Matty Simmons and the National Lampoon: “It was the greatest collection of humorists since perhaps the days of the Algonquin Round Table.”

From a New York Times obit by Neil Genzlinger headlined “Matty Simmons, a Force Behind ‘Animal House,’ Is Dead at 93”:

Matty Simmons, who helped launch National Lampoon magazine and was instrumental in bringing into being its most famous side project, the 1978 movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” died on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. . . .

In his 2012 book, “Fat, Drunk and Stupid: The Inside Story Behind the Making of ‘Animal House,’” Mr. Simmons gave a succinct version of his unusual career path: “The Diners Club begat Weight Watchers Magazine, which begat the National Lampoon, and that begat ‘Animal House.’”. . .

The president of a magazine distribution company introduced him to three young men from the student publication The Harvard Lampoon: Henry Beard, Robert Hofffman, and Douglas Kenney.

Mr. Simmons helped them put out a parody of Life magazine, then a parody of Time. Then came National Lampoon, with Mr. Simmons as chairman. As National Lampoon grew more successful, it turned into a franchise, with stage shows, comedy albums and eventually “Animal House.”

The movie, directed by John Landis (who was then largely unknown) and produced by Mr. Simmons and Ivan Reitman, involved a troublemaking fraternity, Delta Tau Chi, and its ensemble cast featured John Belushi, who had become well known from “Saturday Night Live.”. . .

The first issue of the magazine appeared in April 1970. The Lampoon, which at its peak had a circulation of more than one million, was a defining force in satire during the 1970s and ’80s, thanks to a collection of writers and editors that included P.J. O’Rourke, Bruce McCall, Tony Hendra, Sean Kelly, Anne Beatts and Michael O’Donoghue.

“It was the greatest collection of humorists, over a 20-year period, since perhaps the days of the Algonquin Round Table.” Mr. Simmons wrote in “Fat, Drunk and Stupid.”. . .

Mr. Simmons wrote several other books, including “If You Don’t Buy This Book, We’ll Kill This Dog: Life, Laughs, Love and Death at National Lampoon” (1994). (The title was a reference to an especially notorious Lampoon cover.)

In “Fat, Drunk, and Stupid,” he recalled driving around Manhattan in July 1978 marveling at the long lines of people waiting to buy tickets to “Animal House.” Outside one theater he saw Walter Garibaldi, National Lampoon’s treasurer, poking at a calculator, and stopped to ask what he was doing.

“I’m just figuring out how much money we make every time somebody buys a ticket,” came the answer.

Mr. Garibaldi, he wrote, was still standing there hours later. “Animal House,” which was made on a budget of about $3 million, eventually raked in about $140 million.

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