Aardvark’s “National Reactionary,” 1964

Aardvark's National Review parody

Aardvark magazine, Winter 1964

Parody Of: National Review. Title: “National Reactionary.”
Parody By: Aardvark Magazine. Date: Winter 1964. Pages: 3
Contributors: None credited.
Availability: Not online; hard to find elsewhere.

In the early 1960s, a number of college jesters around the country independently had the same idea: Why not move off-campus, where Deans and Publications Boards hold no sway, and turn our anemic humor rag into a slick, money-making, grown-up magazine? The results included Bacchanal in Texas (1962), Charlatan in Florida (1963-66) and Aardvark in Chicago (1961-64?). They weren’t particularly slick, and none made money, but they displayed early work by Gilbert Shelton, Jay Lynch and other future stars of underground comics.

Aardvark cover Winter 1964Aardvark was going to be the humor magazine at Chicago’s Roosevelt University until the Powers That Be saw the first issue. Shut out at home, founders Jeff Begun, Ron Epple and Howard R. Cohen decided to broaden their reach to all the city’s campuses. Aardvark survived for at least 11 issues (the last I know of is Vol. 3, no. 2, from 1964) and at its peak was distributed from Madison to Urbana. Its strengths were sharp writing and smart interviews with humorists including Mort Sahl and Shel Silverstein; its handicaps included cheap paper, sloppy layout and ugly columns of typewriter-font text.

That’s not a big problem for “National Reactionary,” whose target was no designer showcase itself. Aardvark‘s parody limits itself to National Review‘s cover and two pages of front-of-the-book material, including table of contents and “In This Issue” column, an efficient way to mock a publication’s editorial matter without having to replicate much of it. The humor is broad — changing “Buckley” to “Cuckold,” for instance — but not deep. The main running joke has the “Reactionary” lauding largely forgotten troglodytes like Gerald L.K. Smith and Father Coughlin. Most NR readers had other heroes in 1964. (Strangely, the parody makes only one brief mention of Barry Goldwater.) A couple of items satirizing conservative unease over the civil rights movement are funnier and more pointed: “New facts just brought to light: … American Negroes, although they speak a different language, are, in appearance, identical to Cuban Negroes. Cuban Negroes are strong advocates of Castro’s bloody communism.”

Maybe “National Reactionary” was a victim of circumstances. On one page its date is given as “October 22, 1963″— exactly one month before John Kennedy’s assassination — but on the next there’s a reference to Lyndon Johnson being president. If Aardvark’s “NR” was planned and largely written before JFK’s death, the editors might have found themselves cutting a lot of suddenly inappropriate material just before going to press. That could explains the parody’s truncated feel and its reluctance to poke fun at current public figures. As always in comedy, timing is everything. —VCR

Two pages of Aardvark's National Review parody