|Paul Jacobs, Chevy Chase, Gary Goodrow, Christopher Guest, Alice Playten, John Belushi, Mary-Jennifer Mitchell.|
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S LEMMINGS [Comedy-Music Revue] B/LY: David Axelrod, Anne Beatts, Henry Beard, John Boni, Tony Hendra, Sean Kelly, Doug Kenny, P.J O’Rourke, and the cast; M: Paul Jacobs and Christopher Guest; D: Tony Hendra; L: Beverly Emmons; P: Tony Hendra; T: Village Gate (OB); 1/25/73-11/25/73 (350)
This successful revue of music and comedy sketches featured performances by several young comics who later became stars of TV and films, most notably John Belushi and Chevy Chase. Mel Gussow pointed out, in fact, that “The discovery of Lemmings is John Belushi, a bushy bearded clown with a deceptively offhanded manner.” Some of the show’s bits were similar to those Belushi and Chase later helped to immortalize on TV’s SNL. Yet, the others in the show were all terrific laugh-getters as well. All combined musical skills with farcical talents.
Among the subjects satirized were high school sex, surgeons operating while on LSD, Jesus Christ Superstar (with Belushi brilliant as a Godfather-Brando-like Pilate), and Vice President Spiro Agnew’s wife. The highlight, occupying all of act two, was a takeoff on the Woodstock rock festival of 1969, called here the “Woodshuck Festival of Peace, Love and Death.” The Lemming title derived from this skit’s treatment of the million young people who come like lemmings to the festival for a mass act of suicide. Rock stars Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Mick Jagger were mercilessly mocked in the festival proceedings, and Belushi was riotously funny as the ubiquitous announcer’s voice on the PA system.
Gussow felt that much of the evening’s early part was “brainless” and “tasteless,” but he reveled in the rock festival spoof. Walter Kerr liked parts of the show, but found too much of it unselective and incapable of making the leap from imitation of the subject mocked to parody of it. Edith Oliver called the first act “rotten,” but the second “very, very funny.”
The show was put together by writers associated with the humor magazine, National Lampoon, and was produced and directed by the magazine’s senior editor. A Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Lyricists went to the Writing Staff of the show, while Alice Playten earned an OBIE for Distinguished Performance. Others in the show were Garry Goodrow, Christopher Guest, Paul Jacobs, and Mary-Jennifer Mitchell.
In 1975, a follow-up called The National Lampoon Show arrived. It's covered in the next entry.