Forgive me if I open on a personal note: The other night I started laughing so hard I had to leave the room. My daughter was trying to study, and I could see she was getting alarmed. It was kind of scary to me, too, if you want to know the truth. For a moment there, as I made it into the bathroom and shut the door, I thought my body was approaching organ failure, not that I know what organ failure feels like, thank God. You hear people say things like "I laughed so hard I cried" and "I nearly fell out of my chair," but I had gone well beyond the crying stage by the time my metabolism began to return to equilibrium. And then I realized that I hadn't laughed so hard in 35 years, since I was a teenager, reading National Lampoon.
American men of a certain age will recall the feeling. What I'd been reading the other night was, no coincidence, National Lampoon—specifically the monologue of a fictional New York cabbie named Bernie X. He was the creation of Gerald Sussman, a writer and editor for the Lampoon from its early days in the 1970s to its sputtering death in 1998. Sussman, it is said, wrote more words for the magazine than any other contributor. I'm sorry I can't quote any of his pieces here. They're filthy.
If I'd gone ahead and died the other night, my wife would have known whom to sue. "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead," in which Bernie X appears, is the work of Rick Meyerowitz, himself a valued contributor to the Lampoon who had the bright idea to gather his favorite pieces from the magazine into a handsomely produced coffee-table book.
Read it here.