What Does ‘National Lampoon’ Mean & Why Is It In So Many Movie Titles?

Upon its release, “National Lampoon’s Animal House” quickly became the highest-grossing comedy ever at the time, taking in $141 million on a budget of less than $3 million. The movie, the first National Lampoon movie to hit theaters, carried on the magazine’s anti-authoritarian attitude and would be the first film appearance of comedy legend John Belushi. Capitalizing on that runaway success, the National Lampoon brand has since been attached to dozens of movies over the years, with wildly varying degrees of success. Beyond just some of the Chevy Chase-led “Vacation” movies, much of the content produced under the National Lampoon label has proven to be commercial and critical failures. 

Besides “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” being Ryan Reynolds’ leading man debut way back in 2002, the brand hasn’t done anything too remarkable since its heyday. Once a promising sign of quality subversive and absurdist comedy, the National Lampoon label has since been slapped on titles like “301: The Legend of Awesomest Maximus.” National Lampoon magazine printed its last issue in 1998, but the movies kept coming for a while — even though seemingly no one noticed. Still, despite the questionable quality of the later films bearing the name, there’s no denying that National Lampoon once offered what are now some of the most memorable moments in movie comedy.

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