Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
Director: Douglas Tirola
Writers: Mark Monroe, Douglas Tirola
Featuring: Judd Apatow, Kevin Bacon, Anne Beats, John Belushi, Richard Belzer, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, John Goodman, Christopher Guest, Al Jean, Peter Kleinman, John Landis, Tim Matheson, Chris Miller, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, P. J. O’Rourke, Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman, Matty Simmons, Martha Smith . Billy Bob Thornton
4th Row, Diamond Docs, History Films
2015, Color, 98 minutes
“Al Jean and Michael Reiss, who went on [and] for 18 years wrote and produced The Simpsons. Larry David wrote for us. P.J. Rourke, who’s one of the most popular humorists of our time. Henry Beard, who writes a bestseller every year or two. Many other people… Every great comedy show had a Lampoon person involved one way or another the last thirty years. Movie-wise, Ivan Reitman came from the Lampoon, Harold Ramis came from the Lampoon.”
See that, right up there: “Diamond Docs.” Pretty clever. And just to drive the point home, there’s Bowie music, too, over the opening and closing credits. Although time-appropriate, there’s no apparent connection to what’s on screen. “The Jean Genie”?
But we know, don’t we, Constant Readers? Bowie here functions as a symbol, a metonymy, the prettier face of an era; specifically, one which I’ve frequently identified as the high tide mark of American, or White, Culture: circa 1972.
The doc doesn’t talk like that (you have to come to this here site for those kinds of insights!) but apart from the Bowie tunes they start right in on that time, late high school through college graduation, when Youth feels invincible. And in this case, that was the period: the early ’70s.
At first, it’s odd to see the Lampoon brought into this, since I and others have also identified three movies — two NatLamp productions, Animal House and Vacation, the third, as the doc points out, a NatLamp production in all but name, Caddyshack — as typifying and perhaps initiating the “slobs vs. snobs” genre of cultural distortion, in which lower-class Whites stand in for the Jews triumphing over the Stiffly Stiffersons of the supposed WASP elite.
This documentary suggests — surely unknowingly– a more complex picture.
For some reason, IMDB provides not just one “plot summary” — which in the case of a (purportedly) factual doco is already a little odd — but three, as if they couldn’t decide which to use. Let’s see if we can help them. First up:
A look at the history of the American comedy publication and production company, National Lampoon, from its beginning in the 1970s to 2010, featuring rare and never-before-seen footage.
Seems a little threadbare, a little restrained. Can’t you punch this up a bit?
Featuring rare and never before seen footage, this is the mind boggling story of the National Lampoon from its subversive and electrifying beginnings, to rebirth as an unlikely Hollywood heavyweight, and beyond. A humour empire like no other, the impact of the magazine’s irreverent, often shocking, sensibility was nothing short of seismic: this is an institution whose (drunk stoned brilliant) alumni left their fingerprints all over popular culture. Both insanely great and breathtakingly innovative, The National Lampoon created the foundation of modern comic sensibility by setting the bar in comedy impossibly high.
Woah, hold on, dial it back a bit, dude!
DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of the National Lampoon tells the story of three Harvard graduates who created the National Lampoon, which changed the world of comedy and launched the careers of doe of Hollywood’s most legendary talent. The material and lifestyle of the writers, artists and performers made comedy feel like rock n’ roll for the first time. But soon success and excess among its brilliant and subversive contributors begin to challenge the Lampoon’s existence. Featuring never before seen footage of John Belushi, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD is the story of the birth of modern comedy.
Now that’s what we’re looking for!
The idea for the National Lampoon arose, not surprisingly, out of The Harvard Lampoon, founded at Harvard in 1876. The doc, typically, gives short shrift to this echt-goyishe publication, grudgingly acknowledging John Updike and George Plimpton, throwing in Fred Gwynne for laughs; managing to ignore George Santayana and John Gaddis, as wells as Conan O’Brien, Andy Borowitz, and Kurt Anderson (founder of Spy, a kind of ’Poon for social climbers). Whatever.
The idea came from Douglas Kenney, Henry Beard, and Ron Hoffman, who came from the strangely aligned classes of ‘’67, ’68 and ’69. (Little oddities like that are often the sign of a certain hand behind the scenes.) Kenney and Beard were quite different, both physically — Kenney was tall, athletic, blond, Beard a caricature of a bespectacled, pipe-smoking pencil-neck geek — and socially; Kenney’s father was a golf pro at a country club in Ohio (think: Caddyshack) while Beard’s father was Yale ’13 (like Lorelei Gilmore, he chose Harvard over Yale to piss off dad).
It changed Beard’s life. At Harvard, “I didn’t really go to class, I went to the Lampoon,” the venerable campus humor magazine. There, he collaborated on a hugely successful parody of Playboy and–with Doug Kenney, who later worked on the movie “Animal House”–wrote “Bored of the Rings,” a clever sendup of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
And Hoffman? We’ll get to him. “Strange fella.”
Flush with the success of the parody issues, the three amigos decide to launch their own magazine and head to New York, where they met with a wall of indifference and hostility.
None of which would have made any difference if they hadn’t stopped trying to please “the Time/Life guys from Connecticut” and met up with Matty Simmons of 21st Century Communications (and, according to him, the inventor of the credit card) .
But first, there’s a fourth person present at the creation of the (National) Lampoon, who was not only a new name to me, but also receives almost no mention in the doc other than a couple name-drops : Rob Hoffman. The doc gives not background, or subsequent history, which is rather odd, don’t you think?
Especially since it’s Hoffman who made the deal possible (that’s why they had to at least mention his name): a compulsory buy-out provision, requiring Simmons, who already owned 75%, to buy out the other three’s 25% at 15x earnings. Simmons would either cheaply buy a loser, or pay a whole lot for a winner.
How did he make out? Just guess. And he’ll be glad to tell you:
“My movies are still huge. I mean, I’m sure you’re aware of it, Animal House is on television all the time. As are the Vacation movies. . . . I’ll tell you something that is the most amazing thing in the world. Nobody ever heard anything like this before. Last year, 33 years after the movie released, Animal House made a profit of 3 million dollars. . . . And to date, all in with everything — TV, video, box office — 600 million dollars. And remember that when it opened, tickets were three dollars.”
Q: Are there any specifics in the movie that are your contributions that you could point out?
“I never like to discuss what I wrote or what kind of contributions I made because the writers get the credit for the movie, and they deserve it, and that’s it. My job, I get credit for producing it. I consider working with the writers and casting as part of what I do. So, I did write some stuff for it, but I don’t want to discuss it because I don’t want to take credit away. They did a brilliant job. If anything, I did more taking out than putting in.”
So who’s Hoffman? Note the name. Harvard A-Z only provides a class year — ’69 — and the “founded National Lampoon” bit. But a link on Wikipedia leads to this article, which is short enough to get the full quote it deserves. Can you hear the echoes?
Robert K. Hoffman (1947–August 20, 2006) was an American businessperson and philanthropist, most notable for co-founding the influential humor magazine National Lampoon.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Hoffman graduated from the St. Mark’s School of Texas in 1965. While a senior at Harvard, he was one of the three editors of The Harvard Lampoon who went on to co-found the National Lampoon in 1970. He served as its first managing editor before attending the Harvard Business School as a Baker Scholar.
After graduation from business school, Hoffman joined his father, Edmund, in the company that became the Coca-Cola Bottling Group (Southwest) Inc. The two helped build it into the country’s fifth-largest Coca-Cola bottler before selling it in 1998. He chaired the Dallas Plan, a 30-year blueprint for reshaping the city of Dallas unanimously adopted by the City Council in December 1994, and served as board chairman of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society for a critical five years ending in 1992.
After selling his share in National Lampoon in 1975 and using the proceeds to buy a Helen Frankenthaler painting, Hoffman amassed a world-renowned art collection that he and his wife, Marguerite, a former gallery director, donated in nearly its entirely to the Dallas Museum of Art in 2005. The 224 pieces were valued at a minimum of $150 million. That gift, coupled with the Hoffmans’ role in spearheading additional bequests of 550 objects from friends Cindy and Howard Rachofsky and Deedie and Rusty Rose, put them on Business Week magazine’s list of the top 50 philanthropists for 2005. Marguerite and Robert were awarded the 2006 TACA Neiman Marcus Silver Cup Award for their civic contributions. This was the first time in TACA’s history that a couple won the award.
The couple raised three daughters, Hannah and Augusta who are the daughters of Hoffman and wife Sally Timberlake Hoffman and Kate, who all attended The Hockaday School. Hoffman died of leukemia in Dallas at age 59. Because of Robert’s influential efforts at the St. Mark’s School of Texas, a large donation was given in his name in order to build a new building.
Sounds like a real funny guy. Note the title provided by Wikipedia: “Robert Hoffman (businessman).” Even here, it’s not clear whether he went (back) to Harvard after taking the buyout or during the buyout. Anyway, it’s clear this is a “business” person from day one, I’m guessing a Southern Jewish family, well integrated into the formerly WASP institutions of prep school, Harvard, and tradition of using his wealth to indulge in the usual “urban planning” and “philanthropy” culminating in having a building named after himself.
Ellie Stein’s That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick is just as closed-mouthed, providing a capsule of same Wikipedia info and adding in the text that “Everyone deferred to Rob’s financial judgement . . . it was clear he was going to be a multimillionaire entrepreneur.”
How exactly does working on a college humor magazine make that clear? Or, how did this number-crunching guy become an editor of a Harvard humor magazine? Probably the same way Barack Obama became editor of the Harvard Law Review. A brief, résumé-building detour, during which he just happens to come up with the key financing idea, that will both enrich himself and his partners, and force them out, leaving the magazine in the hands of the financiers. Nice touch, that.
All this is some background not provided by the doco itself, which helps to make the actual history of the magazine somewhat more coherent and understandable; as we’ll see, it’s also somewhat representative.
None of which would matter if the magazine hadn’t been so damned funny. And it was, and the affection bordering on reverence (for such an irreverent publication) arises not entirely from Boomer nostalgia but a solid basis in fact.
What’s surprising, and significant, is that, although one is fairly certain the humorists were solidly in the liberal/leftist goodthinking corner, their humor was, in real terms, what is so often used as an alibi today: “equal opportunity offenders.” For every hilarious parody of ’50s horror comics like “Tale of the South” (illustrated with a ghoulish Col. Sanders dishing out his “Kentucky Fried Nigras”) there’s another showing a waterlogged Mary Jo Kopekne coming to drag Ted Kennedy to his watery retribution.
Michel Chochette, one of several Canadians who joined in (such as Sean Kelly) and are interviewed here, reminisces about a rather contemporary outrage: finding a chap who bore a remarkable resemblance to Hitler, he was flown out to a tropical to produce a photo essay, “Stranger in Paradise” for the “Escape” issue.
Another bit — Justice Thurgood Marshall as the author of a “How to Write” column that devolves into writing pornography — not only demonstrates what could not conceivably be done today, but also the likely reaction: Justice Marshall called up the FBI to find out what could be done about it, and the FBI lectured the old fool about the First Amendment. Today, of course, The Daily Show would never have such a bit, and if it slipped through, Salon or HuffPo would be there to call for apologies and reparations; as we now know, thanks to the manifestos of today’s college students, freedom of speech is a tool of the white man’s oppressive regime.
The non-PC attitude may be related to another anomaly: a prodigious work ethic. Between them, Kenney and Beard could write hundreds of pages a day — typewritten, that is — putting today’s bloggers to shame (including myself, of course). When Kenney had one of his periodic spells and disappeared for a few months, Beard carried the magazine almost by himself. “I belonged to an earlier generation” he muses to Rivenburg.
But it could not last: the magazine had to deal with the results of the Original Sin in its conception. To those with eyes to see, the decline of the magazine parallels the increasing hold of the Simmons tribe on it. Consider, as a representative of consensus opinion, Wikipedia:
The magazine existed from 1970 to 1998. Some consider its finest period was from 1971 to 1975, although it continued to be produced on a monthly schedule throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s, and did well during that time.
National Lampoon’s most successful sales period was 1973–75. Its national circulation peaked at 1,000,096 copies sold of the October 1974 “Pubescence” issue. The 1974 monthly average was 830,000, which was also a peak.
The magazine was considered by many to be at its creative zenith during this time (1975).
Some fans consider the glory days of National Lampoon to have ended in 1975, although the magazine remained popular and profitable long after that point.
They keep harping on that date, don’t they? Finally, we get clued in:
During 1975, the three founders (Kenney, Beard and Hoffman) took advantage of a buyout clause in their contracts for $7.5 million. And, at about the same time, writers Michael O’Donoghue and Anne Beatts left to join the NBC comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL). At the same time, the National Lampoon Show’s John Belushi and Gilda Radner left the troupe to join the original septet of SNL’s “Not Ready for Primetime Players.”
Simmons showed his hand even before the buyout: after advertiser complaints, he laid down a new, or rather, the first rule: “You can make fun of anyone, but you can’t make fun of the Jews.”
As the humor was more and more restricted, Simmons made a move — or lack of move — that was fatal. As a result of all that talent and hard work, long before Howard Stern, the ‘Poon was King of all Media — comedy albums (remember those?), musicals, radio (remember that?), movies; but therein lay its tragic fall. Feeling like he was over-extended, Simmons ignored a suggestion from NBC to develop a late-night comedy show. Who needed TV?
The guy who really pulled it together was a Lampoon editor named Michael O’Donoghue, who was the first head writer for Saturday Night Live. He brought in all those talents from the Lampoon. I had a radio show, which Michael produced before Saturday Night Live, and NBC came to me and said they wanted to do a Saturday night variety show and they wanted to do a National Lampoon show, just like the radio show. I said, “I gotta think about it.” And I thought about it, and I had three kids growing up, I had three magazines, I had stage shows, I had radio. I said, “I can’t handle [it].” I said, “I know what’s gonna happen too. All my writers are gonna go write for television,” which is what happened anyway, because it paid so much more than publishing. And I passed, and that’s how Lorne Michaels got in. He was smart, he grabbed Michael O’Donoghue right off the bat, and Michael brought in Belushi and Gilda and Chevy. All Lampoon people.”
As Chevy Chase says in the doco, “Nobody was getting laid for writing at the National Lampoon now.”
After the buyout, the magazine was fitfully funny under a new regime headed by future NeoCon starlet P. J. O’Rourke, who would eventually drift over to outlets like American Spectator as their “we Republicans can be funny too” exhibit. And I’m still quite enamored with Bruce McCall’s quasi-fascist illustrations. Then the wheels came off:
Wikipedia: In 1985, Matty Simmons (who had been working only on the business end of the Lampoon up to that point) took over as Editor-in-Chief. He fired the entire editorial staff, and appointed his two sons, Michael Simmons and Andy Simmons, as editors, Peter Kleinman as Creative Director and Editor, and Larry “Ratso” Sloman as Executive Editor.
In 1989, the company that controlled the magazine and its related projects (which was part of “Twenty First Century Communications”) was the subject of a hostile takeover. In 1991 it was sold outright to another company, “J2 Communications.”
“Ratso,” “J2” — they’re funny guys, alright. Given the edicts against offending Jews, the editorship of P. J. O’Rourke, who instituted a new rule of mocking the helpless — it’s “edgy” — while comforting the rich — we want to get invited to the best Hamptons parties, after all — the overall reduction of a once thriving enterprise to a hollow shell, its sure tempting to see here another occult takeover.
At that point “National Lampoon” was considered valuable only as a brand name that could be licensed out to other companies. The magazine was issued erratically and rarely from 1991 onwards. 1998 saw the last issue.
In short, the usual Judaic hollowing out and asset stripping job. It’s the financial version of their equally occult intelligence operations: Hoffman was the plant, the controller, and Kenney and Beard were the patsies. 
The rather strange ways the two left the magazine — after hitting the jackpot — also can’t help but raise questions, at least among the clued in.
Kenny became lost in Hollywood swirl of parties and drugs, and ultimately walked/fell/jumped off a mountain. After carrying the magazine a while, Beard stood on his desk, told everyone he hated them, and left, never to return or speak to anyone again. Although Beard is interviewed in the film, and looks like a healthy old guy living out his life in the Hamptons, a glance at his Wikipedia bio shows an almost deliberate, even spiteful lack of accomplishment since. What happened?
Sure, he got rich — rich for the standards of the day, at least, not Trump rich or Seinfeld rich — but real talents, people with something to say, don’t clam up when the need to produce for money stops. Did the wealthy Proust dry up? The flotilla of “producers” and “writers” of various ranks that have grown around The Simpsons like barnacles are still working, even with what’s come to be known as “Simpsons Money.”
Sounds to me like someone went quietly, and someone got pushed.
While your typical “all is decadence” conservative would say this was a Judaic culture-distortion from the start, I think not. The original ’Poon represented Aryan values — brains, hard work, an easy mastery of one’s people’s culture high and low, an implicit right to express one’s own opinion, feelings be damned — and was financially exploited while being reconfigured for cultural distortion by the Usual Suspects, then abandoned when it had outlived its usefulness.
By the end of the film, the cultural significance of the Lampoon, and the detailed story of its rise and decline, should convince anyone that the filmmakers were right to devote their time to studying “just a humor magazine.” In fact, at “only” ninety or so minutes, one inevitably wishes more attention were paid to some aspects, such as the mysterious, or at least bizarre, death of Michael O’Donoghue, the High Priest of the blackest humor.
One also suspects, from their own testimony, that Chevy Chase and Tony Hendra are not really the sort of people one would want on a suicide prevention line.
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead opened in theaters late in 2015, and apparently did not much business, at least to my non-professional eye; certainly well south of Matty’s $3,000,000. It’s on Showtime now (did the Bowie music remind the programmers?), and I recommend you catch it; or, wait for the DVD in April.
Finally, the film leaves us with one, irritating, unanswered question: what on Earth does Billy Bob Thornton have to do with the National Lampoon?
1. Based somehow on Rick Meyerowitz’s coffee-table-sized tribute Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made The National Lampoon Insanely Great (Abrams, 2010).
2. “Talking to Matty Simmons About Producing Animal House, Publishing National Lampoon, and His New Book Fat, Drunk, and Stupid” by BRADFORD EVANS; Splitsider, April 10, 2012; online here.
3. As we’ll see, the story of the NatLamp is the story of Harvard writ small; from WASP bastion to “America’s Largest Yeshiva.” See “The WinkleTwins Win One! Owen Wister’s Philosophy 4: A Tale of Harvard University; here and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).
4. “Is Nothing Sacred to Henry Beard?: Nope — This ‘Lampoon’ Veteran Will Nail Anything We Hold Near and Dear” by Ron Rivenburg; LA Times, Jan. 5, 1995, here. Speaking of BOTR: “I never did get around to reading Tolkien (as always, too much of a real outsider to be a geek), and to this day I have resisted the Tolkien Cult; my nodding acquaintance with the Mythos derived entirely from a reading of the National Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings (Henry N. Beard and Douglas C. Kenney, 1969); reissued in 2011, the Guardian thinks it’s still worth a read, and so do I. See my “There & Then: Personal & Memorial Reflections on Alan Watts (1915-1973), here. I learned from the doco that Tolkien had actually given written approval for the parody.
5. Jim Garrison musing on David Ferrie, JFK (Oliver Stone).
6. Evans, op. cit.
7. Simmons is still milking the Lampoon; according to his Wikipedia entry, “He has written seven books, his most recent, “Fat, Drunk, and Stupid: The Making of Animal House,” was published by St. Martins Press in 2012. He’s currently the Executive Producer of “Animal House, the Musical,” planned to open on Broadway in late 2014.”
8. Teddy was a favorite butt, it seems. Volkswagen threatened to sue over a mock ad claiming Ted would be President if he had driven a water-tight VW bug; typically, the ’Poon turned the threat into another ad for the magazine.
10. Unless the target was Clarence Thomas. There may be an in-joke here, based on the well-known but not talked about fact that Marshall was an affirmative action appointee whose briefs, going back to the Brown v. Board decision, were written for him by ACLU hacks; Thomas, of course, is famous for asking no questions and having his very occasional decisions ghosted by Scalia.
11. As the doco points out, it was second only to Cosmo on the newsstands, and pass-around rates indicated a readership of 15 million.
12. As we saw, Volkswagen was still fair game.
13. Or “Retro-Futurism;” see the slideshow here.
14. Michael O’Donoghue would have enjoyed P. J.’s description of the burning wreckage and charred corpses of Saddam’s retreating army as looking like “everyone in Hell tried to drive to the Hamptons on the same weekend” but would have had some equally lethal lines about the “heroic” US troops, likely along the lines of the ’Poon’s “I am an American Soldier. Fuck me!” poster.
15. Speaking of neocons, his wife, Gwyneth Craven (nice name) shows a similar withering of creative output as a novelist after meeting Beard, only to suddenly reappear in 2007 as a Neocon shill for nuclear power (Power to Save the World: The Truth about Nuclear Energy; Knopf,2007)
16. We’ve seen this before, in the case of Halston. See “From Ultrasuede to Limelight: Halston and Gatien, Aryan Entrepreneurs in the Kali Yuga” reprinted in Green Nazis in Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).
17. I’m sure a little digging would turn up all kinds of military/intel links to Ron and his family out in . . . Dallas. Perhaps they spent some time with other typical Texans, like George de Mohrenschildt or Harvey “Lee” Oswald. Cf. “Allen Dulles’ Lonely Hearts Club Band: The CIA and the Construction of the Sixties Counter-Culture,” here.
18. The reactions of Chris Miller and Ann Beats in the film are classics of black humor. Perhaps significantly, you can actually see the decline of Kenney; in Animal House, he’s the dumb but youthful and healthy “Stork”; in Caddyshack, as the doco helpfully points out, he’s sharing a snort of cocaine in the background of the banquet scene.
19. Simmon’s quote above, that Beard “writes a bestseller every year or two,” must be a joke, like, in the doco, his inability to remember Lorne Michaels’ name; or, if they are somehow bestsellers, it bespeaks his purely quantitative sense of taste.
20. When trying to keep the magazine afloat, especially after Kenney’s first “disappearance,” he claims to have been working 100 hour weeks, going home to sleep and then back to the office to write hundreds of pages a day.
21. Writers like to cultivate the myth, of course; the millionaire Kafka wrote at night because he liked to, and frankly admitted to being too lazy to write more. See my “Kafka: Our Folk Comrade,” in Green Nazis in Space!
22. You can tell Larry David was the real creator behind Seinfeld, when you see how much he’s done since.
23. Several interviewees are quite certain Kenney did not “fall off” a mountain.
24. The same Stiffly Stiffersons that were in the theater where Trevor Lynch saw Atlas Shrugged I: “When Lillian Rearden asks her husband ‘Through are you?’ as he rolls off her, there was a gasp in the theater. Talking to Tea Partiers afterward, I discovered that the gasp was due to their strongly Christian orientation. Apparently it struck them not as vicious and condescending, but simply as pretty racy stuff. Later, when Hank Rearden began his affair with Dagny Taggart, there was a less audible but still real reaction in the audience, for the same reason. The only real criticism the Christian Tea Partiers had was that the movie portrayed an extramarital affair in a positive light.” See “Selfish Bastards: A Review of Atlas Shrugged, Part I,” here.
25. Like, for example, Brain Jones. See “Welcome to Club 27: Brian Jones and the Myth of the Rolling Stones,” here.
26. Contrasting his style to Beard/Kenny by saying “he was pure Rochester [NY]” hardly does justice to O’Donoghue’s decadently sophisticated wit. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage after years of intense migraines, at 54. Curious. His wife, Anne Beats, is interviewed but does not provide the story she tells elsewhere, of waking up on the night of his death, looking in his eyes and seeing lightning bolts flashing. Readers of Counter-Currents would no doubt appreciate having O’Donoghue still around; according to Wikipedia, “O’Donoghue was released from [SNL] after writing the never-aired sketch ‘The Last Days in Silverman’s Bunker,’ which compared NBC network president Fred Silverman’s problems at the network to Adolf Hitler’s final days. It was planned that John Belushi would return to play Silverman, and a great deal of work had been done on creating sets for the sketch (which would have run for about twenty minutes), including the construction of a large Nazi eagle clutching an NBC corporate logo instead of a swastika. Another unaired O’Donoghue sketch from around the same period, ‘The Good Excuse,’ also involved Nazi jokes. In the sketch, a captured German officer berated by his captors for Nazi war crimes explains that he had a good excuse, which he whispers into their ears, inaudible to the viewers. His captors are quickly persuaded that the unheard excuse was, in fact, an acceptable reason for the crimes of the Third Reich.”