High School Jeerbook
Here's Slate's review of the recent reissue of National Lampoon's 1964 High School Yearbook, which was originally published in 1974.
Originally published as a special issue of National Lampoon magazine, the parody was mostly the work of two of the magazine's editors: Doug Kenney, who would go on to co-write the screenplay for Animal House before his death, at age 34, in 1980; and P.J. O'Rourke, who would go on to become P.J. O'Rourke. (My friend O'Rourke is still alive, of course, though he does live in New Hampshire.) Others associated with Lampoon in its early days made contributions to the yearbook, too: Michael O'Donahue [the author means Michael O'Donoghue, Saturday Night Live's first head writer], Henry Beard, George W.S. Trow, Christopher Cerf, and the designer Alan Rose. Many of the magazine's founding editors were veterans of the Harvard Lampoon, which had become nationally known in the 1960s for sublime parodies of such magazines as Playboy, Cosmopolitan, and Life—the textbooks of mid-'60s mass culture. The Harvard Lampoon's method was to emulate the target publication as soberly as possible, while tweaking each graphic element just to the edge of absurdity. The foldout in the Playboy parody, for example, was faithful in every detail, as though Hef himself were its art director. The usual far-fetched pneumatic seminude crouched with the unavoidably tossed-about hair, the same implausible come-hither look … except her bikini tan lines were reversed, so that her breasts and bottom were darkly tanned, and everything else was as pale as typing paper.
This method—a nearly flawless graphic rendering, perverted—reached a kind of consummation in the yearbook parody. It helped that only two or three publishers in those days produced high-school yearbooks; if you'd seen one, therefore, you'd seen them all. Rose heightened the verisimilitude by drawing the pen-and-ink illustrations with his left hand, the better to capture the incompetence of yearbook artists everywhere. The photography, by David Kaestle, was suitably out of focus and ill-lit, and the chaotic design was barely competent enough to convey the subject matter, which was nothing less than the entirety of life in an American high school—in this case, the fictional Estes Kefauver Memorial High, in Dacron, Ohio—as it developed during that first gusher of mass prosperity in the decades after World War II. This was suburbia captured in the minutes before the 1960s became the '60s; this is what America looked like when the Beatles stepped off the plane.