Sunday, November 23, 2008

Doug Kenney was The Stork

When it comes to comedy, I consider myself a big fan. I know of a lot of comics/humorists and I have a pretty fair idea of how modern American comedy has evolved. Basically, it went like this: First there was Laurel and Hardy (though with names like those they were probably British), then there was Abbott and Costello (The Who's on First guys), then Lenny Bruce came along. Eventually, he died.

From there, the baton was splintered into loving shivs and handed off to a number of different folks. One of those folks was Doug Kenney. Doug Kenney is/was this largely unknown comedic genius. He ran The National Lampoon for a time, he co-wrote 'Animal House' and co-wrote -- and, I believe, produced -- 'Caddyshack.' The National Lampoon, back in the day, was cutting edge stuff. It pushed the boundaries of American-o comedy way out there, along with troupes like Second City and Lemmings. When he was bought out of his share of the Lampoon, Kenney and his cohorts were paid millions of dollars. And Caddyshack and Animal House are as big as they come when it comes to classic comedies. If you're a male in this country between the ages of 18 and 75, you'd better be prepared to quote liberally from both of those movies - or risk being shunned!

So you would think he would have considered his life a success, right? NRRRRT!!! From what I've read, Doug Kenney considered his life a failure. Apparently, he'd always wanted to be a serious novelist. Or at least write a serious novel. And because he hadn't done that, and because he was getting older (he was 32 when he died), he considered his life a failure.

No one really knows whether his death was an accident or a suicide. He fell off a 30-foot cliff in Hawaii, and that was that. Fellow humorist (and friend of Kenney's) Harold Ramis joked that Kenney probably fell to his death while 'looking for a place to jump.' That's dark humor. But knowing Kenney like he did, I'm guessing he felt Kenney would have approved. Or if not approved, at least laughed. Michael O'Donoghue, who also worked on the Lampoon, said he wished Doug Kenney had been shaking Chevy Chase's hand when he fell. Kind of dark, too, yes? Well, sometimes comedy's no laughing matter.

Anyway, while watching Animal House recently (for the 527th time), I noticed in the credits that Doug Kenney was actually in that movie. He was The Stork! And he had only one line of dialogue. He's the guy who, when the chips are down for the boys from Delta, says to John Belushi, 'Well, what are we s'posed to do, you mo-ron?'

Yup, that was Doug Kenney, folks, telling it like it is. And the question he asked is a question that still resonates today.

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