Picks and Pans Review: National Lampoon

updated 02/04/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/04/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

The National Lampoon

There's humor like the obscenity-laden routines of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor, where bad taste is incidental. Then there is the Lampoon. At its worst, NL's natural habitat makes for lazy, pointless and irredeemably offensive materials. The magazine's most famous affront—a 1973 auto ad parody showing a VW floating in water with the caption, "If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen he'd be President today"—is not included here, thanks to a lawsuit settlement under which the "ad" was withdrawn. There are plenty of Chappaquiddick jokes, though, plus an ad for "Lt. Calley's Kill the Children Federation" and a layout on "dogfishing" that includes a picture of "A beautifully skinned Schnauzer ready for spit-roasting." At the same time the anthology contains some masterful strokes: a pretension-squelching parody of The New Yorker that includes a profile of a "casual collector of stones, pebbles, sea shells and fossils" in one 900-word-long sentence; a satire of xenophobia titled Commie Plot Comics; and "The Hipe Report, a purported study of female sexuality, by Sheere Hipe." To enjoy the good stuff in its surroundings here, though, one must either be very tolerant or just not bothered by tastelessness for its own sake. (Simon & Schuster, $19.95)

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