see “Paunch,” in the Jan. 13, 1934, New Yorker). Other 1950s targets included Radio Times, Reader’s Digest and Soviet humor magazine Krokodil.

Punch Time, pages 2 and 3

“Time” was the only feature-length magazine parody to appear under Muggeridge’s successor, Bernard Hollowood (editor 1958-1968). The next editor, William Davis (1969-1977), on the other hand, presided over a string of spoofs including Playboy (1971), Cosmopolitan (1972) and the Sunday Express newspaper (1973). Later editors seem to have lost interest in the concept, though I confess I haven’t looked at every issue.

Punch Time, pages 4 and 5.

Punch’s parody appeared just before the sea-change called The Sixties began to erode the self-confidence of Time Inc. and other pillars of the Establishment. It’s now a kind of time capsule itself, mocking the casual superiority, breezy omnipotence and unashamed biases of a major journalistic institution at the height of its power and influence. —VCR

Punch Time, pages 6 and 7

 

Punch Time, pages 8, 9 and 10

 

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Playboy Parodies 3: Foreign, 1963-2017

Lawboy coverPlayboy has launched dozens of international editions since 1972, but only a handful of foreign parodists have returned the favor. In 1963, students at Toronto’s Queens University Law School put out a 12-page tabloid called “Lawboy.” A collection of local in-jokes printed on newsprint and seemingly laid out at random, “Lawboy” barely qualifies as a Playboy parody, but it deserves a nod as the first to circulate entirely outside the U.S.

French-language Montreal humor magazines Croc and Safarir spoofed Playboy with more panache in 1990 and 2001, respectively. Croc’s 15-page “Playbec” offered an unclothed Jessica Rabbit and an exclusive interview with the Holy Trinity (two-upping 1983’s “Playbore,” which had only Jesus). Safarir’s self-titled spoof began on the back cover with buxom singer-actress Annie Dufresne crossing her eyes behind a feather boa; she also starred in the interview-pictorial that filled six of the feature’s 12 inside pages.

Playboy parodies from Montreal's Croc and Safarir

Toontown’s Jessica Rabbit and Montreal’s Annie Dufresne in Croc and Safarir.

Munich writer Hans Gamber self-published more than a dozen full-length magazine and newspaper parodies in Germany in the 1980s and early ’90s, beginning with a 1984 takeoff of Playboy’s German edition called “Playbock” (literally, “play-buck,” i.e., play money). His later targets ranged from Der Spiegel to the Asterix books; the former grumbled about trademark infringement, the latter took him to court over it and won. Gamber’s last magazine parody in 1992 was a second “Playbock,” notably thinner and less polished than the first. Both mixed original content with translated pieces from U.S. humor mags, including National Lampoon and 1983’s dueling Playboy parodies. Not one to waste material, Gamber later mined “Playbock” and his other men’s mag spoofs for a best-of collection cleverly called “Playback.”

Playbyte in NatLamp and Playbock 2

NatLamp‘s 1988 “Playbyte” and its German reprint in 1992’s “Playbock.”

“Wookieerotica,” from Australia, is a thick, perfect-bound “1970s style men’s magazine” from the Star Wars universe that doubles as souvenir program for a similarly themed burlesque show. The stripping was originally a sideline to the parody: “Since we were creating the costumes [for the magazine photos], we thought we’d put on a one-night show for a hundred of our friends and fans,” director/editor Russall S. Beattie told the Huffington Post’s David Moye in 2018. Star Wars Burlesque debuted in 2011 and instantly sold out; a revised and expanded version has since made five Australian tours and been seen by more than 50,000 people. This past summer, the company made its U.S. debut with a new edition called “The Empire Strips Back.”

Pages from Wookieerotica

Fur, girls, girls and more fur in “Wookieerotica.”

The show’s success slowed work on the magazine, but Sydney publisher Giant Panda King finally issued “Wookieerotica” in 2017 for $50 Australian ($36 U.S.). What that buys is easily the best-looking fake men’s mag ever published; over half the pages are artistic studies of the show’s performers waving lightsabers, posing nude in Admiral Ackbar masks and suchlike fan service. The ads for fake products like Imperial Strike cigarettes and Smirhoth vodka are well-observed, droll and deadpan.

Playboy was the pinup magazine of the ’70s and I wanted that,” Beattie told HuffPo. “I wanted the articles, I wanted ads, I wanted the reviews. Now we took that, and we parodied Playboy just as much as Star Wars.” Actually, there’s very little Playboy in “Wookieerotica” beyond a few borrowed phrases and an eye for female beauty. Most of the regular columns and features are absent; those that remain look more like standard Upscale Magazine Design than anything specific to Playboy or the 1970s. Significantly, “Wookieerotica” is plastered with disclaimers that it’s “not sponsored, endorsed by, or affiliated with” anything connected to Lucasfilm or Disney. There’s nothing similar about Playboy, nor does there need to be.      — VCR

Playboy Parodies, Part III: Foreign

A. Canada
“Lawboy,” Queens University Law School, Toronto, March 1963 (16)
“The Best of Playboar,” Razorback Press, Toronto, 1984 (64 + 4)
—— [reprint], Firefly Books, Willowdale, Ont., 1996 (64 + 4)
“Playbec,” in Croc, Montreal, Dec. 1990 (15)
“Safarir,” in Safarir, Montreal, Aug. 2001 (12 + 2c)
“The Very Best of Playboar: Special Edition,” Playboar Press, 2018 (84 + 4)

B. Great Britain
“Pl*yb*y” (for July 2078), in Punch, July 13, 1966 (4)
“Punch Goes Playboy,” Punch, Nov. 10, 1971 (34 + 4)

C. Germany
“Playbock,” by Hans Gamber, et al., MAYA Verlag, Munich, Winter 1984/85 (106)
“Playbock,” by Hans Gamber, et al., SAGA Verlag, Munich, 1992 (68)

D. Australia
“Wookieerotica,” by Russall S. Beattie, et al., Giant Panda King, Sydney, 2017

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Playboy Parodies 2: U.S. Newsstands, 1957-2018

Seven Playboy parody covers

Two competing Playboy parodies; three inside other mags; two from foreign parts.

(This is the second of a now three-part series on Playboy parodies. The first dealt with college parodies; the next will cover parodies circulated outside the U.S.)

Unlike their college brethren, commercial publishers in the 1950s and ’60s showed little interest in parodying Playboy. Theft was another matter: As long as Playboy’s sales kept climbing, rivals tried to duplicate its appeal. The last and most blatant imitation was Ronald Fenton and F. Lee Bailey’s Gallery, which debuted in November 1972, the same month Playboy sold a record 7.2 million copies. Gallery aped Playboy down to the length of the title (precisely seven letters) but succumbed to sleazery within a year or so.

Cover and pages of Plowboy

Cover, ad and bachelor pad from “Plowboy.”.

The outlier was “Plowboy,” issued in 1957 by an obscure outfit in Manhattan called Bannister Publishing. “Plowboy” was the only non-college Playboy parody of the ’50s and the only one before the Harvard Lampoon’s 1966 “Pl*yb*y” with wide distribution. It acknowledges the real thing’s chief Selling Points in a dozen pages of photo-agency cheesecake, though there’s no full nudity and the “Plowmate” is a pencil drawing. The standout piece is a four-page tour of “Plowboy’s Platinum Hayloft” worthy of a funnier and subtler magazine.

Pages from Mad's Playkid

A peek at “Playkid,” Mad #61 (March 1961).

Treating the Playboy fetish for brand names and status as literally childish, Larry Siegel and Bob Clarke put more satiric bite in the seven pages of Mad’s “Playkid” than there are in all of “Plowboy.” There’s nothing smutty or suggestive, Mad being famously prudish in that regard, but the very premise of “Playkid” is radioactive today and may have prompted second thoughts even in 1961: As far as I know it’s never been reprinted.

Pages from parodies in Sick and Cracked

Pallid parodies from Sick (June 1965) and a Cracked special (1968).

Mad wannabes Cracked and Sick also tackled Playboy in the ’60s. “Boysplay,” a 16-page, comic book-size bonus in Biggest Greatest Cracked #4, is touted as a “Lampoon Edition of Playboy” on the cover but looks more like a fast-food giveaway and can’t articulate its own premise, if it has one. Sick’s “Playbore” is the skeleton of a comic idea fleshed out with two-line jokes and slapdash art. Both make excellent arguments for ignoring Cracked and Sick.

Pages from Punch's U.S. Playboy

Hefner, Punch editor William Davis and Trog’s foldout; William Hewison aping Arnold Roth.

“Punch Goes Playboy,” with Norwegian actress-model Julie Ege on the cover, took up most of the English weekly’s November 10, 1971, issue and was reprinted in the U.S. the next fall with different ads and a 75-cent cover price. Trog’s four-page caricature of a nude Hugh Hefner is the visual highlight of both editions, which otherwise suffer from murky printing and lack of color. The writing, by contrast, is dead-on, nailing Playboy’s weakness for deep-sounding thumbsuckers (“Pollution and the Post-Vietnam Ghetto Interface,” by “Dr. Morton Krimhoretz, Ph.D., Jr.”) and workaholic Hefner’s pose as a carefree hedonist: “After a hectic day’s counting,” says one caption, “our November Playmate relaxes among his matchless collection of early American balance sheets.”

Pages from Playdead, 1973

Pages from NatLamp’s “Playdead,” Jan. 1973.

Harvard’s 1966 “Pl*yb*y” was a giant step on the road to National Lampoon, which tried to duplicate the earlier book’s success by running a centerfold parody in its very first issue. (Alas, the result was an unsexy, out-of-focus mess.) NatLamp tackled Playboy twelve times between 1970 and 1988 — more than any other publication — but the pièce de résistance was “Playdead” in the January 1973 “Death” number. Visually, “Playdead” is impeccable, from the Possum logo in the cufflinks ad to Warren Sattler’s full-color fakes of cartoonists Dedini, ffolkes, Buck Brown and John Dempsey. What’s almost shocking, and all the funnier for it, is how natural Playboy’s vision of airbrushed perfection looks in a mortuary. Unafraid of either bad taste (the Interviewee was newly dead Bonanza actor Dan Blocker, silent throughout) or puns like “Playmort of the Month,” “Playdead” is one of NatLamp’s greatest parodies. The mag turned to Playboy more and more as its creative juices dried up, spoofing single features and grinding out formulaic editions for gun lovers and computers.

Covers of semi- and non-parodies.

Semi-sorta spoofs from Howard the Duck and Wings flank covers that promise but don’t deliver from Laffboy and Bleep; below: “Laffboy” pages, Crazy and Girls & Corpses.

The only other publication to run multiple Playboy parodies was Playboy itself, with samples of four unlikely new editions I’ve written about here. Marvel’s Howard the Duck magazine (1981) promised a parody on its covers but followed through with eight vaguely Playboy-looking pages wedged between its usual black-and-white comics. Crazy (1974) and ultra-niche quarterly Girls & Corpses (2011) were even lazier, promising parodic goodies on their covers they failed to deliver inside. Ditto the two issues of Laffboy (1965) and one-shot Bleep (1974), oversized pulps with tired gags and bubble-captioned photo trying to pass as sophisticated satire. They’re mentioned here mainly as a warning. New-Age satire sheet Wings tried harder, devoting about a third of its March-April 1979 issue to “Playwings,” but most of the parody was typical Wings content poured into a barely modified layout; like “Playduck,” it failed to sweat the details.

Annie Fanny spoof from 73 magazine

Wayne Pierce’s ham-flavored tribute to Annie Fanny in “73” (1966).

73 Magazine was a technical monthly for ham radio buffs that ran from 1960 to 2003. Founder Wayne Green had soft spot for parody, and in April 1966 he ran a Playboy-like cover by reader Wayne Pierce, a high-school art teacher in Kansas City. Pierce also did four of the parody’s five inside pages, including a takeoff of “Little Annie Fanny” set in the world of ham radio obsessives. Pierce was no threat to Will Elder in the art department, but he’d obviously studied Harvey Kurtzman’s page layouts and storytelling rhythm; the fact that his hobby-specific jokes will sound like gibberish to most current readers is a surrealistic bonus.

Ironically, National Lampoon’s decline overlapped with the Great Parody Boom of the ’80s, whose harbingers were NL’s own “Dacron Republican-Democrat” in February 1978 and former NL editor Tony Hendra’s “Not The New York Times” that October. They were followed by scores of parodies of newspapers and magazines, including two of Playboy, one edited by Hendra, the other by his former collaborator Robert Vare.

Hendra and Vare had worked together on “NTNYT” and jointly edited the first “Off The Wall Street Journal,” which sold 350,000 copies in 1982 but showed only a tiny profit. After the two parted ways, Vare founded American Parody & Travesty Co. to produce a series of one-shot spoofs starting with “Playbore,” while Hendra became creative director on “Playboy: The Parody” for TSM Publishing, an offshoot of a marketing firm cofounded by former NatLamp publisher Gerald Taylor. Hendra recruited old associates David Kaestle, Danny Abelson and Rick Meyerowitz for “PTP,” which had led some sources to mislabel it an official National Lampoon publication. In fact, at least as many NL vets worked on “Playbore,” including Chris Miller, Jeff Greenfield and Ellis Weiner. (Bruce McCall somehow got into both.) George Plimpton, Roy Blount Jr., and soon-to-be Spy founders Kurt Andersen and Graydon Carter also had a hand in “Playbore,” while “PTP’s” stable included writer David Owen and Items From Our Catalog creator Alfred Gingold.

Three pages from Playbore

“Playbore” features, including a jab at Hef’s rivals Larry Flynt and Bob Guccione (center).

“Playbore” hit the stands in late September, two months before its rival, but in most respects “Playboy: The Parody” came out slightly ahead. It cost a dollar more, carried 29 pages of real ads to “Playbore’s” six, and better captured the look and tone of Playboy circa 1983, likely because it gained Hefner’s approval and used several of his photographers and models. Not surprisingly, it treated Hef and his empire relatively gently, while “Playbore” made running jokes of “Hugh M. Hepner’s” galloping senility, shrinking assets and eyebrow-raising decision to turn the business over to his daughter — a step the real Hefner had taken the year before. Its foldout showed “Crispie Hepner” lounging in a soapy bath as a certain pipe-smoking editor-publisher massaged her shoulders. “Playboy: The Parody” countered with a full-frontal fake of Princess Diana, which prompted a boycott by distributors in the U.K.

Four pages from Playboy the Parody

DIY pinups, Bruce McCall’s cars, JFK in ’63 and Annie as Grannie in “Playboy: The Parody.”

Sales of both parodies were good but not spectacular. Early on, Vare predicted “Playbore” might sell over a million copies; results were closer to 750,000. Taylor initially hoped “Playboy: The Parody” would do better than the Harvard Lampoon’s “Cosmopolitan,” which had sold a record 1.2 million copies in 1972, but TSM never announced final numbers; press runs for its later spoofs, including “Cosmoparody” (1984) and “Parody People” (1986), were around 750,000 copies each.

U.S. parodists mostly abandoned Playboy after ’83, as did many readers — circulation fell by a third during the 1980s — but Canada’s Thomas Hagey struck gold in 1984 with “The Best of Playboar,” a porcine entry in the then-hot subgenre of parodies starring animals. Hagey (pronounced “haig-y,” not “hoggy,” unfortunately) grew up on a pig farm in Kitchener, Ontario, and quit school after 10th grade. In 1977 he founded Playboar as a semi-serious annual for swine breeders, “about two-thirds information, like how to pick a good pig or what to do about nipple problems, and about one-third humor,” he told the Chicago Tribune. A switch to quarterly publication in 1980 didn’t work out, so he closed the mag and moved to Toronto. There he and editor Chris Lowry rendered Playboar’s six issues into a 56-page greatest-hits collection, which was issued simultaneously or thereabouts in Canada and the U.S. in 1984.

Three pages from "Playboar"

“Playboar’s” contents page and Littermate Taffy Lovely.

Disappointingly, “The Best of Playboar” bears little resemblance to Hefner’s vision — and not just because its cover girl/Littermate’s measurements are 24-26-22. In fact, the pictorial on fetching Taffy Lovely is one of the few features that follows Playboy’s format closely. Most other pages would look just at home in Self or Us or any other ’80s title with colorful text blocks and off-kilter photos. In contrast, Hagey and Lowry’s full-page ads for “Benson & Hedgehogs,” “Mudweiser” and other accoutrements of fine swine living are accurate to the last detail. Maybe, not having sought the Big Bunny’s approval, they decided to steer wide of trespassing on any trademarks.

And maybe more readers are into pigs than parody: When first published, “The Best of Playboar” sold some 300,000 copies. Reprints pushed total sales over a million, making “BoP” the best-selling Playboy parody ever. This past June, Hagey published an enlarged edition in Canada, “The Very Best of Playboar,” bringing swinish behavior into the Age of Weinstein and Trump.

The following census is divided into two categories: issue-length newsstand specials (all at least 40 pages long), and shorter features in other publications. Cover-only and single-article parodies are so marked; as are the dates on parodies of back issues. Each listing contains the work’s title (in quotes), publisher or publication, date and page count (in parentheses). Stand-alone parodies that don’t count covers as pages are marked “+ 4.”

Playboy Parodies II: On U.S. Newsstands, 1957-2018

A. Stand-alone Parodies:

“Plowboy.” Bannister Publications, Spring 1957 (48 + 4)
“Punch Goes Playboy.” [reprint of 1971 U.K. parody with new ads]. Punch, 1972 (44 + 4)
“Playbore.” American Travesty and Parody, Fall 1983 (98)
“Playboy: The Parody.” Taylor-Shain Media, Winter 1984 (102 + 4)
—–. partly reprinted in What a Pair, Taylor-Shain Media, 1985 (40 + 38 pages of TSM’s “Cosmoparody”)
“The Best of Playboar,” by Thomas Hagey. Day Dream Publishing, Santa Barbara, Cal., 1984 (56 + 4)
—–. Firefly Books (U.S.) Inc., Buffalo, N.Y., 1996 (56 + 4)
“The Very Best of Playboar: Special Hardcover Edition,” by Thomas Hagey. Playboar Publishing, 2018 (84) [available in the U.S. on Kindle]

Four parodies from Esquire and National Lampoon

Single-feature spoofs from Esquire (1965, 1969) and National Lampoon (both 1982)

B. Parodies in Magazines:

“Playkid,” Mad #61, March 1961 (7)
“Laffboy,” KMR Publications, Feb. 1965 (COVER ONLY)
“Laffboy,”KMR Publications, Apr. 1965 (COVER ONLY)
“Playbore,” Sick, June 1965 (12)
“I, Playboy, take thee, Reader’s Digest…,” Esquire, Aug. 1965 (1)
73 magazine cover“73,” 73 Magazine, April 1966 (5 + 1)
“Boysplay,” Biggest, Greatest Cracked #4, 1968 (16)
“Liberated Front,” National Lampoon [article], April 1970 (8)
“Esquire Interview: Hugh M. Hefner” [article], Esquire, Dec. 1970 (3+)
“Gamma Hutch: The Playboy Fallout Shelter” (Dec. 1958) [article], National Lampoon, April 1972 (4)
“Playdead,” National Lampoon, Jan. 1973 (14)
“Bleep,” Bleep Publications, 1974 (COVER ONLY)
“Playboy” [obscured], Crazy #10, April 1975 (COVER ONLY)
“Playboy [in Cyrillic]: New Soviet Edition,” Playboy, Jan. 1977 (7)
“Playwings,” Wings, March/April 1979 (20? + 1)
“Playboy: New Chinese Edition,” Playboy, Sept. 1979 (7)
“Playduck,” Howard the Duck magazine #4, March 1980 (8 + 1)
“Parents of the Girls of the Eastwest Conference” [article], National Lampoon, Feb. 1982 (2)
“The Playboy Advisor” [article], National Lampoon, Feb. 1982 (1)
“Dear Playmates” [article], National Lampoon, June 1983 (1)
“Playboy” (November 1963), in “Playboy: The Parody,” Winter 1984 (15 + 1-page intro)
“Prayboy: Entertainment for Far-Righteous Men,” Playboy, Dec. 1984 (8)
“Slayboy,” National Lampoon, Dec. 1985 (8)
“Playbyte,” National Lampoon, Feb. 1988 (10)
“Feminist Party Jokes” [article], National Lampoon, March 1986 (1)
“Interview: Steven Spielberg” [article], National Lampoon, Aug. 1986 (3+)
“Playboy” (Jan. 1000 A.D.), Playboy, Jan. 2000 (4)
“Girls & Corpses,” issue # 5, Spring 2011 (COVER ONLY)

— VCR (updated 12/11/18)

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Playboy Parodies 1: College, 1955-1989

Twelve collegiate Playboy parodies.

Parodies by Penn State Froth, Harvard Lampoon, Clemson Chronicle, NYU Vulture, MIT Voo Doo, Purdue Engineer, Purdue Rivet, Cal Pelican, Annapolis Log, Tulane Urchin, Amherst Sabrina, West Point Pointer.

Parodies of Playboy fall roughly into two groups and two eras: those created by college students, mostly in the 1950s and ’60s, and those done by commercial publishers, mostly in the ’70s and ’80s. The catalyst for the shift was the Harvard Lampoon’s “Pl*yb*y,” a glossy, 102-page spoof that sold more than half a million copies in the fall of 1966. Its production values — including a full-color centerfold of a real, live naked lady — were impressive enough to discourage most amateurs, while its success on newsstands showed the pros there were Big Bucks to be had from this parody thing. This post deals with ersatz Playboys produced at U.S. colleges and universities; the next will tackle commercial and foreign specimens.

Illinois Chaff, 1958.

In its 20th Anniversary issue, Playboy boasted of being “parodied more often than any other magazine in the world.” I’m not sure that’s true (see here), but there’s no question it was the most parodied magazine on campus from its birth in 1953 until the Lampoon shattered the backboard in ’66. “Every year college publications across the nation issue one best issue, … usually a parody of a national magazine,” the Illinois Chaff said in 1958. “When the artists and writers of Chaff looked around for a publication to parody, they didn’t have to look far. Leading the newsstand derby by miles was a publication which college men use as a yardstick of sophistication and urban living.”

The attraction ran both ways: Playboy founder Hugh Hefner had edited Chaff in the late ’40s, and his new magazine — with its cartoons, girls of the month, and focus on liquor, love and laughs — was in many ways a college humor mag writ large. Not too large, however: A typical Playboy from the mid-’50s had fewer than 80 pages, used color sparingly and carried little advertising. A talented college staff could produce a pretty good likeness, which wasn’t the case with Esquire or Life or the Ladies’ Home Journal — or Playboy itself a few years later.

Cover of 1955 Arizona Playgirl

Arizona Kitty Kat, 1955.

From the start, Playboy had a soft spot for parodies. The Arizona Kitty Kat’s April 1955 “Playgirl,” which may have been the first, opened by thanking Playboy for permission to copy its format and style, a favor later extended to dozens of campus copycats. Playboy gave the Lampoon so much help with “Pl*yb*y” it was practically a co-publisher: “We cold-called Hefner to ask his permission,” the Lampoon’s Henry Beard recalled. “Not only does he say he’d love to have it parodied, but he says, ‘I’ll arrange for you to use my printing plant. I will tell them that you’re solid citizens. And all you guys have to do is make sure you get signatures from some of your rich graduates on the bill to make sure we don’t get stiffed.’”

Such help carried a few strings: “We must be afforded the opportunity to review the layout and art work of the cover in final form so that we can be certain that the parody will not be confused with the real McCoy,” Playboy’s William M. Klein wrote the Lampoon, adding that the parody should “maintain the standards heretofore evidenced by products of the Harvard Lampoon. It is only because of our high regard for your standards that the permission which you have requested is being granted. We would not wish material from the parody reprinted in non-prestigious or competitive publications.”

Cover and pages from Yale's 1958 Ployboy

Cover girl for “Ployboy” was Yale Drama student Carrie Nye, who also graced an inside feature.

Most of the early parodies are pure emulation, sometimes with a twist. Three are called “Playgirl” and display men dressed either scantily or to the nines. The former are usually hairy and unkempt and not at all sexy. (Sometimes the only way to get skin past a censor is to play it for laughs.) Elsewhere, centerfolds ranged from rag dolls to rabbits; those that featured actual women tended to display them either clothed or carefully cropped. The left third of Chaff’s “Payboy” foldout showed an attractive model’s legs; readers who opened it found a black rectangle blocking the rest of her. The Yale Record’s 1958 “Ployboy” replaced most of its centerfold with a (genuine?) letter from the printer explaining that plates for a three-page, full-color photo would cost a budget-busting $1,480.

Cover and three pages from Texas Ranger's 1963 Playbull

Gilbert Shelton spoofed Annie Fanny and Jules Feiffer in the Texas Ranger’s 1963 “Playbull.”

The Record was one of several college comics to spoof Playboy twice, but the most prolific parodist wasn’t a magazine but a yearbook. In 1959, the editors of La Ventana at Texas Tech split its contents into eight separately printed sections made up to resemble popular magazines and packaged them in a three-ring binder: “Tyme” focused on the year’s major events, “Mademoiselle” on sororities, and so on, with “Playboy” handling social life and fraternities. A few titles changed over the years, but “Playboy” was in the mix every year through 1973, when the format was dropped. La Ventana’s “Playboys” were about 10 percent parody and 90 percent standard yearbook, but what little spoofing they did, they did well, especially the covers and foldouts.

Covers and foldouts from three yearbooks.

Yearbook pinups from South Carolina (1974), Kansas Med School (1969) and Texas Tech (1969).

The same is true of the Garnet and Black at the University of South Carolina, which picked up the parody torch from Texas Tech. Its 1974 and ’75 editions spoofed eight mags including National Lampoon, Ms. and Southern Living. The G&B called its version of Playboy “Carolinamen,” possibly to avoid riling local bluenoses, but the resemblance was unmissable. The 1969 Jayhawker M.D., a.k.a. “Playdoc,” from the Kansas Med School is the only attempt I know of to extend a Playboy spoof through an entire yearbook. Its 200-plus pages featured two foldouts, one of which could almost pass for the real thing (above).

Addis apes Wilson in “Peelboy.”

The best of the collegiate parodies mocked the Playboy lifestyle even as they copied it. “We considered ourselves serious satirists with a sense of fun, not just naughty fellows,” recalled Frank Stack, who edited the Texas Ranger’s second parody in 1963. “[We] aspired to the kind of authoritative satire of the New Yorker and Punch, rather than the sophomoric tone of Playboy.” Stack (a.k.a. “Foolbert Sturgeon”) and Wonder Wart-Hog creator Gilbert Shelton gave the Ranger’s takeoff some of the sass and irreverence they brought to underground comics. Their “Playbull,” the UCLA Satyr’s 1964 “Preyboy” (edited by Harry Shearer) and the Lampoon’s “Pl*yb*y” are the most fun to reread today. Highlights elsewhere include Don Addis’s cartoons in the Florida Orange Peel’s “Peelboy,” the photobombed fashion spread in the Cal Pelican’s “Peliboy,” and the backtalk to the Playboy Advisor in the Amherst Sabrina’s “Playboy” — which somehow got away with not altering the name.

Not everyone appreciated these homages. Administrators found the Wisconsin Octopus’s 1959 “Blayboy” so offensive they made it Octy’s last issue. The Stanford Chaparral and its grad-student editor Bradley Efron were both suspended over 1961’s “Layboy,” the editor for two quarters, the mag indefinitely. “They got me on sacrilege,” Efron said then. “The thing that did it was a Ribald Classic version of the Nativity. The University was flooded with protests from the local clergy. … It was my first issue. It was a little dirty, but no dirtier than previous issues. We sold about twice as many issues as usual, though. You can’t get anybody to part with his copy now.” Fortunately, both magazine and editor were back by the end of the year; Efron eventually became Professor of Statistics at Stanford and in 1983 was awarded a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.

The most recent kerfuffle came in 1989, when the Log at the U.S. Naval Academy put out a “Playmid” that featured midshipmen’s girlfriends in bathing suits. Decrying “sexual stereotyping,” Academy superintendent Virgil Hill Jr. ordered all 5,000 copies destroyed. About a hundred weren’t, and one made its way to Playboy, which reprinted excerpts in September 1989. “Destroy 5,000 copies, end up with 18,000,000 readers,” Playboy wrote. “That’s the lesson in censorship.” The Log may have learned a different lesson: There had been at least three previous parodies of Playboy at Annapolis, but there hasn’t been one since.

Nor has there been one anywhere else, as far as I’ve found. Apart from the Lampoon, few current college mags have the money or resources to parody slick national magazines. Even if they did, they wouldn’t target Playboy, which now has one-tenth its 1970s circulation and hasn’t been a yardstick of sophistication for decades.

Covers of 6 Playboy parodies

Pseudo Playboys from Texas (1956), Florida (1959), Wisconsin (1959); Stanford (1961), U. Mass-Amherst (1964) and UCLA (1964); at right, the covers they copied.

This inventory is surely incomplete, but it contains all the college parodies of Playboy I know of. (For some, their existence is all I know of.)  I’ve tried to include school name, parody-issuing publication (in italics), parody title (in quotes), date and page count (in parentheses) in each listing. Parodies that don’t include front and back covers in their page numbering are marked “+ 4.” (FYI, the “+ 8” for the 1958 “Ployboy” isn’t a typo; it was distributed behind a second cover that bore the Yale Record nameplate, presumably to pacify the Post Office.) All parodies are issue-length except the Hofstra Nonsense’s five-page “Playdoh” in 1988 and two articles in the Cal Pelican (1965) and Northwestern Rubber Teeth (1980). As always, I’d welcome additions and corrections.

Playboy Parodies I: College, 1955-1989

A. By Magazines

Princeton's 1955 Placebo.

Princeton Tiger, 1955.

1950s:
Princeton Tiger: “Placebo,” 1955
Arizona Kitty Kat: “Playgirl,” April 1955 (36 pages)
Oregon State Beaver Dam: “Beaver Dam,” Dec. 1955 (28)
Indiana Crimson Bull: “Playbull,” March 1956 (28)
Texas Ranger: “Playgirl,” March 1956 (36 + 4)
Penn State Froth: “Playgirl,” April 1956 (64)
Tulane Urchin: “Gayboy,” c. 1956-57
Babson Inst. Beaver: “Playbeaver,” c. 1956-58
Cornell Widow: “Play Boy,” Dec. 1957 (36)
Yale Record: “Ployboy,” Feb. 1958 (86 + 8)
Ohio U. Green Goat: “Pla_boy,” March 1958 (40)
Illinois Chaff: “Payboy,” May 1958 (32 + 4)
NYU Vulture: “Payboy,” [spring] 1959
Annapolis LogSplinter: “Playbouy,” April 10, 1959
Florida Orange Peel: “Peelboy,” May 1959 (44 + 4)
Wisconsin Octopus: “Blayboy,” May 1959

1960s:
Penn State Froth: “Playboy,” April 1961 (38 + 4)
Amherst Sabrina: “Playboy,” May 1961 (24 + 4)
Stanford Chaparral: “Layboy,” June 1961 (60 + 4)
Cornell Widow: “Gayboy,” March 1962
Texas Ranger: “Playbull,” March 1963 (40 + 4)
Yale Record: “Pwayboy,” Feb. 1964 (52 + 4)
UCLA Satyr: “Preyboy,” June 1964 (38 + 4)
U. Mass-Amherst Yahoo: “Preyboy,” June 1964 (40 + 4)
MIT Voo Doo: “Gayboy,” Feb. 1965 (36 + 4)
West Point Pointer: “Prayboy,” March 26, 1965 (32 + 4)
California Pelican: “Playgoy’s Handy Guide to Successful Summer Seduction” (article), in May 1965 (5)
Clemson Chronicle: “Plowboy,” May 1965 (36 + 4)
Stanford Chaparral: “Layboy,” June 1965 (56 + 4)
California Pelican: “Peliboy,” May 1966 (56 + 4)
Princeton Tiger“Placebo”, May 1966
Harvard Lampoon: “Pl*yb*y,” Fall 1966 (102 + 4)
Annapolis Log: “Log,” April 18, 1969

1970s on:
Purdue Engineer: “Playboy Engineer,” March 1970 (34 + 4)
Emory Spoke: “Playbod,” March 1979
Northwestern Rubber Teeth: “The Girls of the Midwestern Schools With Ridiculously High Tuition and Habitually Defeated Football Teams” (article), in Spring 1989 (2)
Annapolis Log: “Playmid,” March 1984
Hofstra Nonsense: “Playdoh,” in Nov. 1988 (5)
Emory Spoke: “Playspoke,” Dec. 1988
Annapolis Log: “Playmid,” March 1989

B. In Yearbooks

Texas Tech La Ventana, “Playboy,” 1959-1973
Kansas Med. School Jayhawker, “Playdoc,” 1969
U. of South Carolina Garnet and Black, “Carolinamen,” 1974-75

— VCR

 

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Jester’s “Columbia College Toady,” 1969

Covers of real CCT and Today

Two flags over Math Hall, one accompanied by Santa Claus.

Parody Of: Columbia College Today. Parody By: Jester of Columbia.
Title: “Columbia College Toady.” Date: April 1969. Format: 8.375″x11″ stapled magazine, 32 pp. + covers. Availability: Very scarce.

The Columbia Jester’s 1969 parody of the school’s alumni mag is no match for such classics as “Liff” (1948) and “Reader’s Dijest” (1949), but the wonder is it exists at all. “Columbia College Toady” was Jester’s only issue of any kind between fall 1967 and April 1971. It was also the last major parody produced by a magazine not named Lampoon during the Golden Age of college humor, and one of the few to address the upheaval that helped bring that age to an end.

The spark for “Toady” was the real Columbia College Today’s coverage of the student uprising in the spring of 1968. What started as a protest against putting the school’s new gym in Harlem’s Morningside Park became national news when radicals led by Mark Rudd, head of Columbia’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), occupied five campus buildings on April 23rd, including president Grayson Kirk’s offices. For six days administrators dithered, then let police forcibly evict the protesters, which satisfied no one and led to classroom boycotts and a second, shorter occupation in May. The year ended with canceled exams, competing graduation ceremonies and bad feelings all around.

Excerpts from both introductions

Excerpts of intros to the real CCT (left) and “Toady.”

In response, editor George C. Keller held off publishing the Spring CCT until he could complete a long, detailed and sometimes personal account of the Recent Unpleasantness. When the issue finally appeared in January 1969, still dated “Spring 1968,” Keller’s “Six Weeks That Shook Morningside” filled most of its 96 pages. The cover showed a red flag flying over one of the occupied buildings, Mathematics Hall. Inside, every sidebar, photo, drawing and pull-out quote dealt with the uprising and its aftermath — usually disapprovingly. Even the Annual Fund ad sighed, “College today is a different world.”

Keller’s report won him an Education Writer of the Year award from the Atlantic Monthly, but on campus it pleased almost no one. Columbia Daily Spectator reviewer Robert Friedman called it “the worst thing that I have read on the events of last spring. … The issues are minimized and the crisis is blamed on the manipulative tactics of a small band of militant radicals.” Activist faculty demanded the school “publicly repudiate” Keller’s “errors of fact, distortions of history and assassination of character.” Later reviews have been kinder. James C. Shaw, a freshman in Spring ’68, praised Keller in CCT in 2008 for his “research, serious discussion of ideas and his obvious passion and anguish,” and found his portrait of Kirk and Co. about as harsh as you could expect from a mag aimed at old grads and potential donors. (You can read Shaw’s article here.)

Art from CCT and Toady

Stanley Wyatt’s zoo in CCT prompted Jester’s Lincoln Perry to make critters of provost David Truman, acting dean Henry Coleman, president Grayson Kirk and his successor Andrew Cordier.

Enter Jester. “We are presently at work on a malicious, vicious, and nasty parody,” the editors said in the February 14 Spectator. “We are anxious to meet malicious, vicious, and nasty people. You can bear your fangs in Room 304 F.B.H. [Ferris Booth Hall] at 10 p.m. tonight.” Turnout must have been poor, for a second ad in late March began: “Many people have been asking whatever happened to Jester. The three or four people left on the staff have been working on a parody of Columbia College Today for several weeks. However, there is a limit to the amount of work that four people can do. If you are really interested in seeing this issue come out — and it is an issue which promises to be the funniest in years — you can show your interest by attending the staff meeting tonight … If we do not get your help, we will not be able to publish a complete parody.”

First words of CCT and Toady

The report’s opening words, before and after Jesterization.

The parody finally appeared in mid-May, a month after the cover date, with the cover line, “96 Pages That Distorted Six Weeks That Shook Morningside.” Most readers were underwhelmed. “A Great Idea, But…” ran the headline of David Rosen’s review in the Spectator, which praised the writers for capturing “the pompous, overblown style of the Keller original,” but faulted them for not having a point of view. “In their version of the Great Disruption, everybody, from Kirk to Rudd, comes out looking like an idiot,” Rosen wrote. “Some of the resulting caricatures — Dean [Henry] Coleman as the dumb jock, Kirk as the bumbling fool, Rudd as the wild-eyed revolutionary — are fairly amusing, but these, like everything else in the issue, are entirely predictable.”

Three poems from Toady

Putting dirty words in the mouths of the Great and Good will never not be funny.

Some of the problem was structural: When the report appeared, Jester editor Tom Kramer parceled it out in chucks to his “three or four” staffers for rewrites, then knitted their contributions together. The result is less a parody of Keller than a condensation peppered with jokes and insults; it sticks too close to events to admit the fantasy and nonsense that are college humor’s strengths. The best bits are the briefest: the photo captions, the obscene poems attributed to faculty luminaries, and the wheedling desperation of the fake Annual Fund appeal.

“As I sat there, with CCT in one hand and ‘Toady’ in the other, I found it increasingly difficult to determine which one I was reading,” Rosen wrote. Both publications seem unhappy with the tasks they set themselves: Keller strains after objectivity despite identifying with one side of the conflict and being largely clueless about the other; the Jester crew spell out Keller’s implied disdain for The Kids and throw their own barbs at The Man, but often they seem on autopilot. Individual jokes land but don’t build, and the whole thing lacks exuberance. For all its rowdy disdain, “Toady” feels distant from the passions that had convulsed Columbia the previous spring.

Back covers of CCT and Toady

Their back pages: Famous quotes from Burke (real) and Hitler (spurious).

Tom Kramer told James Shaw in 2008 that the parody “was more a reaction to the reaction to [Keller’s] issue than to the issue itself.” When meta-commentary reaches this level, humor tends to gasp for air. “None of us was terribly political,” Kramer also said. That may help explain why only “three or four” Columbia students thought a humor magazine was worth their time in 1968-69. — VCR

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Harvard’s “New York Times,” March 7, 1968

Parthanon falls in the Lampoon's Times

Reports of (weeping over) the Parthenon’s death were greatly exaggerated.

Parody OfThe New York TimesTitle: “The New York Times”
Parody By: Harvard LampoonDate: March 7, 1968. Length: Front page only?
Contributors: Rob Hoffman, Jonathan Cerf, Peter Gable. Availability: Very rare; reprinted in the Harvard Lampoon Centennial Celebration (pp. 38-39) and 100 Years of Harvard Lampoon Parodies (pp. 30-31).

Fifty years ago today, on March 7, 1968, the Harvard Lampoon pulled off one of the great college pranks, replacing the 2,000 copies of The New York Times distributed in Cambridge with a year-old paper inside a fake front page. Among the headlines: “Khesanh Airlift Proves Mistake,” “Governor Warns of Water Surplus,” “Ancient Parthenon Topples As Quake Rocks Greece.” Only a few items hinted something might be amiss: A one-sentence notice that the Times would begin printing funnies, for instance, or the bland headline, “Walrus in Central Park Zoo Speaks.”

“Most fake newspapers err on the side of burlesque, but the 1968 Times is masterfully subtle.” Neil Steinberg wrote in If At All Possible, Involve a Cow. “The stories are alarming — with headlines such as ‘Castro Seizes U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo’ — but not implausible…. There were some ludicrous touches … but you had to stop and read the thing to catch them. In all, it made for a neat package that caused a lot of momentary puzzlement.”

The Lampoon recalled things more dramatically: “In a daring 4 a.m. maneuver, Poonies had substituted their version of the morning news for that contained in the March 7 Times, and then sat back to watch the impact,” Martin Kaplan wrote in 1973’s Centennial Celebration. “One woman wept to learn of the Parthenon’s collapse, and amazed students combed page 30, column 2, to discover what the Central Park Zoo walrus had actually said. Most disturbing of all, however, was the reaction of one faculty club member who carefully read the entire bogus front page and the year-old Times it enclosed without any distress whatsoever.” Three years later, in 100 Years of Harvard Lampoon Parodies, the weeping woman had been replaced by “Harvard’s senior classics professor [who] was so grief-stricken at the Parthenon’s collapse that he cancelled his classes.” (Steinberg, a stickler for facts, says there “no evidence” for any weeping professor stories.)

The Lampoon put as much care into distributing its “Times” as it did into creating it, maybe more. The plot almost unravelled at the start, when the Poonies’ order for a thousand copies of its March 2, 1967, issue raised eyebrows at the real Times. “Inquiries were initiated, and members of The Lampoon explained that delft wall tiles had been ordered and delivered defective and that The Times was considered ideal for wrapping them to be returned,” the Newspaper of Record wrote the day after the parody appeared:

“Then Mr. [Rob] Hoffman, a sophomore, and his two key assistants, Jonathan Cerf, son of Bennett Cerf, the book publisher, and Peter Gabel, son of Martin Gabel and Arlene Francis, went more deeply underground. A few weeks ago, as deadline time neared, several of the Lampoon’s trusted spies were assigned to trailing distributors of the genuine Times, noting which newsstands were major drops.

“Wednesday night, other valiants from The Lampoon went to Times Square area and gathered up some 500 copies of the Thursday morning paper shortly after they hit the street. With these papers they flew back to Cambridge. In this the men of Lampoon were being particularly devious. They reasoned that many Harvard students who got the fake edition of The Times might turn first to the sports page and realize the hoax. Those 500 copies are this morning’s Times except for Page One.

“But no such precautions were taken for Cambridge residents who get their papers from newsstands. Those copies had the false Page One wrapped around the edition of last year’s March 2 edition.

According to Sheldon Cohen, operator of the newsstand kiosk in Harvard Square, no one has requested a refund for the parodied Times.” (“The Times Gets a Lampooning at Harvard,” NYT, March 8, 1968, p 36.)

The same day the Times‘ unsigned but obviously inside-sourced account appeared, the Lampoon’s old adversary the Crimson tried to spoil the party: “The New York Times Company announced yesterday afternoon that it will sue the Harvard Lampoon for $175,000 for ‘willful deceit, commercial libel and commercial defamation’ in its March 7 Times parody,” wrote the Crime’s James R. Beniger. “U.S. Justice Department officials are presently studying the parody to determine whether they will file criminal charges for ‘willful fraudulent claim of copyright.’ It is a federal offense to appropriate copyright for material not clearly a parody.”

The story went on to claim the Lampoon might also be sued by Time Inc. and Murray’s News Agency, the latter seeking the return of 800 stolen copies of the real Times. It ended: “Thomas S. LaFarge ’69, Lampoon president, said last night his organization would not return the 800 newspapers stolen from Harvard hallways. ‘We sold them to a waste paper dealer for $2.37,’ LaFarge said. ‘It was our biggest sale since the Playboy parody.’

Ouch.—VCR

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