She Grew Up in the Muppet Kingdom; Now Lisa Henson Rules in a Stranger Land: Harvard
05/03/1982 at 01:00 AM EDT
One staffer jokingly attributes her election to "consummate social skills and great legs." The victor herself figures, "They must've thought it was real cool, neat-o, keen and boss to have a girl as president." Whatever the reason, the fact remains that in February Lisa Henson, the eldest daughter of Muppeteer Jim Henson, took office as the first female president in the 106-year history of the prestigious Harvard Lampoon, the oldest college humor magazine in the country. (The undergraduate enterprise has no editorial tie to the National Lampoon.)
Unlike her Harvard Lampoon forefathers, who include John Updike, George Plimpton, John Reed and William Randolph Hearst, Henson is not strictly a writer. The 21-year-old junior from Bedford, N.Y. is more of an illustrator, specializing in art parody. "I'm not a cartoonist," she says. "I imitate the styles of well-known artists." Her mischievous takeoffs of books like Faeries have run in the Lampoon.
As president, Henson covers everything from seeing that the leaks are fixed in the roof of the Lampoon's antiquated headquarters on Bow Street to overseeing the publication of five issues a year. Still flush from last year's highly successful PEOPLE parody (which sold 550,000 copies), Henson and her staff of about 40 will be pointing their poison pens at one of the major newsmagazines next fall. The "Poonies" also plan to convert part of their basement into what Lisa calls a "mega-techno pleasure palace," chock-full of video equipment.
Henson has a solid family background for a humorist. One of five children, she grew up with a host of fictional siblings as well—like Bert, Ernie and Oscar the Grouch. Lisa laughingly describes her father as a "home ec major" at the University of Maryland (actually he studied commercial art). "Seriously," says Lisa, "I admire him and we've always been catalysts for each other." Dad concurs: "I value her opinion and judgment. I love bouncing ideas off her."
Graduated from Byram Hills High in 1978, Lisa immersed herself in the study of folklore and mythology—"the last bastion of intellectualism at Harvard." In her sophomore year, however, she found that "I had it too easy. I had terrific grades and friends and had just gotten on the Lampoon. I decided that I had to go out and take a beating." So she took six months off and "retrieved coffee for everyone" on the London set of The Great Muppet Caper. Now, admits Lisa, "I try to stay away from the Muppets." But Dad says, "I've always thought she'd be a good TV or film producer." And Lisa, who studied film at New York University last summer, hopes to go into the entertainment field after she graduates in 1983. Becoming the first female president of the Lampoon, she notes crisply, "better not be the culmination of my career."