Lampoon vs. Crimson since 1901

Hailing the dawn of the Nixon-Agnew-Pusey Adminstration (1968)

College humor magazines and college newspapers were natural enemies back in the day. They still are at Harvard, where the feud between the Lampoon and the Crimson is now in its second century. “Opposition to the Crimson . . . makes Lampy what he is,” the Lampoon said in its Hundredth Anniversary Issue, saluting “The Crime” as “a dependable butt of practical jokes [and] an inexhaustible source of unintentional humor.” For its part, the Crimson has ID’d the Lampoon as “a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine” at every opportunity for the past six decades.

Crimson parodies . . . are occasionally supplied to the student body in deference to the overwhelming demand,” Eric Rayman and Jim Downey wrote in 100 Years of Harvard Lampoon Parodies (1976). “As popular today as they were then, Crimson parodies are governed by just one rule: they may never appear on April First.” No one knows exactly how many times the Lampoon has made fools of the paper on other days, but two things seem beyond dispute: (1) The Lampoon was the first college comic to issue a full-size, full-length fake issue of a college newspaper, and (2) it first did so 120 years ago this spring, on May 30, 1901, Memorial Day.

Back then Memorial Day was always May 30, and in 1901 it fell on a Thursday. Knowing the Crimson would take the day off, the Lampoon assembled a four-page substitute under an ill-gotten Crimson nameplate and left it in the usual locations. Earlier Lampoon press parodies had occupied one or two pages in regular issues; the 1901 “Crimson” not only looked like the real thing, it was understated and strewn with enough half-plausible misinformation to create one of the great college pranks.

The first fully fake college newspaper, May 30, 1901

“The whole Cambridge community was for a time in turmoil,” the Bookman magazine recalled ten years later. “Information that the janitor of one of the college laboratories had upset a jar of microbes and that all those who had been near the lab should report at once to the college doctor . . . was given with the utmost gravity.” Other straight-faced reports said the school had changed its mind about giving President McKinley an honorary degree and that a lit bomb had been found in Memorial Hall. But it was an item about the Crimson itself that raised the biggest ruckus: Because the paper’s prosperity was threatening its non-profit status, it said, all paid-up subscribers who came to the office that afternoon would get half their money back. “A sign hung in the night over the Crimson office reiterating this announcement was another part of the hoax,” said the Bookman. “Its complete success was for long the talk of Cambridge, and the forbidden subject of conversation in the Crimson sanctum.”

The Bookman credited the parody to a “suggestion” by Lampoon writer Richard Washburn Child (1881-1935, class of ’03), who later became U.S. Ambassador to Italy and a leading American cheerleader for Mussolini. That fact likely went unmentioned in 1941, when the Poonsters of ’01 reprinted the parody for their Fortieth and sent a copy to President Roosevelt. FDR, who had been a freshman Crimson editor at the time, recalled it as “the first and only successful attempt on the part of the Lampoon to get really funny at the expense of the Crimson.”

The credulous reception of the first parody suggests such things were new and strange in 1901. Further evidence of priorty comes from all the dogs that didn’t bark. Though other college mags were more than happy to take the Lampoon down a peg or two, not one ever claimed to have beaten it to the idea. The earliest similar item I’m aware of is “The Cornell Deadly Sin,” a 1906 spoof of the Daily Sun by the Cornell Widow.

Crimson parodies from 1926 and 1946
Lampoon vs. Princeton (1926); Harvard vs. football (1946)

Eight years passed before the Lampoon’s next assault: a two-page insert in the real Crimson that was “as convincing if less spectacular than the pseudojournal of 1901,” according to The Harvard Lampoon Centennial Celebration. The pace eventually picked up but remained erratic: The Anniversary Issue counted “nineteen full-length Crimson parodies and three one-page sheets for insertion into legitimate issues” over the previous 75 years. My source in the Castle said a few years ago that the Lampoon “produces a parody of the Crimson (sometimes multiple issues) every January/February,” but isn’t sure when they became annual events.

The most explosive parody was a “Football Extra” handed out during the 1926 Princeton game, where the visiting Tigers blanked Harvard for the third straight year, 12-0. It carried the truthful but premature headline, “Princeton Wins” and a fact-free report that the school’s coach had expired in the game’s final minutes from holding his breath too long. The parody was “the second half of a one-two punch,” the Anniversary Issue recalled: “On the day before the game, one of the most notorious Lampoon issues ever had appeared . . . [portraying Princeton men] as pigs, homosexuals and bond salesmen.” The two Lampoons, plus a snide reference in the real Crimson to Princeton’s “inferiority complex,” so inflamed the school it cancelled all athletic contests with Harvard, a move that made the front page of The New York Times. Relations didn’t resume until 1934, when the Tigers returned for a fourth consecutive shutout, this one 19-0.

The 1926 parody made headlines by being outrageous; the 1933 issue made them by being plausible. On February 22, when the Crimson was off for Washington’s Birthday, a four-page “Extra” reported the Harvard Corporation had chosen Midwestern businessman Henry Eliot Clarke ’04 to succeed retiring President A. Lawrence Lowell. Lampoon editors then took over the Crimson’s empty office and spent the day assuring the Associated Press and other callers the extra was legit. “The story was picked via by the wire services and printed in all parts of the country before a suspicious AP staffer discovered that the Harvard Corporation had not selected a new president, that the Crimson had not published an extra, and that there was no Henry Eliot Clarke,” the Anniversary Issue notes.

The New York Times, February 23, 1933

The Lampoon soon confessed to the hoax, which it claimed was motivated only by a desire to free its “distinguished contemporary” from “the crysalis of drab and schoolboy journalism.” The U.S. Congress responded by passing a law making it a federal crime to knowingly send false information through the news wires. Since then, fallout from fake “Crimsons” has seldom spread beyond Cambridge, though a 1946 report that Harvard would drop football and perhaps all other sports prompted headlines and official denials. Other issues have claimed Memorial Hall would be razed (1939) and Harvard’s president would become Postmaster General in the Nixon Administration (1968).

But the chief target of the Lampoon’s mind games has always been the Crimson itself. The ’01 parody infuriatd the paper’s editors — “Crimeds,” in Lampoon-speak — by reproducing what the Bookman called “certain typographical errors for which the Crimson had become notorious.” In 1966, when Radcliffe junior Linda Mcveigh became the paper’s first female Managing Editor, the Lampoon broke the news a day early in a perfume-scented, pink-tinted extra that misspelled her name in the headline and claimed the entire Board had quit in protest. (The Lampoon, meanwhile, stayed all-male for another six years.) The next parody in September 1967 was “written entirely in sub-par high-school journalese . . . and distributed to freshmen the day before registration” — perfectly timed to blight the annual drive for new staff and subscribers.

Crimson parodies from 1966 and 1973
Making the Crimson see red in 1966 and 1973

On the eve of the Crimson’s elaborate centennial celebration in 1973, the parody uncovered an issue from 1872 that proved the party was a year late. “Crimson  editors, who the night before had unsuccessfully attempted to sabotage the prank by hijacking the issue from the Lampoon’s printer, were not amused,” the mag recalled in its own 100th birthday number; “some even talked of going to court to prevent future parodies of their newspaper.”

Lampoon, March 1958; “Lampoo” cover and poem, November 1958

Such talk came to nothing, and the two sides resumed swapping insults and abducting each others heirlooms and editors. Only once did the Crimson respond to a parody in kind: In November 1958, when the Lampoon was at its most exclusive and its sales had hit a postwar low, the paper came out with a 16-page magazine insert called “The Harvard Lampoo” (no “n”) that was snobbish, unfunny and even a bit smutty. John Berendt, chief Lampoon versifier and future author of Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, disputed the last point in a poem-to-the-editor that ended:

Your parody’s often obscene;
Now really, that’s being quite mean.
The
Lampoon is cruelish;
It’s morbid and ghoulish
But one thing it’s always — is clean.

Crimson parody from 1972
The first 1972 “Crimson” on the front page of the second.

Fearing readers were catching on, the Lampoon in 1963 put out Crimson parodies on consecutive days: The first, on November 10, reported that female guests would no longer be allowed in student housing; the second “humorlessly dismiss[ed] the fake of the day before and darkly warn[ed] of repercussions,”according to prank historian Neil Steinberg.

The same trick worked even better in 1972, during President Nixon’s historic visit to China. On Sunday, February 20, an unimpressive one-page “Extra” appeared claiming the trip had been cancelled. The next day — another Crime-less Washington’s Birthday — a very convincing six-page issue reported that the Lampoon’s prank had so offended the Chinese they’d cancelled the trip for real. “Even Crimson editors, who the day before had sniffed at the Lampoon extra, were forced to admit that the Monday edition was a success,” says the Anniversary Issue; “the kicker above the Crimson logo on Tuesday’s issue assured readers, ‘This really is … the Harvard Crimson.'”

Poonies pranking potential POTUS, 2015

In recent decades, the parodies have largely traded hoaxes for hilarity. Reactions only get heated when the jokes misfire — as happened in 1990, when back-to-back issues “designed to startle Harvard out of its complacency about a few persistent social problems” were accused of exhibiting the same homophobia, sexism and anti-Semitism they claimed to ridicule. The last time Poonies made headlines impersonating the Crimson — in 2015, when they fooled Donald Trump into accepting a fake endorsement — they did so in person and spread the news on a parody website. Current fake “Crimsons,” like real ones, appear simultaneously in ink and pixels.

Three-day bender: “Crimsons” from Jan. 20-22, 2018

In 2018, the Lampoon set a new record by issuing full-length “Crimsons” three days in a row and vowing to maintain the pace for an entire year. The ongoing lead story was more bizarre than clever — something about a freak mutation of actors Paul Rudd and Mila Kunis — and on Day 3 the staff admitted defeat in a report headlined “Harvard Lampoon Can’t Do This Shit Anymore.” “A recent Crimson survey revealed that zero people on campus have ever expressed interest in reading a parody version of the Crimson,” the story claimed, but the 2019 edition came out right on schedule. It’s the most recent edition on the Lampoon website, but parodies will surely return as the pandemic recedes. Just don’t look for them on April 1. — VCR

Crimosn parodies from 2017 and 2019
Crimes and punishments in 2017 and 2019

The Parodies:

This list has many gaps, especially post-1976. I’ll add more info as I find it. Items with asterisks(*) are discussed more fully in the text.

March 30, 1901: First stand-alone Crimson parody; bacteria escape laboratory.*

Spring 1909: First single-sheet insert in real Crimson.

Nov. 6, 1926: Princeton wins but coach dies at game.*

1928: Unknown content; production process recalled in Centennial Celebration (p. 241), which says 1,400 copies were printed.

Feb. 22, 1933: Nonexistent “Henry E. Clarke” named Harvard President.*

Feb. 22, 1939: Memorial Hall to be razed for student housing.

April 26, 1946: Harvard drops football, may drop all sports.*

Spring 1961: Half those accepted into Class of ’65 decide to go elsewhere.

Nov. 10-11, 1963: The first back-to-back parodies. Female guests banned; reactions to previous day’s hoax.

Jan. 16, 1966: Crimson Board quits over female editor.*

Sept. 17, 1967: Very unimpressive Crimson given to incoming freshmen.

Nov. 11, 1968: Harvard President Pusey named Postmaster General.

Feb. 20-21, 1972: Back-to-back parodies. Nixon’s China trip cancelled; China trip really cancelled.*

Jan. 23, 1973: Crimson misses its own centennial.*

Feb. 1975: Boston doctor Kenneth Edelin vows to “appeal his conviction in a widely-publicized abortion trial on grounds of self-defense.” (Hundredth Anniversary Issue)

Spring 1978: Unknown content; the Crimson later contrasts it with a “notably more witty, insightful, professional, informative, innovative, colorful, intelligible, and legible” Crimson parody done at Dartmouth.

Early summer 1979: Unknown content; the Crimson later calls it “one of their best efforts.”

April 23-24, 1990: Back-to-back parodies, the second attacked as offensive.*

Jan. 21, 2000: The fate of the Crimson president’s chair, which Poonies had stolen.

Feb. 2011: All classes cancelled when building keys lost.

Feb. 4, 2015: First parody to appear in print and on fake Crimson website (link now defunct).

Jan. 30, 2016: First inclusion of Crimson blog Flyby in the website parody. Flyby’s verdict: “Nice Try, Lampoon.”

Jan. 2017: “Most Interesting Seniors” feared missing. This and later parodies dated by month only.

Jan. 2018: Three Crimson parodies in as many days, all covering Paul Rudd-Mila Kunis mashup.*

Jan. 2019: Harvey Weinstein defends dean’s decision to defend Weinstein.

Portfolio: 10 Parodies from the 1920s

In an effort to pick up the posting pace just a bit, I’m introducing a new category called “Portfolio,” which will offer many pictures and few words. Today being palindromic 02/02/2020, it seems appropriate to begin with twenty magazine covers from the previous ‘2os: ten of them real, ten from parodies they inspired:

Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1921; Harvard Lampoon, October 1921. (Above) The Journal was one of the first magazines to focus on connecting with readers, and the first to reach one million circulation.

New Republic and Advocate Parody

The New Republic, March 16, 1927 (and every week); Harvard Advocate, April 1, 1924. Between 1906 and 1937, the Advocate also parodied the Lampoon, The Atlantic Monthly, The Dial, Time and Saturday Review.

SatEvePost and Judge parody

The Saturday Evening Post, July 31, 1920; Judge, May 8, 1926: The first of a series of parodies published by Judge under editor Norman Anthony. The list of “contributors” at the bottom is a nod to the Post’s overwhelming lead in ad pages.

Vanity Fair, September 1926; Judge, October 23, 1926: A year earlier, Judge’s cover artist Rea Irvin had created the iconic first cover of The New Yorker.

Film Fun and Yale parody

Film Fun, November 1927; Yale Record, April 20, 1927: Film Fun mixed pinups, risque jokes and movieland gossip; future Record editor Dwight Macdonald helped spoof it his junior year.

The American Mercury, February 1925 (and every month); Northwestern Purple Parrot, March 1928.

The New Yorker, March 10, 1928; Harvard Lampoon, April 19, 1928.

Child Life and Purple Parrot parody

Child Life, October 1924; Northwestern Purple Parrot, April 1929.

The Sportsman, February 1929; Harvard Lampoon, April 18, 1929.

True Story, May 1929; Judge, Nov. 23, 1929.

— VCR

Wisconsin Octopus Parodies, 1920-1959

Six Octopus parodies.

The Magazine

Before The Onion, the most famous humor magazine to come out of Madison was the University of Wisconsin Octopus, b. November 1919, d. 1959, after UW officials found the May issue so offensive they extinguished the title. The editors did ask for it: On one page they reproduced an official warning to quit printing smut like the previous issue; on the others they parodied Playboy. The cover of “Blayboy” — a takeoff on Playboy’s for the same month — showed the mag’s eight-handed mascot joining three startled young ladies in a bubble bath. Bye bye, Octy.

Covers of Playboy and parody

Though they shared a cover date, Playboy’s May issue came out several weeks before Octy’s “Blayboy.” Right: Official displeasure

Sixty years on, Wisconsin seems willing to forgive and remember: There are now 281 Octopus issues in the UW Digital Collection, where they can be read by just anybody. “Blayboy” is represented only by a cover and its smutty predecessor is missing entirely, but most of the rest are on hand. Rather than link to individual issues, here’s the whole set.

First Octopus cover

Vol. 1, no. 1

Octy was UW’s third humor magazine, following the Sphinx (1899-1913) — also online, though I haven’t found any parody issues — and the short-lived Awk (1915-1917). It was started privately by three students who turned it over to the school after two profitable issues. The U. mostly left it alone, though a “risque cartoon” in 1928 “led for a time to a closer review of all material by the faculty majority on the Octy board of directors,” says UW’s official history. Despite vowing in its first editorial to make “no attempt to issue numbers regularly,” Octy appeared eight to ten times a year for 23 years before pausing for World War II. Its return in 1946 was misnumbered Vol. 25, an error never corrected.

1939's one-page Life spoof

Spoofing Life, 1939

Octy flourished in the ’20s. The history tells of “glossy, quarto-sized issues running as many as sixty-four pages, colored covers, clever cartoons and graphics by student artists, and humorous prose and poetry.” At the depth of the Depression issues shrank to sixteen pages and the price fell from a quarter to a dime, but for most of the ’30s Octy was “a handsome, professional-looking magazine, better in design that most of its peers, and nearly as attractive as Vanity Fair or [The] New Yorker, on both of whom it had a noticable crush,” according to uwalumni.com. It ranked high in college humor polls and sometimes addressed serious subjects: A 1938 story by future New York Times reporter Leonard Silk exposed the Fascist leanings of a new Wisconsin-based third party called the National Progressives, and in 1939 the mag ridiculed the DAR for not allowing Marian Anderson to sing at Independence Hall.

The first sign of postwar trouble was a nearly year-long gap after the December 1951 issue. When the mag reappeared in November 1952 it was briefly called The New Octopus, though editor Ken Eichenbaum joked(?) that it looked “so damn much like the old one that six of us have decided to hang it up and transfer to Marquette.” He didn’t even mention the long hiatus. Octy retrenched to six issues a year, briefly tried a “more mature” policy and hit the financial rocks in 1955-56. “Too many students are READING the Octy without BUYING it,” grumbled an ad in the May 1956 issue, which begged for a thousand students to pledge — “NOW!” — to subscribe next fall. They didn’t, and Octy vanished for three semesters, reappearing with three issues in spring 1958 and three more in ’58-59. The last twitch was an undated reprint collection the next year that failed to spark a fourth revival. Three decades would pass before UW produced another nationally known humor rag.

1951 DailyCardinal parody

Cover and three inside pages from Octy’s 1953 “Daily Cardinal” issue

II: The Parodies

Octy's 1920 "Vie Parisienne" cover.

May 1920

Though it modeled a cover on France’s racy La Vie Parisienne its first year, Octy produced few parodies before the 1930s and only about two dozen total. Nearly half were of the student newspaper, always impersonated under its real name: the Daily Cardinal. Most Cardinal parodies appeared as magazine pages on authentic (and cheaper) newsprint, though in 1953 a tabloid was printed separately and folded into the March number. (Such inserts tend to stray; the UWDC has the mag but no paper.) Octy’s “Cardinals” were dryer and funnier than most such efforts and not afraid to razz local heavyweights, including Wisconsin’s junior U.S. Senator from 1947 to 1957, Joe McCarthy.

Covers of Chicago Tribune and Time parodies

The Tribune was Octy’s only off-campus newspaper target, Time the only magazine hit twice.

Octy’s first big parodee was the Police Gazette, traditional reading matter of barber shops and saloons. It was a relic of grandpa’s day even in 1929, but the Bootleg Era saw the 1890s the way later generations saw the ’20s: as the last time people knew how to have fun. This foolery was followed by a jaundiced look at Hearst’s jingoistic Sunday magazine The American Weekly in 1935 and an even sharper mauling of the arch-Republican Chicago Tribune in ’38, cowritten by Leonard Silk. Octy didn’t attempt a cover-to-cover parody until 1949, when it put Republican Gov. Oscar Rennebohm, a very dark horse in the 1952 presidential stakes, inside the red borders of “Timf.” After that, parodies came out almost annually.

Pages from Octy's Life parody

Collegiate whimsey meets Korea and custom cars in Octy’s “Liff,” 1953

The 1949 Badger yearbook called “Timf” the magazine’s “best post-war issue” and claimed it outsold the Daily Cardinal. The 1950 edition called “The Old Yorker” “the editorial and financial high point of the year.” My choice for best mock Oc is 1953’s “Liff.” Too many college parodists were content to focus Life’s wide-ranging lens on their own anthills and play the findings relatively straight; Octy highjacked the format to satirize Hollywood movies, Congressional hearings, cheesecake photos and Life itsef: “We do not believe in slanting words or pictures,” the lead editorial declared. “People look too thin that way.” Even the Korean stalemate was played for laughs in the “war memoirs” of a male-turned-female photographer named after Marguerite Higgins but inspired by Christine (née George) Jorgensen, who in early 1953 was as famous as Mamie Eisenhower.

Real 1950 Flair cover

Flair, Feb. 1950

Octy’s oddest parody was “Flare,” a sendup of Flair. The brainchild of Fleur Cowles, wife of Look publisher Garnder Cowles, Flair was a lavish monthly blend of heavyweight bylines, trendy arts coverage and innovative graphic design, featuring pekaboo covers, half-size and translucent pages, bound-in booklets and accordion foldouts. It appeared for exactly one year starting February 1950 and was four months dead when “Flare” appeared in May 1951. Two years later, a parody of campus mag The Wisconsin Idea coincided with the real thing’s last issue. Thereafter Octy picked sturdier targets: Life, Mademoiselle, Time again (with Athletic Director Ivan B. Williamson on the cover) and, fatally, Playboy.

Octopus Parodies of the Wisconsin Daily Cardinal, 1932-1958:

(Issues are listed by volume and number in the Digital Collection, so I’ve included that.)

  • The Daily Cardinal, Vol. 13, no. 6, Feb. 1932 (16 pages + 1 cover)
  • —–, Vol. 15, no. 6, Feb. 1934  (18, some with real ads)
  • —–, Vol. 18, no. 6, Feb. 1937  (13, inc. 3-page “Collegiate Digest” photo section)
  • —–, Vol. 20, no. 8, April 1939 (4)
  • —–, Vol. 22, no. 3, Nov. 1941 (4)
  • —–, Vol. 25, no.6, Feb. 1947 (4)
  • —–, Vol. 26, no. 6, Feb. 1948 (8 + 1c)
  • —–, Vol. 27, no.7, March 1949 (8 + 1c)
  • —–, Vol. 28, no. 3, Nov. 1949 (8 + 1c)
  • —–, Vol. 29, no. 5, Feb.-March 1951 (8, called “1950 [1951]” online)
  • —–, Vol. 31, no. 4, March 1953 (insert, not online)
  • —–, (“Tri-Weakly Cardinal”), Vol. 32, no. 5, March 1954 (8)
  • —–, Summer 1958 (4, tabloid)

Other Octopus Parodies, 1920-1959:

  • La Vie Parisienne (“La Vie Wisconsienne”), Vol. 1, no. 5, May 1920 (cover only)
  • Police Gazette, Vol. 11, no. 1, September 25, 1929 (16 + 1c)
  • American Weekly (“American Weakly”), Vol. 17, no. 4, Dec. 1935 (10) (called “Vol. 15 [17]” online)
  • Chicago Daily Tribune, Vol. 20. no. 4, December 1938 (4)
  • Life (article: “Life Discloses the Happy Weekend of a Wisconsin Coed”), Vol. 21, no. 3, Nov. 1939 (1)
  • Time (“Timf”), Vol. 27, no. 5, Jan. 18, 1949 (44 + 4c)
  • The New Yorker (“The Old Yorker”), Vol. 28, no. 8, April 1950 (40 + 4c)
  • Flair (“Flare”), Vol. 29, no. 7, May 1951 (36 + 4c)
  • The Wisconsin Idea (“The Wisconsin Idear”), Vol. 31, no. 4, March 1953 (10)
  • Life (“Liff”), Vol. 31, no. 5, April 1953 (40 + 4c)
  • Mademoiselle (“Madmoiselle … and the Arts”), Vol. 33, no. 2, Dec. 1954, (28 + 4c)
  • Time (“Tum”), Vol. 34, no. 4, Feb. 1956 (28 + 4c)
  • Playboy (“Blayboy”), May 1959 (not online)

Sources:

E. David Cronon and John W. Jenkins. The University of Wisconsin: A History: Volume III: Politics, Depression, and War, 1925-1945 (U. of Wisconsin Press, 1994), pp 626-629.

Matt Rogge. “Through the Eyes of the Octopus,” uwalumni.com, posted July 12, 2017.

— VCR

Columbia Jester Parodies, 1913-1989

Jester's Life and Reader's Digest parodies

Pages grew to 10.5″x14″ for “Liff” (1948), shrank to 5.5″x7.5″ for the “Dijest” (1949).

Jester of Columbia, to use its formal title, wasn’t the first publication at Columbia University to include humor, but it was the first to exclude everything else. It debuted on April Fool’s Day, 1901, twenty-four years after the birth of its sternest critic, the Columbia Daily Spectator (whose archive supplied much of what follows). Years later, the Spectator described Jester’s early issues as “small drab booklets of advertisements, with a sprinkling of reminiscent jokes,” but the mag quickly grew into one of the leading campus comics.

1919 Police Gazette parody

1919’s 4-page “Police Gazette.”

Early Jester staffers included Rockwell Kent (class of 1904), Bennett Cerf (’20), Corey Ford (’23) and Lynd Ward (’26), but the most famous in his day was 1916-17 editor Morrie Ryskind, then a fire-breathing socialist, later a Broadway and Hollywood writer (Of Thee I Sing, Animal Crackers), and eventually a co-founder of National Review. Ryskind was ejected from staff and school in March 1917 for his blistering attacks on the Big Names urging the U.S. to enter World War I – one of the Biggest being Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler. Later alumni include writers Herman Wouk (’34), Thomas Merton (’38) and Allen Ginsberg (’48); painter Ad Reinhardt (’36); playwright Tony Kushner (’78); and cartoonists Charles Saxon (’40) and Ed Koren (’57).

Jester flourished from the 1920s through the ’50s, though wartime paper rationing forced an awkward merger with the literary Columbia Review in 1943-45. The early-’40s Jester “reached an all-time high (or low) in the use of licentious wit,” said the Spectator, but more often the goal was New Yorker-ish sophistication. The magazine was named best in the country by the Association of College Comics in 1936-37 and ’37-38, the last years that award was given. It faltered in the 1960s, however, as off-campus ads and on-campus interest dried up. The first issue of 1966-67 didn’t appear until December. That spring, members of the school’s Afro-American Society confiscated 1,500 copies of the May issue and publicly burned 30 to protest a piece that, among other things, “satirically” called a new, all-black fraternity “a sort of haven for the noble savage” and predicted its members would soon turn the place back into a slum.

By 1969 Jester was struggling to come out once a year; by 1973 issues were little more than pamphlets. The college-humor revival sparked by National Lampoon’s Animal House provided a temporary reprieve — students named Jester their favorite campus publication in a 1979 poll — but issues were few and often unfunny: An uncredited 1986 fantasy about a male student slaughtering a “disgustingly obese girl” in one of his classes led to protests and a pledge to start running bylines. After a 1989 parody called “The Columbia Daily Defecator,” featuring a full-page photo of a toilet in a bathtub, the magazine disappeared for 12 years.

An ambitious revival in April 2001 fizzled, but another in 2006 seems to have stuck: More than 20 issues from the past decade are archived at columbiajester.com, including two from spring 2017. Like most surviving campus comics, Jester appears online and in print, carries few ads, and makes heavy use of lists, fake news items and other fast-acting humor formats. Unlike most, it has competition: The Federalist, which started as a conservative alternative to the Spectator in 1986 and by 2003 had evolved into an Onion-like monthly.

The earliest Jester parody to catch the Spectator’s eye appeared in April 1913, though the paper seemed unsure what it was looking at; the anonymous reviewer called the issue “a sort of Ladies’ Home Journal Number” containing “a much larger number of articles apropos of the title” that usual. Unfortunately, he saw little humor in “all the features written in Ladies’-Home-Journal-esque style…. The really entertaining articles are those having no connection” with the main theme.

1956 "Sanitary Review" cover

Jester’s 1956 “SR,” as shown in College Parodies (1961).

Seven years passed before the paper reviewed another Jester parody, this time approvingly: “[T]he editors of Jester have more than succeeded in producing a campus edition of Ben Franklin’s popular sheet, the Satevepost,” wrote “N.McK.” and “S.W.R.” on January 16, 1920. “From the Leyendeckerian cover … to the inevitable Arrow Collar (adv.) boy on the back, George Joker Macy and gang have produced a really clever burlesque of George Horace Lorimer’s great American failing, that, in our opinion, goes the Harvard Lampoon’s recent Cosmopolitan venture two or three better.” The parody proved so popular it was reprinted twice, though the covers of the third printing were lost on a freight train “somewhere between Troy and New York.”

1963 Playbile cover

“Playbile” (1963).

The 1922 “Columbia Alumni Dues” was unusual for being commissioned by the Alumni News to fill its October issue, rather like the Harvard Lampoon’s later parodies of (and in) Mademoiselle. Jester cut a similar deal with the Columbia Review in 1941, replacing all the November issue’s usual contents except two main feature articles. One contributor, a shadowy figure called “Jefferson Berryman,” may have been poet John Berryman, a former Review editor. Other notable stunts included the launch in 1934 of a fake rival to Jester called “The Columbia Calliope,” which lasted one issue, and a 1963 parody of Playbill, the Broadway magazine. Like its model, “Playbile” doubled as a theater program and was only sold at performances of the 69th annual Columbia Varsity Show, a musical travesty of Hamlet called Elsinore! The Spectator said “Playbile” mocked “every aspect of the magazine — the advertisements, the columns, the features, and ‘Who’s He in the Cast.’ … [I]t’s worth going to the Varsity Show just to pick up a copy.

Two pages from Liff and Laddies' Home Journal

Pages from “Liff” (1948) and “Laddies’ Home Journal” (1952).

Jester hit its parodic peak in the decade or so after World War II. The winning streak began with a 1945 takedown of Fortune featuring a seven-color cover, a “Fortune Survey” of Caramba (i.e., Columbia) College and a “behind-the-scenes look at the new Klopfinger Dam on the Dugong River in North Twang.” It ended in 1956 with a “trim and merciless” evisceration of Saturday Review, then as ever a bastion of well-meaning middlebrow liberalism. “Sanitary Review’s” targets included former Jester editor Cerf — a.k.a. “Scurf” — and SR editor Norman Cousins, whose editorials were skewered for their “pious partisanship and righteous naivete.”

Eight pages from "Reader's Dijest"

Page 1-5 of “Reader’s Dijest,” plus a few others.

The most successful parodies — and two of the best ever produced by any college mag — were the back-to-back takeoffs of Life and Reader’s Digest in 1948 and ’49. Both owed much to 1948-49 editor Bernard Shir-Cliff, who later packaged the first Mad paperbacks at Ballantine Books and contributed to the Sports Illustrated parody in Harvey Kurtzman’s Trump. Jester’s 48-page, oversize “Liff” sold out in May 1948 and was reprinted in August, eventually selling 20,000 copies nationwide. Pocket-size “Reader’s Dijest” did even better, with 30,000 copies distributed on 120 campuses. Both featured art by Burton Silverman, whose later works included covers for Time.

Real and fake Journal covers from 1951 and '52

The Journal lent Jester some used engraving plates, including the Oct. 1951 cover.

Almost as good was “Laddies’ Home Journal,” originally scheduled for December 1951 but delayed twice, the second time when the Federal Trade Commission ruled the cigarette ad on the already printed back cover was deceptive. (The ad claimed Camels had never caused a single case of throat irritation, which even then was a bit much.) Camel agreed to pay for a replacement cover, and the parody finally appeared in May 1952. The delay plus a 50-cent cover price apparently cut into sales: Jester ran ads for the next decade urging readers to buy leftover copies.

Real and parody versions of Columbia College Today

The real Columbia College Today (dated Spring 1968, but issued that fall) and Jester’s version.

Later parodies earned mixed reviews, including the last really ambitious effort: a point-by-point rejoinder to Columbia College Today’s 96-page report on the student occupation of the university in the spring of 1968. “Six Weeks that Shook Morningside” occupied an entire issue of CCT in fall 1968 and earned its author, CCT editor George Keller, the Atlantic Monthly’s Education Writer of the Year award. In May 1969, Jester responded with its only issue of the school year: “Columbia College Toady: 96 Pages that Distorted Six Weeks that Shook Morningside.” Spectator reviewer David Rosen praised Jester editor Tom Kramer and his staff for perfectly capturing “the pompous, overblown style” of the original, but found much of the humor “tired and hackneyed.” Still, he noted, the writers “managed to avoid taking sides. In this version of the Great Disruption, everybody, from [President Grayson] Kirk to [student radical Mark] Rudd, comes out looking like an idiot.” Years later, Kramer admitted that was intentional; the parody “was more a reaction to the reaction to [Keller’s] issue that to the issue itself,” he told CCT in 2008. “None of us was terribly political.”

Few old Jesters are posted online or listed on eBay; this list represents the best I could do without going to Morningside Heights and poring through the archives. (Any volunteers?) The Spectator wasn’t above ignoring Jester’s jokes at its expense, so some parodies of the paper may be missing; also missing are any parodies done by The Fed or by the Spectator itself. The word “in” before a date means the parody didn’t fill the entire issue but was one feature among many, like the four-page “Jester’s Own Police Gazette” of December 1919. One issue from spring 1937 may have started out as a parody of Judge but ended up a grab-bag of miscellaneous items, including a brief jab at The New Yorker, so it’s flagged COVER ONLY. As always, additions and corrections would be welcome.

A real 1937 Judge cover and Jester's copy

Though it aped Judge’s April 1937 cover, this Jester didn’t follow through inside.

Columbia Jester Parodies, 1913-1989:

Ladies’ Home Journal, in April 1913
Columbia Daily Spectator, 1919
Police Gazette (“Jester’s Own Police Gazette”), in Dec. 1919
Saturday Evening Post (“Saturday Evening Jester”), Jan. 1920
Columbia Alumni News (“Columbia Alumni Dues”), Oct. 1922 [published in the News]
La Vie Parisienne, in Feb. 1924
Typical tabloid newspaper (“Tabloid Number”), spring 1927
Columbia Daily Spectator (“…Daily Jester”), in Jan. 1933
“The Columbia Calliope: Jester’s Own Rival Publication,” Apr. 1934
Columbia Review, April 1935
Judge (“Fudge”), May(?) 1937 — COVER ONLY [but inside is a 3-page New Yorker spoof]
Police Gazette (“Police Gazette Jester”), in Nov. 1939
Columbia Daily Spectator, Nov. 1940
Columbia Review, Nov. 1941 [published in the Review]
Fortune, May 1945
Life (“Liff”), May 14, 1948; reprinted Aug. 15, 1948
Columbia Daily Spectator, Feb. 17, 1949
Reader’s Digest (“Reader’s Dijest”), [May] 1949
Ladies’ Home Journal (“Laddies’ Home Journal”), [May] 1952
Saturday Review (“Sanitary Review”), May 1956
Ivy, March 1958
Playbill (“Playbile”), May 1963
Columbia College Today (“Columbia College Toady”), April 1964
Fact, in November 1964 [“a short satire” of Ralph Ginzberg’s mag]
Columbia College Today: “Six Weeks that Shook Morningside” (“Columbia College Toady: 96 Pages that Distorted Six Weeks that Shook Morningside”), May 1969
Columbia Daily Spectator (“…Defecator”), February 22, 1989                   —VCR

Yale Record Parodies Since 1926

Five Yale Record parodies

The Record mocks Click (1939), True (1963), Film Fun (1927), Esquire (1955) and movie mags (1947).

The Yale Record was founded in 1872 and likes to call itself “the nation’s oldest college humor magazine,” but its no-nonsense title gives the game away. It really started out as “a Godawful boring weekly news sheet” that used humor mostly as filler, according to author and 1991 Yale grad Michael Gerber. The jokes slowly took over, a feathered mascot named Old Owl wandered in, and by the end of the century “the Record had transformed into that familiar dog’s breakfast, the college humor magazine.”1

The Record's 1960 Time parody

Grossman’s 1960 “Timf” cover.

Such mags boomed after World War I. By 1922 there were over a hundred, and for the next four decades the Record was one of the best. Its chief glory was a string of great cartoonists: Peter Arno in the ’20s (when he was Curtis Arnoux Peters); Whitney Darrow Jr. and Robert Osborn in the ’30s; Henry Martin, Robert Grossman, William Hamilton and Garry Trudeau in the postwar decades. Its writers included Stephen Vincent Benét, Dwight Macdonald, C.D.B. Bryan and the Firesign Theatre’s Philip Proctor.

The Record easily survived the Depression and a three-year pause for World War II, but the ’60s brought two changes that knocked Old Owl for a loop and killed off most of his contemporaries. The first came in 1963, when the tobacco companies, hoping to preempt federal regulation, quit advertising in student publications. This proved fatal for mags that could usually pay for an entire issue with one back-cover ad for Salem or Winston. The second  was the death of the old college culture of Gentleman’s Cs and secret handshakes, where helming the newspaper or debate club meant more for one’s future than making good grades. The Record was inextricably bound up in this world, and neither the reformers of the ’60s nor the studious careerists who followed them had much use for it. In 1970, the Yale Daily News bashed its rival’s latest issue as “a complete anachronism, … a museum piece of the Old Yale, a cultural monument to prep humor.”2  Soon after that bouquet, the Record sank and resurfaced only fitfully for twenty years.

The magazine returned for good in 1989 under the leadership of Michael Gerber (now its chief alumni advisor) and Jonathan Schwartz. Since then it has grown from two issues a year to six or more, and established a website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. The current press run is 500 copies — far from the 4,000 circulation of the late ’40s, but pretty good for a product available free online.

1943 and 1967 Reader's Digest parodies

Reader’s Digest parodies from 1943 and 1967.

Parody issues were cash cows for the college mags in their heyday, and the Record was among the few that could produce a major parody every year for decades. Info on the earliest is sparse online, but by the mid-’20s the parody was as much a part of the Record’s lineup as the Freshman Issue and Graduation Number. One of the last Records before the WWII hiatus contained a note-perfect, 64-page parody of Reader’s Digest; the first postwar volume brought a famous spoof of the New York (not Yale) Daily News that sold 18,000 copies.

Other postwar highlights included 1955’s oversized, 84-page “Esquirt” and a 1960 Time parody mostly written by Philip Proctor. The Record occasionally varied its pitch by spoofing a category rather than a single title, as in 1947’s “Happy Hollywood” or 1939’s “Phlick,” a mash-up of Pic, Click and Look whose cover shows a group of bathing beauties arrestingly labelled “Marihuana Victims.” Perhaps the Record’s greatest achievement was its 1961 “Yew Norker,” in which editor Robert Grossman skillfully impersonated some two dozen New Yorker cartoonists.

Two cartoons from the 1961 "Yew Norker"

Robert Grossman channels Whitney Darrow Jr. and Chuck Saxon in “The Yew Norker.”

The long parody streak ended on a high note in 1967 with another “Reader’s Dijest” even funnier than 1943’s. Michael Gerber’s 1991 parody of the short-lived National Sports Daily got the reanimated Record some good press but failed to revive the tradition: The mag hasn’t done a nationally distributed parody since. The format still works, though: In 2014 the Record printed 2,150 copies of a takeoff on its old tormentor, the News.

The following list is incomplete and, for early years, non-existent; dots (…..) indicate the most conspicuous gaps. The 1958 Yale yearbook mentions three Record parodies — of LifeHarper’s Bazaar and the Saturday Evening Post — but provides no dates. As always, I’d welcome corrections and more information. —VCR

Yale Record Parodies, 1918-2016:

Yale Daily News, in June 5, 1918
…..
College Comics (“Collegiate Comicals”), February 2, 1926
Film Fun (“Yale Record’s Film Fun Number”), April 20, 1927
Yale Daily News (“Yale Daily Clews”), June 1927
The New Yorker, 1928-29
Time, 1928-29
Physical Culture, February 13, 1929
…..
Vanity Fair, November 1933
Yale Daily News (“Yale Delayed News”), May 1934
Yale Daily News (“Yale Delay News”), June 1936
Typical pulp mag (“Real Spicy Horror Tales”), April 23, 1937
Yale Daily News, June 3, 1938
Typical picture mag (“Phlick”), February 23, 1939
Typical pulp mag (“Torrid Total War Tales”), February 12, 1941
Life (article: “The Record Goes to Wartime Yale”), in May 20, 1942
Reader’s Digest (“Record’s Digest”), March 1943
1946 New York Daily News parodyNew York Daily News (“Yale Record Daily News”), December 16, 1946
Typical movie mag (“Happy Hollywood”), November 1947
“Record Comics,” 1949 (parodies comic books &strips)
Yale Daily News, in November 1949
Typical men’s mag (“Smut”), February 1951
Yale Daily News, February 1951 [?; in YU Library catalog]
Yale Daily News, January 31, 1952
Punch (“Paunch”), December 1952
Yale Daily News, January 16, 1954
Male (“Tale”), February 1954
The Wall Street Journal (“Bald Street Journal”), in June 1954
Esquire (“Esquirt”), February 1955
Yale Alumni Magazine (“Yale Aluminum Manganese”), in June 1955
The New Yorker (“The Nouveau Yorkeur”), February 1956
New York Daily Mirror (“rorriM yliaD”), December 1956
Playboy (“Ployboy”), February 1958
Sports Illustrated (“Sports Illiterate”), February 30, 1959
Time (“Timf”), April 1960
Reader’s Digest (“Reader’s Digestion”), in September 1960
The New Yorker (“The Yew Norker”), February-March 1961
Life (“Liff”), February-March 1962
Typical opinion mag (“The New U.S.A. Fortnightly…”), October 1962
True (“Twue”), February-March 1963
Playboy (“Pwayboy”), February 1964
Sports Illustrated (“Sports Illstated”), February 1965
Yale Alumni Magazine, “Alumni Issue” 1965
The New York Times Magazine, March 13, 1966
Reader’s Digest (“Reader’s Dijest”), February (or late spring?) 1967
Yale Daily News, January 13, 1970
The New York Times, April 1, 1974
The National Inquirer, November 1, 1975
…..
The New Haven Advocate (“…Abdicate”), April 1990
The National Sports Daily, April 1991
The Yale Herald (“…Harold”), April 1992
…..
The New York Times website, April 1, 1999 (online here)
Cosmopolitan (“The Please Your Man Issue”), April 2009
…..
Yale Daily News (“Yale Daily Record”), April 10, 2014
Yale Daily News (“Yale Daily Record”), May 6, 2016

[Edited October 9, 2021, to add a few items and remove one: The Retraction (1989) was not a parody but a Yale humor mag in the late 1980s.]

___________________________

  1. Michael Gerber, “The Yale Record: A Short History of its Rise, Fall and Rise Again,” on Scribd .

2. Jeffrey Gordon, “Off the Record,” Yale Daily News, Dec. 3, 1970, p. 2.

Online: The Lampoon’s “Transcript,” 1919.

Lampoon's "Transcript" cover.

Unlike later Lampoon newspapers, the “Transcript” looked like (and was) a 9″-by-11″ magazine.

Parody Of: Boston Evening TranscriptTitle: “Boston Evening Transcript.”
Parody In: Harvard Lampoon.  Date: May 9, 1919. Pages: 16 + cover.
Contributors: None credited. Availability: Online here at Hathi Trust.

Fifth printing, new cover.

The fifth printing’s new cover.

“The old Boston Evening Transcript, conservative, delicate, dignified, and ever ‘responsible,’ served from the mid-nineteenth century until its quiet demise in 1941 as the ‘Bible of Proper Bostonians.’ In 1919 it was the unhappy subject of the one of the Lampoon’s most popular and successful parodies, which went through five printings and sold eight thousand copies, a circulation record not broken until the Literary Digest issue of 1925.” — 100 Years of Harvard Lampoon Parodies (1976), p 36.

“The Lampoon’s effort is a brilliant piece of parody. Sometimes it is a little obvious, and the number of themes upon which it lays unholy hands could have been varied with advantage. But the headlines and memorial notices are alone worth the price of admission; and the editorial is so like what the Transcript actually preaches — it is perhaps rather better written — as to suggest that it was contributed in all seriousness from the Transcript office. … But the main thing, at the moment, is to send a copy of the Lampoon to every Transcript subscriber.” — Harold J. Lasky in the Crimson, May 12, 1919.

The “Transcript” deserved its success. It was filled with the kind of collegiate whimsy the Lampoon usually disdained, and the newspaper format kept the jokes brief and frequent. The 1919-20 Lampoon staff couldn’t boast a Robert Benchley (class of 1911) or Robert Sherwood (’17), but it cemented a tradition: After the “Transcript,” the Lampoon produced a parody issue, usually in the spring, every year for the next quarter century.

The ‘Poonies weren’t the first Harvard men to mock the Transcript. Two years earlier, in Prufrock and Other Observations, T. S. Eliot (’09) had watched the approaching evening:

Wakening the appetites of life in some
And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript.

In his nine-line poem named for the newspaper, Eliot sketched Transcript readers as life-avoiding shut-ins. It’s simultaneously harsher and more subtle than the Lampoon’s parody, but both exploit the paper’s reputation for enervated propriety, and both succeed at what they set out to do. Prufrock and Other Observations changed the course of modern literature; the Lampoon’s “Transcript” made a lot of people laugh. — VCR

1919-Transcript-206-sm

The dead in column 3 include “Harry Josephus Liski” and other thinly disguised Harvard notables. The Lampoon repaid British socialist Harold J. Laski’s kind words in the Crimson next January, when it spent a whole issue trashing him for supporting the 1919 Boston Police Strike. The Lampoon’s own history called the Laski issue “Red-baiting,” “blatantly anti-Semitic” and “Lampy’s Blackest Hour.”

The Harvard Lampoon’s very first “Life,” 1896.

The Harvard Lampoon's first Life parody, 1896.

Parody OfLifeTitle: “Life.” Parody In: Harvard Lampoon.
Date: March 26, 1896 (Vol. 31, no. 1), pp. 10-11. Length: 1 page (on 2 Lampoon pages).
Contributors: W. Ames ’95, J.P. Welch ’97. Availability: Lampoons from the 1890s turn up periodically (pun) on the web; good luck finding specific issues.

Life, a national comic weekly founded by Lampoon graduates, was the perfect target for the very first magazine parody, which appeared in a regular issue in 1896. Later that year the Crimson was parodied for the first time and other magazines were assailed in turn by the ‘Lampy’s Contemporaries’ series.'” — Harvard Lampoon Hundredth Anniversary Issue, February 1976, p. 8.

A page from a real 1896 Life.

The real Life in 1896.

Life the humor magazine — sometimes called “the old Life” — was launched on Jan. 1, 1883 by a group of Harvard grads, two of whom, Edward S. Martin and John Tyler Wheelwright, had helped start the Lampoon seven years earlier. The two magazines stayed close: Life began as a kind of national Lampoon, so to speak, and as Life’s circulation grew the Lampoon began to resemble its offspring.

This displeased the Crimson, which wrote sternly in 1887: “The [Lampoon] is a college paper and should retain its character as such and should not aim to be a cheap copy of a paper that has no more originality or excellence than is found in Life.” The Lampoon echoed the “Crime’s” putdown of Life in the parody’s “Editorial,” which took some nerve: Life had started running one-page parodies of Punch, The New York Tribune and others under the heading “Some of Life’s Contemporaries” in 1885. The Lampoon’s only variation 11 years later was to drop “Some of.”

Two items from the Lampoon's Life.

Two items from the Lampoon’s “Life.”

Unlike its rivals Puck and Judge, which ran full-color political cartoons every week, Life stuck to chaste black and white and affected to be above party politics. Editor John Ames Mitchell advocated Good Government by the Better Sort of People, a kind of Gilded-Age version of Limousine Liberalism. He hated vivisection, child labor, and impoverished English Lords who cynically marry beautiful American heiresses for money. The last is an oddly specific issue, but Life was obsessed with it.

Cartoons from the Lampoon's Life, 1896.

The Lampoon pits Life’s Charles Dana Gibson (left) against Punch’s George du Maurier.

Robert Benchley and Gluyas Williams targeted Life’s foibles in 1911 in the Lampoon’s first issue-length magazine parody, then went on write and draw for the real thing in the ’20s. But when they and other members of Algonquin set moved to a new magazine called The New Yorker, the Lampoon’s affections followed. The Depression killed Life’s ad revenues, and it folded in 1936 after selling its name to Time Inc.’s new picture magazine for $92,000. Thirty-two years later, ‘Poonies Henry Beard, Doug Kenney and Rob Hoffman quarterbacked a parody of that “new” Life, which got them thinking of producing a second national Lampoon. It debuted in April 1970, this time with the “N” capitalized. — VCR

The Not-So-Annual Parody Issue

Purple Parrot's American Home and the Duke'n'Duchess's Dook.

The Purple Parrot’s “American Home” (1945), the Duke’n’Duchess’s “Dook” (1949)

Remember my scare-quotes in the last post regarding “annual” parody issues of college humor magazines? I used them because most college hu… I’m tired of typing that … most CHMs, even in their 1920s-50s heyday, didn’t put out a major parody every year.

(By “major,” I mean a full-length parody of a national, or at least non-student, publication. This rules out every collegian’s favorite punching bag: the campus newspaper. Such papers are so ripe for parody that, in the absence of a CHM, student journalists will gleefully do the job on themselves, usually on April 1 or in the last issue before exams.)

The Harvard Lampoon's 1968 Life parody.The Harvard Lampoon may be the source of the “annual” misapprehension. Early on, its parodies really did appear every year: 27 in the quarter-century from 1919 to 1943. (Here’s a list.) They also came thick and fast in the ’60s, including “Pl*yb*y” (1966) and the brilliant but money-losing “Life” (1968). Since then, the Lampoon has produced a national parody roughly once every four years, and the intervals are getting longer. In the past 25 years there have been only two: “Premiere” (2005) and “National Geographic” (2008). Today’s ‘Poonies would rather parody best-sellers like The Hunger Games and websites like The Huffington Post, which inspired 2014’s online-only “Huffington Psst.” Links to the “Huffington Psst” no longer work, but copies of the Lampoon’s 1917 “Vanity Fair” still do. Advantage: print.

Others with long parody streaks include the Yale Record in 1954-67, the Ohio State Sundial in 1947-60 and the Stanford Chaparral in 1949-61; Chappie’s run ended with an item called “Layboy” that got the mag shut down for a few years. No doubt more examples are tucked away in college archives, but I suspect they’re exceptions. In every complete(ish) CHM collection I’ve examined in person or online, the parody issues are distributed fairly randomly. Four examples:

  •  Though the Ohio State Sundial (1911-73, with several interruptions) had a good run in 1947-60, its only full-length national parody in the three decades before that was “Vague” (i.e., Vogue) in May 1924. After the early ’60s, Sundial struggled to produce any issues on a regular basis, let alone parodies. The most recent resuscitation attempt was made in 2011-12.
  • Despite being a mixed humor-feature mag, the Northwestern Purple Parrot (1921-50; online here) put out five major parodies in its first 21 years, then got the bug and did nine in a row from 1942 to ’50. Its more feature-oriented successor, Profile, produced only one, “Esquirk,” in 1952.
  • The Duke University Duke ‘n’ Duchess (1936-42, ’46-51) did three full-length parodies in its eleven years. Two were produced by the same staff: “Esquire,” in November 1940 and the “D&D New Yorker” the following March. The third was put together quickly in November 1949 to answer a Look magazine photo-feature on homecoming at rival UNC. Called “Dook … ‘n’ Duchess,” it aimed its venom mainly at the Tar Heels; the Look format was only a vessel. D’n’D’s successor, Peer (1953-69), produced only one notable parody, a 1967 spoof of the local Durham Morning Herald.
  • The Missouri Showme (1920-63 with many interruptions; online here) was famous in college-humor circles for producing talented cartoonists and barnyard humor. The latter earned it several suspensions, though in the end it died of neglect rather than persecution. In the 29 years it did appear, Showme issued only two full-length parodies: “Strife” (i.e., Life) in February 1937 and the “Saturday Evening Pest” in November 1950. Later parodies of Confidential (“Confidental,” October 1957) and men’s adventure mags (“Sweat,” February 1961) were briefer and made little effort to duplicate their targets.

Covers of the Missouri Showme's Post and Sweat parodies.

Perils of parody: Showme’s 1950 “Pest” and 1961 “Sweat.”

Showme’s experience proves how tricky parody issues can be. “Sweat” was neither well-done nor popular, but its aroma of he-man raunch was strong enough to get the magazine shut down for over a year. “It included a parody of the life of a house-mother … who tried to trap a male janitor in the laundry,” co-editor Dale Allen said later. “University house-mothers were outraged by this affront to their dignity. They demanded that the university cease publication of this scandalous sheet … [and] the publications board … pronounced a death sentence.”

The “Pest,” on the other hand, succeeded editorially but failed commercially. It was Showme’s most elaborate parody at 52 pages, some enhanced by spot color; highlights included a nonsensical short story by editor-in-chief Jerry Smith and convincing imitations of famous Post cartoonists by artist Glenn Troelstrup. “Unfortunately, the very costly issue was late in arriving, and [was] sold on the worst day of the week for student activity on campus. It was quite a monetary loss,” Smith recalled. Promo ads had promised the “Pest” would be Showme’s “First Annual Parody,” but instead it was the last to fill a whole issue. Who knows how many “annual” parodies at other schools ended up in the same position? — VCR

More New Yorker parodies online

New Yorker parodies from Northwestern and Dartmouth

New Yorker parodies from Northwestern (1942) and Dartmouth (2006).

In case “The Neu Jorker” doesn’t sate your appetite for fake New Yorkers, here are two more you can read in their entirety online:

Parody Of: The New YorkerTitle: “The New Yorker.”
Parody By: Northwestern Purple Parrot.  Date: February 1942. Pages: 36.
Contributors: Portia McClain, Mary Ellen Sams (editors), et al.
Availability: Online here in the Northwestern University Library.

College humor magazines flourished from the 1920s through the ’60s. Now that most are safely dead, the same institutions that barely tolerated them alive are digitizing the remains. Northwestern University, for one, has a nearly complete run of the Purple Parrot in its online archive. The Parrot (1921-1950) was not so much a humor magazine as a general-interest mag with a large humor section, but in the 1940s it imitated a different publication almost every year. In February 1942, it chose The New Yorker.

The Parrot‘s version — called, oddly enough, “The New Yorker” — is more an impersonation than a parody: The “Talk” items, articles and reviews concern Evanston, Illinois, rather than Manhattan, but they’re straight-faced and factual. The “Profile” is of future TV star Garry Moore, then a young local radio emcee; and the “Department of Correction” is a real letter complaining of errors in the previous issue. Like most collegiate parodists, the Parrot crew easily nail The New Yorker‘s typeface and layout but can’t touch the effortless-looking professionalism of its art. Some of the cartoons are funny enough to overcome their visual awkwardness, but overall the Parrot’s “New Yorker” has more to offer Northwestern alums than parody buffs.

"My Face," from Dartmouth's 2006 New Yorker parody

“My Face,” by “John Terwilliger” (Mike Trapp) in “The Nü Yorker.”

Parody Of: The New YorkerTitle: “The Nü Yorker.”
Parody By: Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern.  Date: Fall 2006. Pages: 28.
Contributors: Cole Entress, Fred Meyer, Alex Rogers, Owen Parsons (editors), et. al.
Availability: Online here at the Jack-O-Lantern.

Cartoon of two dogsThe Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern‘s “Nü Yorker,” unlike the Purple Parrot‘s, is all fake and strictly for laughs, from Jerry Lewis’s letter to the editor (“I respectfully request … that neither my social  security number, nor a photostat of my birth certificate be reprinted in any subsequent issues”) to the caption contest featuring Jacko‘s favorite running gag, “Stockman’s Dogs” (two canines drawn in 1934 and present in nearly every issue since). Notably funny pieces include “Letter From A Truck Stop Outside Neola, NE: This Place Sucks”; a deranged “Profile” of a poor guy named Jack Napier who can’t convince the author he’s not the Joker; and a wonderfully pretentious poem, “Skipping Cultural Stones on the Sea of Aspersions.”

The Jacko folks don’t show much interest in parodying specific writers and artists, and in the “Talk of Town” they don’t even bother to use The New Yorker‘s detached, distinctive editorial “we.” Some of the cartoons are so aggressively dumb they’re funny, but too many look like they were drawn with chewed toothpicks; they’re out-of-place amid the clean design and cleverly faked ads. Such flaws are easily outweighed by the silliness of a piece like “My Face” (above) or a “Shouts and Murmurs” column made up entirely of voices murmuring and shouting. College humor mags were the breeding ground for this type of crazy/clever whimsy, and “The Nü Yorker” revels in it. — VCR