National Lampoon Parodies, 1970-2006

Six National Lampoon Parodies

Clockwise from Mozart: Early parodies of Rolling Stone (1970), Playboy (1973) and Life (1973), a special for Print (1974); late parodies of the Times Magazine (1984) and Vanity Fair (1990).

This week’s debut on Netflix of another movie about the early years of National Lampoon — not a documentary this time, a biopic  of Doug Kenny — provides all the excuse I need to catalog its magazine and newspaper parodies. Founders Kenney, Henry Beard and Rob Hoffman honed their chops aping Playboy, Life and Time at the Harvard Lampoon , so it’s no surprise magazine parodies were highlights of NatLamp’s Golden Age (roughly 1971-75) and bright spots in the silver-plated years that followed (roughly 1976-84; the mag’s post-1984 content is mostly lead).

The contract licensing the “Lampoon” name to Twenty-First Century Communications explicitly barred the national version from milking Harvard’s cash cow. The closest National Lampoon ever came to producing a full-length, stand-alone magazine parody was the November 1977 “Lifestyles” issue, which aped New York from cover lines to crossword puzzle without quite admitting what it was up to. Fortunately, the contract said nothing about parodies of generic high-school yearbooks and small-city Sunday papers, leaving the door open for NatLamp’s masterpieces.

Pages from the Lifestyles issue

Top: NL’s “Lifestyles” issue (Nov. 1977); bottom: New York pages from 1976-77.

National Lampoon’s fake publications fall into four types: inventions, genre spoofs, mutations and plain ol’ parodies. Like Mad’s fake mags for protesters, schoolteachers and what-have-you, the inventions were vessels for satire aimed at some other target. And as with the earlier Mad index, they’re not listed here. Genre spoofs imitated types of publications — often fan magazines or gossip tabloids — without cloning any one title. Examples include “Real Balls Adventure” for men (April 1971) and the inflight magazine “Stampede” (April 1974). I suspect some items I’ve put in this category have specific models I’m not familiar with, and I’d welcome additional info.

The mutations spoofed specific titles but tinkered with their DNA, making My Weekly Reader a scandal sheet (Sept. 1971) or switching Hot Rod’s focus from gearheads to tree-huggers (“Warm Rod,” April 1975). A few were relatively straight counterfactuals: e.g., the parodies of Look, Jet and the Village Voice in the JFK Fifth Inaugural issue (Jan. 1977). Others put familiar mags in Bizarro worlds where plants crave porn (“Seed,” Aug. 1974) and military service is a fashion statement (“Guerre,” Sept. 1973). This approach reached perfection in “Playdead” ( Jan. 1973), which exposed the airbrushed unreality of Playboy simply by redirecting its covetous ogle from skin to bones.

Examples of four kinds of parody

Four kinds of fakes: Invented, genre, mutated, and plain ol’ parody.

The plain ol’ parodies dispensed with what-ifs and tackled publications just as they were. This group includes many NatLamp’s classics, including “Mad” (Oct. 1971), the 1943 “Life” (Sept. 1973) and what I consider its last first-rate feature of any kind, a 19-page sendup of The New York Times Magazine in June 1984. Also included are a few items that aren’t strictly parodies but capture the essence of a publication, such as “Ron Hague’s Year of Rejected New Yorker Covers” (Dec. 1983) and “National Lampoon’s 1974 New Year’s Resolutions” (Jan. 1975).

This list is divided into three unequal parts: parodies in regular issues, those in books and specials containing new material, and those in non-NL publications. (The last section contains only one item, but it’s a hoot if you’re into graphic design.) Each entry in Section 1 begins with the name of the publication being parodied, in italics; followed by the fake title or article name, in parentheses; the NatLamp issue date; and the page count, in brackets.

A phrase like “5 pages on 3” means each magazine page contained two or more digest-size parody pages; the word “broadsheet” describes a few newspaper parodies that folded out to 17″ by 22″. Parodies of old magazines have their cover dates noted inside the parentheses: e.g., “Popular Workbench” for Aug. 1938.

A version of this list in alphabetical instead of chronological order will appear in my very next post. —VCR

Section 1: Parodies in National Lampoon Magazine, 1970-98:

Avant Garde (“Avant Gauche” ad: “Rockwall’s Erotic Engravings”), April 1970 [3]
Playboy (foldout: “Liberated Front” + “Party Jokes”), April 1970 [6]
Genre: confession (“True Finance”), May 1970 [4]
Wall Street Journal (“The Gall Street Journal”), May 1970 [2 broadsheet]
Harper’s Bazaar (“Bizarre”), June 1970 [5]
Life [pictue mag] (article: “Our Threatened Nazis”), June 1970 [2]
Genre: underground newspaper (“The Daily Roach Holder”), August 1970 [6]
Genre: movies (“Screen Slime”), Sept. 1970 [10]
Variety (“Varietsky” front page), Sept. 1970 [1]

Cosmopolitan (“Cosmopolatin”), Jan. 1971 [15]
Rolling Stone (“Rolling Stein,” Dec. 9, 1791), Feb. 1971 [3]
TV Guide (“The New York Review of TV”), March 1971 [5 pages on 3]
Genre: men’s (“Real Balls Adventure”), April 1971 [11)
Life [humor mag] (“National Lampoon,” May 1906), May 1971 [7]
New York Times (“The New York World”), May 1971 [2 broadsheet]
My Weekly Reader (“My Weekly Reader: The Children’s Tabloid”), Sept. 1971 [4]
Mad (“Mad”), Oct. 1971 [15]
Esquire (article: “The Incredible Shrinking Magazine”), Nov. 1971 [3]

The Whole Earth Catalog (“The Last, Really, No Shit, Really, the Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog”), Jan. 1972 [7]
Screw (“Third Base: The Dating Newspaper,” April 1956), April 1972 [8]
Playboy (article: “Gamma Hutch: The Playboy Fallout Shelter,” Dec. 1959), April 1972 [4]
Genre: true story (“True Politics”), Aug. 1972 [10]
National Geographic (“National Geographic”), Sept. 1972 [3]
New York Times (“The New York Times”), Oct. 1972 [1 page on 2]

Playboy (“Playdead”), Jan. 1973 [14]
Screw (“Piddle: The Adult Publication for Children”), Feb. 1973 [8]
National Enquirer (“National Inspirer”), March 1973 [8]
Ebony (“Ivory”), April 1973 [7]
Genre: guns (“Gun Lust”), June 1973 [11]
Genre: men’s (“Knuckle: A Real Man’s Magazine”), June 1973 [5]
Popular Mechanics (“Popular Workbench,” Aug. 1938), July 1973 [14]
Psychology Today (“Psychology Ptoday”), Aug. 1973 [15]
Genre: fashion (“Guerre: The New Magazine for the New Army”), Sept. 1973 [7]
Life (“Life,” Sept. 28, 1943), Sept. 1973 [13]
Reader’s Digest (article: “Martial Mirth”), Sept. 1973 [1]
Oui (“Peut-etre” article: “Taffy”), Oct. 1973 [4]
Sports Illustrated (“Sports Illustrated”), Nov. 1973 [13]
Tiger Beat (“Poon Beat”), Dec. 1973 [10]

Penthouse (“Pethouse”), Jan. 1974 [9]
Popular Science (“Popular Evolution”), Jan. 1974 [11]
National Lampoon (“National Lampoof”), Feb. 1974 [11]
U.S. News & World Report (“Stupid News & World Report”), March 1974 [7]
Genre: inflight (“Stampede: Prairie Central/Panhandle Airlines Magazine”), April 1974 [8]
Reader’s Digest (“Digester’s Reader” front & back covers only), June 1974 [1]
Weight Watchers (“Weighty Waddlers”), June 1974 [7]
Genre: guns (“Guns & Sandwiches”), July 1974 [6]
Family Circle (“Famine Circle”), July 1974 [8]
Screw (“Seed”), Aug. 1974 [8]
Genre: pulps (“Unexciting Stories,” undated but 1930s), Sept. 1974 [4+]
Ladies’ Home Journal (“Old Ladies’ Home Journal”), Sept. 1974 [8]
National Midnight (“Almost Midnight”), Sept. 1974 [4]
Playboy (ad: What Sort of Man Reads Pl*yb*y?”), Oct. 1974 [1]
Boys’ Life (“Boys’ Real Life”), Oct. 1974 [10]
Awake! (“Wise Up!”), Dec. 1974 [3 half-pages]

National Lampoon (article: “NL’s 1974 New Year’s Resolutions”), Jan. 1975 [5]
Genre: homemaker (“Negligent Mother”), Jan. 1975 [6]
Modern Bride (“American Bride”), Feb. 1975 [10)
The New Yorker (“The New Y*rker”), March 1975 [13]
Time (article: “Partly Sane, Raspberries, and Time”), March 1975 [3]
Hot Rod (“Warm Rod”), April 1975 [7]
JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association (“COMA: Circular of the Organization of Medical Associations”), May 1975 [8]
National Star (“National Sore”), May 1975 [4]
Genre: boys’ magazines (“Cap’n Jasper’s Boy O Boy,” May 1935), June 1975 [8]
Genre: show-biz trade paper (“Hollywood Briefs”), July 1975 [4]
After Dark (article: “Glitter Bums”), July 1975 [3]
Harvard Lampoon (article: “The Ten Worst Movies of All Time”), July 1975 [1]
Genre: true crime (“Citizen’s Arrest”), Aug. 1975 [7]
Esquire (“Exsquire”), Sept. 1975 [12]
Genre: college newpapers (“The Daily Klaxon”), Sept. 1975 [4]
Penthouse (article: “The Resister’s Revenge”), Sept. 1975 [6]
Genre: gossip (“Myth & Legend Mirror” for Oct. IV B.C.), Oct. 1975 [5]
Fortune (“Lucre”), Dec. 1975 [12]
Moneysworth (two subscription ads for “Nickleknows”), Dec. 1975 [1+1]

New Times (“Nu? Times” cover only), Jan. 1976 [1]
New York Review of Books (“The New York Review of Us”), Jan. 1976 [8]
ARTnews (“ARTynews”), Feb. 1976 [13]
Genre: art studies (“Modes d’Art Magazine” for June 1926), Feb. 1976 [6]
The Sporting News (“The Sportbiz News”), April 1976 [6]
Genre: fan & gossip (“Silver Jock: The Demi-Decadent Sports Magazine), April 1976 [7]
Cahiers du Cinema (“Cahiers du TV”), May 1976 [4]
The Times of India (“The Times of Indira”), May 1976 [3]
The Canadian Magazine (“The Canadian Weakly,” June 8, 1969), June 1976 [6]
Hustler (“Gobbler”), Aug. 1976 [5]
Newsweek (cover + article: “Townville, Iowa”), Nov. 1976 [2]
People (“Objects”), Dec. 1976 [5, no cover]

The Kiplinger Washington Letter (“The Kremlinger Moscow Letter”), Jan. 1977 [2]
Scientific American (“Scienterrific American”), Jan. 1977 [10]
Look (“Kennedy”), Feb. 1977 [11]
Jet (“Tar”), Feb. 1977 [6, digest-size]
The Village Voice (“The Global Village Voice”), Feb. 1977 [8]
TV Guide (“TV”), Apr. 1977 [16, digest-size]
Better Homes and Gardens (“Better Homes and Closets”), May 1977 [11]
Money Matters (“Young Money Matters”), June 1977 [4]
Penthouse (“Repenthouse”), July 1977 [5]
High Times (“Wasted Times”), Aug. 1977 [7]
Amazing Stories (“Amusing Stories” for Oct. 1926), Sept. 1977 [3]
Mad (article: “You Know You’re Grown Up When…”), Sept. 1977 [2]
Genre: fan & gossip (“Mersey Moptop Faverave Fabgearbeat” for Oct. 1964), Oct. 1977 [8]
The New York Times (“The New York Time”), Oct. 1977 [front page on 2]
New York (“Lifestyles”), Nov. 1977 [42 + front cover]
Time (“Xmas Time”), Dec. 1977 [5]

National Review (“National Socialist Review”), Feb. 1978 [8]
Outside (“OutSSide” subscription ad), Feb. 1978 [3]
Reader’s Digest (article: “Rumpus Room Rib-Ticklers”), May 1978 [2]
Seventeen (“Savvyteen”), Aug. 1978 [8]
GQ (“RQ: Regular Guy Quarterly”), Sept. 1978 [4]
Variety (“Movies”), Oct. 1978 [4]

Life (“Lite”), April 1979 [8]

Genre: UFOs (“Real Business Jet”), March 1980 [5]
Genre: men’s (“Real-Life Adventure”), June 1980 [4]
The New Yorker (article: “Coming Into the River,” by “John McPhoo”), June 1980 [6]
National Enquirer (“The Washington Enquirer”), Aug. 1980 [4]

People (article: “Douglas Waterman Caps a Big Year”), May 1981 [4]
New York Times Book Review (article: “Would You Like Something to Read?”), Aug. 1981 [2+]
Time (Special Section: “Let’s Get It Up, America”), Aug. 1981 [27]
New York Times Magazine (article: “Talking Out Loud: College Slang of the Eighties,” by “William Zircon”), Sept. 1981 [1+]
Genre: TV listings (“American Home Movie Box Program Guide”), Oct. 1981 [4]
The Hollywood Reporter (“The Hollywood Informer”), Oct. 1981 [5]
Esquire (“Esquare”), Dec. 1981 [13]
Interview (“Interluude”), Dec. 1981 [11]
Wet (“Moist”), Dec. 1981 [9]

Heavy Metal (“Semi Mental” art portfolio), Jan. 1982 [6]
Cinefantastic (“Cinefantasterrifique”), Jan. 1982 [5]
Jack and Jill (“Jack and Jill St. John”), Feb. 1982 [5]
Playboy (article: “Parents of the Girls of the Eastwest Conference”), Feb. 1982 [2]
Playboy (article: “The Playboy Advisor”), Feb. 1982 [1]
Gourmet (“Goormay”), March 1982 [9]
Road & Track (“Food & Track”), March 1982 [5]
Genre: fan & gossip mags (“Mitch Springer: A Loving Tribute”), April 1982 [5]
Self (“Self-Destruct”), April 1982 [5]
Genre: visitor guides (“Why Leave This Room?”) Aug. 1982 [5]
New York Times Magazine (article: “Talking Out Loud: The Customers Always Write,” by “William Zircon”), Aug. 1982 [1+]
National Enquirer (“National Sexloid”), Sept. 1982 [5]
National Lampoon (article: “False Facts”), Sept. 1982 [1]
Time (article: Henry Kissenger’s “Years of Arousal”), Sept. 1982 [6]
Rolling Stone (“Rolling Tombstone”), Nov. 1982 [9]

The Dial (“hy-Art: The Magazine of the Precious Broadcasting System”), Jan. 1983 [7]
Travel & Leisure (“Postage & Handling”), Feb. 1983 [7]
The Atlantic (“The Hotlantic”), April 1983 [9]
National Geographic (“National Southpacific”, May 1983 [13]
Playboy (article: “Dear Playmates”), June 1983 [1]
Genre: alumni (“Skidmark: The Alumni Magazine of Skidmark College”), Sept. 1983 [11]
New York (“Jo’burg”), Sept. 1983 [9]
Working Woman (“Working Girl”), Nov. 1983 [11]
The New Yorker (article: “Ron Hauge’s Year of Rejected New Yorker Covers”), Dec. 1983 [4]

Time (“Time”), Jan. 1984 [35]
Easyriders (“Equalriders”), March 1984 [11]
New York Times Magazine (“The New York Times Magazine”), June 1984 [19]
The New Yorker (“The Hymie Towner” cover only), June 1984 [1]
People (“PLO” article: “Nor More Mr. Bad Guy For Yassir Arafat”), July 1984 [4]
Genre: TV listings (“Unofficial 1984 Olympic TV Watcher’s Guide”), Aug. 1984 [16 digest-size]
Genre: fitness (“Muscle Mind”), Sept. 1984 [7]

Forum (“Whorum”), Jan. 1985 [8]
Seventeen (“Deadteen”), July 1985 [7]
Easyriders (“Easywriters”), Sept. 1985 [8]
Multiple titles (article: “The Hot New Lineup for 1986 from Condom-Nasty Publications,” with covers of STD-focused versions of Harper’s Bazaar, Reader’s Digest and New Age Journal), Sept. 1985 [2].
Rolling Stone (“Rollin’ Home” for Itinerant Bluesmen), Oct. 1985 [6]
Multiple titles (article: “The Real Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” told in fake clips from the New York Post, People, Jet, etc.), Oct. 1985 [7].
Playboy (“Slayboy”), Dec. 1985 [8]

Fortune (“Misfortune”), Feb. 1986 [13]
National Lampoon (“National Tampoon”), March 1986 [6]
Playboy (article: “Feminist Party Jokes”), March 1986 [1]
Sports Illustrated (“Sports Hallucinated”), May 1986 [7]
Playboy (article: “Interview: Steven Spielberg”), Aug. 1986 [3+]
Genre: tabloid (“Stranger Than Fact”), Nov. 1986 [7]

Genre: fitness (“Peppy: The High-Potency Magazine of Fitness and Health”), Jan. 1987 [12]

Playboy (“Playbyte”), Feb. 1988 [10]
Sporting News (“The Sporting Muse”), Oct. 1988 [10]

Rolling Stone (“Rolling Stone”), Feb. 1989 [7]
Playboy (article: “Girls of the Community Colleges”), Oct. 1989 [4]
Martha Stewart Entertaining (“Martha Stewart’s Entertaining the K-Mart Way”), Dec. 1989 [3]

Rollling Stone (“Perception/Reality” ad), Feb. 1990
Vanity Fair (“Vanity Fair”), June 1990 [10]
Genre: movies (“Big Screen”), June 1991 [36]
Rolling Stone (article: “Have War, Will Travel,” by “P.J. O’Drunke”), Aug. 1991 [2]
Muscle & Fitness (“Muscle & Fatness”), March 1994 [9]
Guns & Ammo (“Liquor & Ammo”), Aug. 1994 [10]
Reader’s Digest (“Reader Digest”), Jan.-Feb. 1995 [10]
Genre: golf (“Duffer’s Digest”), 1996 [9]
National Enquirer (“Roman Eqvirer”), 1996 [4]
Inc. (“stInc.”), 1998 [13]

Section 2: Parodies in Special Editions and Books, 1974-2006:

In the 1964 High School Yearbook Parody, special edition, Summer 1974:
Genre: high school newspaper (“The Prism” for May 11, 1964) [8]
Genre: high school literary magazine (“Leaf & Squib” for Spring 1964) [14]

In NL’s 199th Birthday Book, special edition, 1975:
Genre: college humor (“The Spitoon,” for 1877) [2]
Kiplinger Washington Letter (“The Hamilton Philadelphia Letter,” Sept. 18, 1787) [2]
Popular Mechanics (“Tomorrow’s Future Homebody” for June 1946) [3]

In NL’s Sunday Newspaper Parody, special edition, Feb. 1978:
Genre: newspaper (“The Dacron-Republican-Democrat”) [104, in 8 sections]
Genre: newspaper magazine section (“Sunday Week”) [16]
Parade (“Pomade”)  [16]

In NL Magazine Rack (New York: National Lampoon Press, 2006):
Consumer Reports (“Consumed Reports”), from, June 2004 [4]
The Hollywood Reporter (“The Hollywood Retorter”), limited distribution, Dec. 2002 [16]
Men’s Health (“Man’s Health”), from, June 2002 [4]
TV Guide (“Al-Jazeera TV Guide”), from, Nov. 2004 [4]

Section 3: Parodies in Non-National Lampoon Publications:

Print (“National Lampoon Graphics Parody Section”), in Print, July-Aug. 1974 [8 + cover]

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Duke + Look = “Dook,” 1949

Covers of real Look and fake Dook

Oct. 25, 1949, Look; Duke ‘n’ Duchess’s quick retort.

Parody Of: LookTitle: “Dook (and Duchess).” Parody By: Duke and Duchess.
Date: November 19, 1949. Length: 28 pages plus covers.
Availability: Hard to find; one copy sold on eBay in late 2017.

College humor mags were prone to grumble-brag about how much time and effort they put into parody issues, but they could turn one out quickly enough with the right motivation. Take Duke University’s Duke and Duchess (1936-51), which sprang into action in the fall of 1949 after Look devoted six pages to homecoming celebrations at hated rival UNC. Look had shot the feature the previous November, when the Tar Heels, led by two-time All American Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, skunked the Blue Devils 20-0 in Chapel Hill. It was published in the issue dated October 25, 1949, which came out around mid-month. The D’n’D’s response appeared November 19, the day the two schools clashed again at Duke’s homecoming in Durham.

Three pages from Look's story.

Opening and last page of Look’s “Big Game” feature.

“Dook” is so well done it’s hard to believe editor Art Steuer and staff put it together in only four weeks — or less, as it likely spent a week at the printer. The highlight is associate editor Walt Wadlington’s almost shot-by-shot spoof of Look’s account of the big weekend “as it was lived by Betty Lokey, pretty, 21-year-old senior from Raleigh, with her date, Jake Bowman.” The D’n’D’s version followed “Gertude Abernathy, 14-year-old senior from Low Point” and date Rudoph Ballentino (“a typical Carolina man” whose ambition is to own a liquor store) from their first meeting in a pool hall Friday morning through Rudoph’s drunken collapse on Sunday. Duke sophomore Kate Bullington and senior Earl Humphrey gamely posed as the mismatched couple.

The Big Game story in Dook

“Dook’s” version, starring typical Tar Heel “Rudolph Ballentino.”

Almost every page of the parody was modeled on a specific page in the 10/25 Look. “Dook” aped Look’s lead story on FDR’s legacy with a similar take on one Hubert Humperdink. (“MYTH: He founded Duke University under the fictitious name of Benjamin Duke. FACT: He did found the University of North Carolina under the fictitious name of North Carolina.”) There were also fake letters to the editor, a “Dook Photocrime” and a version of Look’s most-parodied feature, the Photoquiz.

A profile of the unkempt mountaineer who cared for UNC mascot Ramses the Ram might strike current readers as too broad for effective satire, but Bob Jordan’s reporting was strictly factual. George B. “Bushy” Cook was a former textile worker from Haywood County, N.C., who settled on a farm near Chapel Hill after World War II; he was Ramses’s official guardian from 1947 to 1957 and died in 1974 at the age of 76.

Bushy Cook and Ramses in Dook.

Yale QB Levi Jackson and Coach Herman Hickman in Look; Ramses and Cook in “Dook.”

All this cleverness was not quite enough to push the Blue Devils over the top on game day, however. Led again by Justice, the Tar Heels thwarted a last-minute field goal attempt by Duke to preserve a 21-20 lead in the closest game of the season for either team. The pen may be mightier that the sword, but it proved no match for the Choo Choo.   —VCR

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“The Bilioustine,” 1901

Bilioustine and Philistine covers

“The Bilioustine’s” two issues and the Dec. 1901 Philistine.

Parody Of: The Philistine. Title: “The Bilioustine.” By: Bert Leston Taylor.
Dates: May and October 1901. Published By: William S. Lord of Evanston, Illinois.
Availability: Free online here; print copies findable but pricey.

“The Bilioustine” may have been this country’s first full-length magazine parody, though no one thought to make that claim when it was published back in 1901. It’s still one of the funniest, thanks to the wit of author Bert Leston Taylor and the barn-size targets provided by Elbert Hubbard and his self-published organ, The Philistine.

Elbert Hubbard photo


Elbert — not to be confused with L. Ron — Hubbard is dimly recalled today, but at the dawn of the last century he was one of the most famous writers and lecturers in America. A former soap salesman with a facile pen and an Barnum-like gift for publicity, Hubbard combined a passion for the arts-and-crafts movement of the 1890s with a keen eye for the main chance. After making his name with a collection of moralizing travel sketches called Little Journeys to the Homes of Good Men and Great, he launched The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest in June 1895 as a platform for his thoughts on culture, politics and other matters. Within a few months he was printing it himself on second-hand equipment in an old barn near East Aurora, New York; he dubbed this set-up the Roycroft Press, after a family of 17th-century English printers. Its success drew other artisans to New Aurora, and by the time of Hubbard’s death in 1915 there were more than 500 “Roycrofters” working in 14 buildings.

The Philistine was one of hundreds of self-consciously “little” magazines that sprang up in the mid-’90s, partly in reaction to the emergence of mass-market behemoths like the Ladies’ Home Journal (born 1884) and Saturday Evening Post (1821, but reborn 1897). Unlike those titles, the little magazines offered “a small or odd-shaped page, fine typography and printing, and cleverness and radicalism in criticism,” in the words of historian Frank Luther Mott. They had names like Angel’s Food, the Bauble, the Goose-Quill, Jabs and Stiletto. Most struggled to find readers and had the lifespan of mayflies.

Two pages from the May Bilioustine

Fake ads and deep thoughts in the May “Bilioustine.”

The Philistine was an exception: It ran 20 years and reached a circulation of 200,000 — ten times that of its best-known contemporary, the Chap-book. A typical issue contained 32 pages of editorial matter and at least as many of ads, all printed on brown butcher paper and bound with gold thread. Though its contributors included Stephen Crane and Oz illustrator W.W. Denslow, The Philistine‘s voice was pure Hubbard. He wrote countless signed and unsigned editorials, poems and homilies — including “A Message to Garcia” (1899), a brief sermon on duty in war and workplace that struck a chord with the millions and entered countless anthologies.

As a writer, Hubbard had two voices. The first, cosmic and gaseous, can be heard in his introduction to the Philistine’s first issue. After comparing “the true Philistine” to Don Quixote, he charged his readers to

rescue from the environment of custom and ostentation the beauty and goodness cribbed therein…, go tilting at windmills and other fortresses — often on sorry nags and with shaky lances, and yet on heroic effort bent. And to such merry joust and fielding all lovers of chivalry are bidden: to look on — perhaps to laugh, it may be to grieve, at woeful belittling of lofty enterprise. Come, such of you as have patience with such warriors…

…and so on. His other style was down-to-earth and satirical, with echoes of Ambrose Bierce: “Genius may have its limitations,” he wrote, “but stupidity is not thus handicapped.” He flayed the publishing industry, fellow writers, the professions, organized religion, imperialism, sexual prudery and the tyranny of marriage. (“Never get married in college; it’s hard to get a start if a prospective employer finds you’ve already made one mistake.”) For a while he mocked the idle rich, but scorn turned to flattery as his own fortunes waxed. “The Superior Class is a burden,” he wrote in 1903; “no nation ever survived it long.” Ten years later he was attacking trust-busters for destroying “creators of wealth” and golfing with John D. Rockefeller. Similarly, his sermons against monogamy tapered off after his first wife divorced him and he married his mistress.

Four pages from the Bilioustine

A “Little Journey” to Fra McGinnis in the October issue.

“It would be possible to place a higher value on Hubbard’s writings, essentially vulgar though they were, if one could believe in the man’s sincerity,” Mott wrote, but those writings were manna for a culture-starved audience hungry for something high-minded but not too demanding. Meanwhile, his more sober contemporaries tended to find Hubbard’s prose impossible and his affectations maddening: The flowing locks, the wide-brimmed sombrero, the soulful posturing. He styled himself “Fra Elberto” like some medieval monk and called his followers “the Society of American Immortals.” Much of this was tongue-in-cheek, but still….

B.L. Taylor photo


One of the eye-rollers was Bert Leston Taylor, whose “A-Line-o’-Type-or-Two” debuted in the Chicago Tribune in 1901 and has been called the first modern newspaper column; at its peak it appeared in hundreds of papers in North America and Europe. On April 12, 1901, Taylor introduced his readers to one “Fra McGinnis,” spiritual leader of “the Society of Boy Grafters” and purveyor of “gold bricks and other articles calculated to con the community, especially that part of it which is female and literary and adores speaking eyes and conversational long hair.”

Within a month, Taylor-as-McGinnis had written enough material to fill a small magazine, and in May he collaborated with publisher William S. Lord of Evanston, Ill., on the first issue of “The Bilioustine: A Periodical of Knock.” It wasn’t the first burlesque of the little-magazine phenomenon, but it was the first to target a specific title. Taylor was a former typesetter, and he made sure his 24-page, 6″-by-4″ pamphlet resembled The Philistine in layout, page size and paper stock. It was an immediate hit. “As a well aimed shaft of ridicule there is nothing to equal it. As a piece of humor it is a gem,” wrote the Denver Republican. The St. Louis Mirror called it “one of the best parodies issued in the last twenty years.” A second issue with new material followed in October to similar acclaim.

Cover of the Book Booster

1901 Bookman spoof.

Nothing about The Philistine escaped ridicule in “The Bilioustine,” from its sampler-like homilies set in decorative borders (“Art is long — Why not hair?”) to its advertisements for deluxe editions “carefully impressed upon What’ell hand-laundered paper, bound in burlap specially imported from Burlapia, and stenciled by the cunning hand of Saintess Genevieve.” Other ads pushed the Fra’s “Little Journeys to the Scenes of Famous Explosions” and hinted at his dalliances under the heading “Affinities Wanted, Female.” The essays sandwiched between these notices were all either by or about Fra McGinnis, the latter rather more skeptical than the former.

Taylor and Lord issued a third magazine parody in 1901, a takeoff of The Bookman called “The Book Booster” that did to the publishing industry what “The Bilioustine” did to Hubbard. It sold well, too, but Taylor appears not to have tackled the form again. Ten years would pass before the Harvard Lampoon issued its first full-length magazine parody, and twenty before “burlesque numbers” became a regular feature of Life and Judge. Although “The Bilioustine” failed to start a trend, it set a high standard, as can be seen in the pages posted here. – VCR

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Parodies in Mad, 1954-2017

Seven Mad parodies from 1954-2006

Wikipedia helpfully lists all of Mad’s movie and TV-show spoofs, but I believe this is the first attempt to catalog parodies of publications. Real, identifiable publications, that is: I’m not counting the fake lifestyle mags for groups like beatniks and hippies and mobsters Mad has perpetrated over the years. I’m also ignoring articles that show a bunch of different titles pulling the same gag: e.g., “Jack and Jill as Retold by Various Magazines (June 1959), “Magazines for Senior Citizens” (June 1961), etc. Everything listed here had at least one full page devoted to it.

"The Bunion," 2002.

“The Bunion,” 2002.

Unlike TV and movie spoofs, magazine parodies never became a staple of Mad’s editorial mix, and they’ve grown rarer as its target audience drifts away from boring old print. More than half the longer parodies appeared in the 1950s and ’60s, with the most recent in 2001. Many were designed by John Putnam, Mad’s art director from 1954 to 1980, whose fascination with the details of layout and typography was rivaled only by National Lampoon’s Michael Gross. Significantly, when Mad took a poke at The Onion in 2002, it targeted, not the print edition. Since then there have been similar digs at The Huffington Post (2014) and Cracked (2016).

The list has two sections: multi-page parodies – usually consisting of a front page or cover and three or more inside pages — and cover-only parodies.  Section 1.B lists parodies done as bonuses in Mad annuals, which tended to be longer and more colorful that those in the magazine, with pages the same size and paper stock as their targets’. The biggest parody in a regular issue was a 16-page spoof of Entertainment Weekly in April 1998 that doubled as a test-run for Mad’s switch to inside color and slick paper (and the real ads that would pay for them). “Entertain-Me Weakly” generated a flurry of media coverage, but nothing as ambitious has been done since.

Pages of Mad's 1968 16 parody

“Sik-teen” in issue #121 (1968) was the only Mad parody to begin on the back cover and continue inside. Frank Frazetta’s Ringo first appeared in the “Blecch” Shampoo ad in issue #90 (1965).

Section 2 deals with cover-only parodies. Such brief spoofs usually leave me wanting more, but some of Mad’s are priceless. Basil Wolverton’s Life-like “Beautiful Girl of the Month” on the front of Mad comics #11 (May 1954) may be the most famous, but for my money the funniest is Mark Fredrickson’s version of Vanity Fair’s kiss-up to Tom Cruise and family in issue #472 (Dec. 2006). Both appeared on Mad’s front cover, but most fake covers have run on the back, where they’re subject to mutilation by Fold-In fanatics. Since the late ’90s, Mad has done most of its magazine spoofing in the annual “20 Dumbest People, Places and Things” survey.

Three pages of Mad's 1957 "TV Guise."

Making 1 + 1 (pages of Mad) = 3 (pages of parody) in issue #34 (1957).

Each listing begins with the name of the publication being parodied, in italics; followed by the fake title or article name, in parentheses; the Mad issue date and number; the length of the parody (if more than one page); and the names of the writer(s) and artist(s), in that order, separated by a slash (/). A phrase like “9 pages (on 5)” means one page of Mad contained two or more digest-size parody pages; the phrase “no cover” flags a couple of early parodies that didn’t have one; and “(p)” indicates a photographer. The writer and artist credits are from Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site, to whom all thanks. — VCR

1. Multi-page parodies …
A. … in Mad regular issues, 1954-2001:

  • The DailFirst page of "Field & Scream"y News (“Newspapers!”), Oct. 1954 (#16). Front cover + 7 pages. Harvey Kurtzman/Jack Davis.
  • Confidential (“Confidential Information”), Aug.-Sept. 1955 (#25). 6 pages (no cover). Kurtzman/Will Elder.
  • Field & Stream (“Field & Scream”), Jan.-Feb. 1957 (#31). 5 pages (no cover). Kurtzman/Davis.
  • TV Guide (“TV Guise”), July-Aug. 1957 (#34). 9 pages (on 5). Paul Laikin/Bob Clarke.
  • Better Homes and Gardens (“Bitter Homes and Gardens”), Mar.-Apr. 1958 (#38). 5 pages. Tom Koch/Wallace Wood.
  • The Saturday Evening Post (“… Pest”), May-June 1958 (#39). 6 pages. Koch/Clarke.
  • Pravda, July 1958 (#40). 4 pages. Frank Jacobs/Wood.
  • National Geographic (“National Osographic”), Sept.-Oct. 1958 (#41). 5 pages. Koch/Wood.
  • Look (“Gook”), Mar. 1959 (#45). 7 pages. Koch/Wood.
  • True Confessions (“Blue Confessions”), Oct. 1959 (#50). 9 pages (on 3) Laikin/Wood.
  • Modern Screen[?] (“Movie Land”), Apr. 1960 (#54). 5 pages. Larry Siegel/Joe Orlando.
  • The Wall Street Journal (“… Jungle”), Mar. 1961 (#61). 4 pages. Phil Hahn/.
  • Playboy (“Playkid”), Mar. 1961 (#61). 7 pages. Siegel/Clarke.
  • Ladies’ Home Journal (“… Journey”), Apr. 1961 (#62). 6 pages. Koch/Orlando.
  • Reader’s Digest (“Reader’s Digress”), Dec. 1961 (#67). 9 pages (on 5). Siegel/Orlando.
  • Popular Mechanics/Popular Science (“Popular Scientific Mechanics”), Sept. 1963 (#81). 7 pages. Al Jaffee/Clarke.
  • Hair Do (“Hair Goo”), June 1965 (#95). 6 pages. Jaffee/Jack Rickard.
  • Road & Track (“Load & Crash”), Sept. 1965 (#97). 6 pages. Koch/George Woodbridge.
  • National Enquirer (“National Perspirer”), Apr. 1966 (#102). 5 pages. Siegel/Jaffee.
  • 16 (“Sik-Teen”), Sept. 1968 (#121), Back & inside-back covers  + 6 pages. Siegel/Rickard, Davis.
  • Consumer Reports (“Condemner Reports”), Jan. 1970 (#132). 6 pages. Dick DeBartolo/Clarke, Irving Schild (p).
  • Popular Photography (“Popular Photomonotony”), June 1975 (#175). 6 pages. DeBartolo/Schild (p).
  • Consumer Reports (“Consumer Reports for Government Agencies”), March 1979. 4 pages. DeBartolo/.
  • TV Guide (“Mad’s ‘TV Guide’ Textbook”), June 1980 (#215). 7 pages (on 5). Lou Silverstone/Woodbridge.
  • Mad (“The Book of Mad” [Biblical Parody]), Dec. 1983 (#243). 5 pages. Silverstone/Paul Coker, Dave Berg, Don Martin, Rickard, Davis, Clarke, Woodbridge.
  • Parade (“Charade”), Sept. 1993 (#321). 4 pages. Charlie Kadau, Joe Raiola/Sam Viviano.
  • Entertainment Weekly (“Entertain Me Weakly”), Apr. 1998 (#368). 16 pages. Scott Brooks/Drew Friedman, Joe Favarotta.
  • Generic muscle magazine (“Bulging Man”), Aug. 1999 (#384). 8 pages. Scott Maiko/Scott Bricher, Schild (p), Sean Kahlil (p)
  • Generic tattoo mag (“Maimed Flesh”), Sept. 2001 (#409). 8 pages. Maiko/Hermann Mejia.
TV Guide parodies and 1776 "Madde."

Bonus parodies in or from More Trash # 6 (1962) and Specials #8 (1972) and #19 (1976).

B. … in Mad Annuals, 1961-1976:

  • Puck: The Comic Weekly (“A Sunday Comics Section We’d Like t0 See”), in The Worst From Mad #4, 1961. 8 broadsheet pages. /Wood, Orlando, Clarke, Woodbridge.
  • TV Guide (“TV Guise”), in More Trash from Mad #6, 1963. 16 digest-size pages. Aron Mayer Larkin/Lester Kraus (p).
  • TV Guide (“TV Guise” Fall Preview Issue), in Mad Special # 8, Fall 1972. 16 digest-size pages. Koch/Schild (p).
  • Mad (“Madde”), in Mad Special #19, Fall 1976. 24 pages. All the regulars.

2. Cover-only parodies …
A. …on Mad front covers, 1954-2006:

  • Life (“Mad”), May 1954 (#11). “Beautiful Girl.” /Basil Wolverton.
  • Time (“Mad”), Sept. 1982 (#233). Pac Man: Man of the Year. /Clarke.
  • Time (“Mad”), March 1987 (#269). Alfred E. Neuman as Max Headroom. /Richard Williams.
  • People (“Mad”), Jan. 1991 (#300). Alfred as “Sexiest Schmuck Alive!” /Norman Mingo.
  • Vanity Fair (“Mad”), Dec. 2006 (#472). Alfred as Suri Cruise. /Mark Fredrickson.
Real and parody covers of SatEvePost and Vanity Fair.

Mad on the Post’s redesign (back cover #62) and VF’s Suri Cruise hoopla (front cover #472).

B. …on back covers, 1958-2000:

  • Reader’s Digest (“Reader’s Disgust”). Jan.-Feb. 1958 (#37). /Orlando.
  • Saturday Evening Post. March 1962 (#69). /Mingo.
  • Newsweek (“Newsweak”), Dec. 1963 (#83). /Kraus (p).
  • The New Yorker. March 1977 (#189). Bill Johnson Jr./Clarke.
  • WWF Magazine (“WWWF: Witless Windbag Wrestlers Federation Magazine”), July 1987 (#272). /Schild (p).
  • Sports Illustrated (“Sports Titillated”), April 1988 (#278). /Schild (p).
  • Metal Edge (“Metal Sludge”), July 1989 (#288). Kadau, Raiola/Schild (p).
  • Typical teen mag (“StupidTeen”), Sept. 1991 (#305). Kadau, Raiola/.
  • GQ (“Geek’s Quarterly”), March 1992 (#309). William T. Rachendorfer, Andrew J. Schwartzberg/.
  • Sassy (“Sasssy”), Jan. 1993 (#316). Kadau, Raiola/Jacques Chenet (p)
  • Martha Stewart Living (“…Dying”), May 1997. Meredith Anthony, Larry Light, Alison Power/Schild (p).
  • Maxim (“Maximum”), July 2000. Jeff Kruse/AP, Wide World (p).

C. …in the annual “20 Dumbest” list, 2000-2017:

  • 1999's "20 Worst" People cover.People, Jan. 2000 (#389). “JFK Jr. crash coverage.” David Shayne, Raiola/.
  • Playboy, Jan. 2001 (#401). “Darva Conger.” Dave Croatto/.
  • Time, Jan. 2002 (#413). “Anne Heche.” Greg Leitman/.
  • Martha Stewart Living (“Martha Stewart Lying”), Jan. 2003 (#425). “Martha Stewart.” /Scott Bricher.
  • Teen People (“Dumb Teen People”), Jan. 2004 (#437). “Jessica Simpson.” Frank Santopadre/Schild (p).
  • Modern Bride (“Drunken Bride”), Jan. 2005 (#449). “Britney Spears.” Raiola, Kadau/Schild (p).
  • Modern Bride (“Runaway Bride”), Jan. 2006 (#461). “Jennifer Willibanks.” Kadau, Raiola/Bricher.
  • Sports Illustrated (“Sports Inebriated”), Jan. 2007 (#473). “Bode Miller.” Kadau, Raiola/Bricher.
  • Sporting News (“Snorting News”), Jan. 2008 (#485). “Keith Richards.” Jacob Lambert/Fredrickson.
  • Parenting (“Bad Parenting”), Jan. 2009 (#497). “Celebrity parents.” /Schild (p).
  • High Times, Jan. 2010 (#502). “Michael Phelps.” Uncredited.
  • Women’s Wear Daily (“…Deli”), Jan. 2011 (#507). “Lady Gaga.” Barry Liebman/Bricher.
  • Scientific American (“Unscientific American”), Jan. 2013 (#519). “Todd Akin.” Scott Nichol/.
  • Money (“Fake Money”), Feb. 2014 (#525).”The Winklevoss twins” /Mike Lowe.
  • Better Homes and Gardens (“Better Homes unGuarded”), Feb. 2015 (#531). “White House security.” Uncredited.
  • Sports Illustrated (“Sports Segregated”), Feb. 2015 (#531). “Donald Sterling.” /Friedman.
  • People (“Deplorable People”), Feb. 2017 (#543). “Donald Trump.” Uncredited.
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The Bawl Street Journal, 1919-2009

1947 Bawl Street Journal

“The Bawl Street Journal,” June 6, 1947.

Parody Of: The Wall Street Journal. Title: “The Bawl Street Journal.”
By: The Bond Club of New York. Dates: June 1919 – June 2009.
Availability: Findable on eBay, ABEbooks, etc.; 1930s-’80s issues most common.

This was going to be a salute to “The Bawl Street Journal” on the hundredth birthday of its sponsor, the Bond Club of New York, but instead it’s a eulogy. On June 17, 2017, a message appeared on saying the group’s centennial celebration three days earlier may have been its “Last Hurrah.” According to “Bailing Out the Bond Club,” the group was still $14,000 in debt from its previous big bash in 2015, despite several fundraising efforts. Worse, it had “no current members to help generate revenue.”

Generating revenue was once the Club’s strong suit. It was started in June 1917 by a group of young Wall Streeters who had been asked to help the Treasury Department sell Liberty Bonds in World War I. Sell they did: The four Liberty Loan drives of 1917-18 netted over $17 billion ($6.3 trillion today), or roughly two-thirds of U.S. war spending. Finding they enjoyed each other’s company, the salesmen kept the club going after the Armistice as an outlet for shop-talk and story-swapping. In 1919, a member named Robert Bould had the bright idea to preserve some of this camaraderie in a parody of The Wall Street Journal.

Bawl Street Journals from 1957 and 1997

“BSJs” from 1957 and 1997.

Bould’s mix of political satire and inside jokes proved a hit, and “The Bawl Street Journal” became a profitable annual tradition. Brokerage houses and other pillars of finance ran ads mocking themselves and their customers. In 1921, the Club spent profits from the third issue on a day of fun and frivolity at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Tarrytown, N.Y. That caught on, too, and in 1934 the parody and party were written up in Time:

Only tip-top Manhattan bondmen enjoy the Sleepy Hollow jamboree, but the Bond Club’s annual publication – the “Bawl Street Journal” – is sold in every important financial city in the land and is even ordered from Europe, China, Brazil. Written largely by bankers, brokers and their employees and printed on the presses of its famed prototype, the Wall Street Journal, the “Bawl Street Journal” is regarded as the most expert parody in the publishing field.

Founder Robert A. Bould began having fun with the sedate Wall Street Journal and its advertisers in 1919, but after he was drowned in Long Island Sound in 1926 publication lapsed for five years. In 1931 the “Bawl Street Journal” was resurrected by John A. Straley, lean, sardonic promotion manager for Corporate Equities, Inc. A writer of fiction on the side, Editor Straley started offering prizes which brought in contributions from all over the U.S. This year more than 10,000 copies were sold at 50¢ each…. (Time, June 4, 1934)

Straley stayed with the “BSJ” through 1962, except for a four-year gap during World War II, putting in two months unpaid work on every eight- to twelve-page issue. Circulation reached 44,000 in 1957 and topped 60,000 in 1964, selling for $1 a copy when the real Journal cost only a dime. A switch to online publication in 2005 wiped out that source of income, though printed copies were still distributed at the annual field day.

Like its prototype, the “BSJ” favored old-fashioned layout and robber-baron politics. Deficit spenders and government regulators were constant targets, especially when Democrats held the White House. The 1936 edition reported that Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau planned to balance the federal budget by having the government pay 50 percent income tax on its own income. “True, … an unscrupulous government might find ways to avoid paying taxes to itself,” the Secretary was quoted as saying, “but I expect to watch myself very closely.” A similar story in 2009 had former Illinois Governor (and convicted bribe-taker) Rod Blagojevich offering to hold funds from the Obama administration’s Troubled Asset Relief Program in either “carefully selected financial institutions or in the trunk of …. [his] 1992 Chevrolet Impala.”

Cartoons from the 1997 parody

A page of cartoons from the 1997 “BSJ.”

Contributors took a kinder view of their own foibles: “Without resorting to an overactive use of ribaldry, we have attempted to humorize the Street, its characters and its conditions,” the Publications Committee wrote in the 1947 edition. Much of that humor involved groan-worthy puns on members’ names and cracks about their golf games, hairlines and other personal matters. The “BSJ” also catered to its mostly male audience with gag cartoons of the wolfish-boss-and-sexy-secretary variety, which remained a staple long after they vanished from other upscale publications. Many were commissioned by brokerage firms and run as paid ads, sometimes with the names of real Wall Streeters attached to the characters.

2009 BSJ front page

Online in ’09.

Most victims took the “Journal’s” ribbing in good humor — or pretended to — but jibes at real people and businesses led to trouble in the 21st Century. The fatal blow came when the feds stiffened so-called “compliance” rules after the 9/11 attacks and 2008 Recession. Mainly intended to stop money laundering and insider trading, the new rules also cracked down on traders who spread rumors that might affect stock and bond prices. According to “Bailing Out the Bond Club,” many firms decided to play it safe by canceling ads and warning staffers not to submit “disparaging remarks about other firms and employees” — which was the whole point of this annual roast-in-print.

Does “The Bawl Street Journal” still exist? The only edition posted on the Bond Club’s website is Vol. LXXVIII, No. 1,* from 2009, and a recent Google search turned up nothing more recent. Still, 90 years is a long time to spend parodying a single publication; the only comparable run I can think of is the Harvard Lampoon’s war on The Crimson, which began in 1901 and is still in progress. “B.S.J.,” R.I.P. – VCR
* To my knowledge, no Vol. ever had a No. 2.

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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, 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

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The Chaparral Mocks L&M, 1960

Chaparral's real and fake L&M ads

Less Tar, More Tasteless: Back covers from January and February 1960.

College students will parody almost anything, but you can flip though hundreds of old campus humor magazines without finding a fake cigarette ad. You’ll find hundreds of real ones, though: From the 1920s until 1963, tobacco companies were the biggest national advertisers in U.S. college media. According to scholar Elizabeth Crisp Crawford, in the early ’60s “nearly 2,000 college publications, mainly newspapers, received nearly 50 percent of their advertising revenue from the tobacco industry.”*

The proportion was likely higher for humor magazines: Even the shoddiest campus chuckle-sheet typically had a four-color, full-page cigarette ad on its back cover, and a fat book like the Yale Record might run several more inside. The revenue from one such ad often covered an issue’s entire production cost. In return, prudent editors stifled the urge to crack jokes about cancer sticks. This quid pro quo normally went unspoken, but on the rare occasions it was violated Big Tobacco’s minions on Mad Ave. weren’t shy about reminding the kids who signed the checks. The only unusual feature of this 1960 dust-up involving L&M and the Stanford Chaparral is that the latter made it public.

L&M debuted in 1953 as Liggett & Myers’ entry in the fast-growing filter-cigarette category. The Surgeon General’s report was still a decade away, but already there was growing evidence linking smoking to lung cancer. The industry’s response was a flurry of filtered and mentholated brands pitched as “milder,” “cleaner” and “cooler” than traditional smokes; if customers assumed they were also safer, so much the better. By the late ’50s, the Big Three advertisers of previous decades — Chesterfield, Camel and Lucky Strike — had given way to L&M, Winston (born 1954), Salem (b. 1956) and a rebranded Marlboro (b. 1924 as a “woman’s cigarette,” butched-up in 1955).

Real and fake Marlboro ads.

Marlboro ads from 1935 and 1955; spoofs from Nov. 1957 Cal Pelican and April 1956 Mad.

L&M’s first Chaparral ad ran on the February 1959 back cover, a spot it held on six of the next eight issues. College Magazines, Incorporated, the New York agency that placed national ads in most campuses, normally supplied a fresh pitch every month, whether the product changed or not, but the January 1960 Chaparral reprinted the L&M ad from December. The “L&N” parody appeared in February, and in March editor Ray Funkhouser received a very unhappy letter from a College Mags account manager named Philip Knowles.

College Magazines' letter

May 1960, page 3.

Knowles’ letter was published in the May 1960 issue. It packs so much sarcasm, condescension, realpolitik and bare-knuckle intimidation into a few hundred words that it deserves to be read in toto, but the highlight is surely the righteous disapproval of tasteless louts who “think remarks about cancer are funny.” In reply, the editors brazenly pled guilty as charged, then insinuated College Mags’ indignation had more to do with money than morality.

The kids had the last word in the argument, but Big Tobacco got the last laugh, just as Knowles predicted. The January 1960 Chaparral was the last to carry a real cigarette ad; for the rest of the school year, the usual back-cover client was local merchant Gleim Jewelers. In 1963, Big Tobacco “voluntarily” stopped advertising in campus publications as part of a last-ditch effort to head off federal legislation; the move failed to assuage the Feds but put the hurt on college newspapers and killed most of the humor titles. The Chaparral managed to survive, barely, but was never again as fat and profitable as it was in the ’50s. L&M, meanwhile, fell from 15 percent of the U.S. market in 1960 to less than 1 percent today, but in 2012 was the fourth biggest brand worldwide; it now spends almost all its advertising dollars overseas. — VCR

* Elizabeth Crisp Crawford, Tobacco Goes to College: Cigarette Advertising in Student Media, 1920-1980, (McFarland & Co., 2014), p. 34. Most of the book is a detailed study of one newspaper, The Orange and White at the University of Tennessee. Crawford barely mentions college humor mags, but their rise and fall correlates perfectly with the ebb and flow of cigarette ads in the O&W: Both took off in the ’20s, held on through the Depression, dipped during World War II, came back strong in the late ’40s and flourished in the ’50s.

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Parodies In Playboy, 1970-2000

Four Playboy self-parodies

Playboys for the USSR, China, Moral Majority and Dark Ages.

That’s “in,” not “of,” though some of the following are both. The Bunny Book is such an inviting target that not even Playboy could resist cooking up fake editions of itself every now and then. Self-parodies make up nearly half this list — and the most elaborate one isn’t even on it.

Pregnant Vargas girl

Vargas self-parody.

After seeing the Harvard Lampoon’s “Pl*yb*y” in 1966, a “delighted” Hugh Hefner telegraphed the ‘Poonies that “If a better parody of Playboy is every created, we reserve the right to do it ourselves.” True to his word, he commissioned an issue-length spoof, supervised by Harvey Kurtzman, that would have featured most of the magazine’s regulars mocking their own work. The story goes that it was nearly complete when Hef cooled on the idea and cancelled it. Fragments have since turned up at auction houses and bookstores, including a very pregnant and indignant Vargas girl, the art for a mock James Bond story, and a Ray Bradbury pastiche by William F. Nolan called “The Dandelion Chronicles.” Kurtzman and Will Elder produced a still-unpublished episode of “Little Annie Fanny” in which she tours the Playboy Mansion; cartoonist Skip Williamson told Kurtzman’s biographer Bill Schelly that it ended with Hefner ripping off his clothes to be revealed as Super-Bunny.

Playboy never explained why — or when — the project petered out (pun). The appearance of “Playbore” and “Playboy: The Parody” just two months apart in fall 1983 might have been the final nail, but work had already stalled; most of the material mentioned here was done in the ’60s and early ’70s. Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee, who worked on it, said the idea was doomed from the get-go because Hefner fundamentally didn’t see anything ridiculous about Playboy or its mission — or about sex, really. Like many visionary magazine makers, he was his own ideal reader.

Playboy's National Pornographic

The cover and first page of National Pornographic (1975).

The four self-parodies that did make it into print are staff-written and, not surprisingly, rather toothless. All ridicule uncool losers (commies, prudes, 10th-century peasants) who just aren’t cut out for the sophisticated, high-end Playboy lifestyle; the lifestyle itself goes unquestioned. “National Pornographic,” by contrast, gleefully mocks National Geographic’s classic trope of tropical maidens on bare-breasted islands, or whatever. The full-color feature on insects humping (thoughtfully posted above) is such a juvenile idea you can’t help but laugh. In “How Other Magazines Would Photograph a Playmate,” the mag’s editors and lensmen have fun with the styles of ten magazines from True Detective to Vogue; the results are visually and verbally impeccable.

Three parodies by freelancers

Spoofs by freelancers Sussman, Slansky and Wieder.

The other parodies were done by outsiders. Gerald Sussman contributed “The Hole Earth Catalog” the year before he joined the editorial board of National Lampoon. (This was around the time in the ’70s when NatLamp was Playboy’s biggest rival for the eyeballs of male collegians.) Paul Slansky, formerly with Spy and now a Slate columnist, wrote “USSR Today” when both glasnost and the Gannett daily were new. And Robert S. Wieder, who for years did Playboy’s annual “Celebrity Christmas Carols,” ridiculed Men’s Health for its heretical notion that women might prefer guys with six-pack abs and bulging biceps to those with single-malt scotches and sports cars. —VCR

Parodies in Playboy, 1970-2000:

Playmates seen by other magazinesTrue Detective, Fortune, Family Circle, True, Life, Consumer Reports, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Popular Photography, Vogue (“How Other Magazines Would Photograph a Playmate”), Feb. 1970, 10 pp.
The Whole Earth Catalog (“The Hole…”), Feb. 1972, 3 pp.
National Geographic (“National Pornographic”), Dec. 1975, 7 pp.
Playboy (“Playboy” in Cyrillic), Jan. 1977, 7 pp. [“New Soviet Edition”]
Playboy, Sept. 1979, 7 pp. [“New Chinese Edition”]
Playboy (“Prayboy”), Dec. 1984, 8 pp. [Moral Majority edition]
USA Today (“USSR Today”), Oct. 1986, 6 pp.
Men’s Health (“Men’s Help!”), Aug. 1997, 5 pp.
Playboy, Jan. 2000, 4 pp. [dated January 1000 A.D.]

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Corey Ford’s “Mis-Fortune,” 1934

Corey Ford's Misfortune

Parody Of: Fortune. Title: “Mis-Fortune.” In: Vanity Fair, March 1934, pp. 22-23, 62.
By: “John Riddell” (Corey Ford).  Availability: Findable; usually pricey.

March 1934 Vanity Fair cover

Dwight Macdonald dismissed Corey Ford’s parodies as “mild” and didn’t include him in his magisterial Parodies: An Anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm – And After (Random House, 1960). I’m hesitant to disagree with Macdonald — his book is merely the best thing ever done on the topic of literary parody — but he was strict grader, and Ford was something of a class clown: Like Mad a generation later, he had no qualms about putting authors in their own universes or breaking the fourth wall for the sake of a joke.

Ford went directly from Columbia University, where he edited the Jester and (therefore?) didn’t graduate, to the pages of Life, Judge and, especially, the old Vanity Fair. From the late ’20s until VF’s demise in 1936, he was in nearly every issue with a feature, profile or “Impossible Interview,” the last illustrated by the great Miguel Covarrubias. Meanwhile, his alter ego “John Riddell” wrote a monthly parody — usually of a recent bestseller, but every now and then of a magazine. Before tackling Fortune, he spoofed Time as “Time-and-a-Half” in March 1933 and George Jean Nathan’s American Spectator (no kin to the current title) as “The American Spectre” two months later. There may be others; I haven’t seen every issue. But I doubt any top “mis-Fortune.”

Last page of "mis-Fortune"

“Mis-Fortune,” continued.

Henry Luce planned Fortune to be a big, beautiful celebration of American capitalism, but it had the ill luck to debut in February 1930, just as the Depression was settling in. It was still big, beautiful and resolutely pro-Free Enterprise (and expensive, going for $1.00 a copy when Time was 15 cents and the SatEvePost a nickel), but in the ’30s it spent as much time diagnosing Big Business’s problems as cheering its success. The early Fortune’s specialty was exhaustively researched, multi-part dissections of publicity-shy corporations and complex business arrangements. Many of them were written by bright, young Ivy Leaguers (all male, of course) with a leftish outlook, including Archibald MacLeish, James Agee and future anthologist Macdonald. “There are men who can write poetry, and there are men who can read balance sheets,” Luce once said. “We made the discovery that it was easier to turn poets into business journalists than to turn bookkeepers into writers.”

Page from the real Fortune in 1934

The real Fortune, August 1934

Depression-era readers were hungry for facts, and Fortune supplied them, sometimes in a breathless gush out of scale with the info’s importance. “Mis-Fortune’s” opening riff on “an ordinary paper-clip, magnified to one thousand times its natural size,” is absurd but not unjustified. For comparison, here’s a snippet from the real Fortune for August 1934: “The average Greyhound [bus] is a body job thirty-three feet long, and reaches the average legal width of ninety-six inches (the average Buick is seventy-two inches wide). When loaded to its capacity of thirty-three passengers, it weighs – nickelwork, insignia, pretty curtains, and all – eleven tons. If you as a private citizen should be so rash as to offer to buy it, it would cost you $13,500….” And so on for several hundred more words.

Ford is particularly good on Fortune’s bombastic/omniscient house style: For maximum impact, imagine “mis-Fortune” being read by a 1930s newsreel narrator. Like all Ford’s VF parodies, “mis-Fortune” is brief — too brief to duplicate the lushness of Fortune’s art and photo spreads — but it makes the most of its two facing, almost Fortune-size pages. Its three photos of regimented pencil sharpeners, typewriter keys, and workmen not only mock Fortune’s taste for heroic industrial photography, they make a sharper point about the Big-Business Mentality than anything in the text. As a parodist, Ford was too fond of his subject’s foibles to savage them, but he was delighted to point them out. Class clowns usually are. —VCR

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