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Review: ‘Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead’ says it all about National Lampoon documentary

From left, Douglas Tirola, Tony Hendra, Mike Reiss and Kurt Anderson attend the "Drunk Stone Brilliant Dead" New York premiere.

From left, Douglas Tirola, Tony Hendra, Mike Reiss and Kurt Anderson attend the “Drunk Stone Brilliant Dead” New York premiere.

(Laura Cavanaugh / Getty Images)

It’s probably safe to say that none of the boundary-pushing contributors to the groundbreaking counterculture humor magazine the National Lampoon ever asked themselves about the sickest of their material, “Too soon?” Or even, “Ever?”

Part of the fun of Douglas Tirola’s snappy documentary, “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon,” is that, no matter how reflectively mellow the gray-haired, reminiscing interviewees are, the blizzard of featured illustrations from the magazine’s ‘70s heyday offer scads of they-couldn’t-get-away-with-that-today laughter. (You can thank legendary black-hearted writer Michael O’Donoghue for some of the more taste-challenged entries, like “Children’s Letters to the Gestapo.”)

Is it the fullest of portraits of a comedy wave that conquered print, radio and stage and that paved the way for “Saturday Night Live”? Not when the timeline pretty much stops at their last zeitgeist hurrah, the film “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” (Publisher Matty Simmons puts the kibosh on talking about the brand’s decline on camera.)

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Then again, there is something of an organic arc to Tirola framing most of his celebratory movie around mastermind Doug Kenney, who, with Harvard alumnus Henry Beard, turned slaughtering political, religious and cultural sacred cows into a new kind of satirical stampede. Pack rats of a certain generation will all but run to their attics after seeing “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead.”

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“Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.”

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

Playing: Nuart, West L.A.

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