The Invention of Nostalgia: Inside the National Lampoon's '1964 Kaleidoscope'

Who would win in a fight between Don Draper talking about how nostalgia is a “twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone” and Cheese saying “Ain’t no nostalgia to this shit here”?

I don’t know, but there is a book I love, and it’s the 1964 Kaleidoscope, the cover of which is an embossed kangaroo holding an oil lamp (or if you’re looking at it upside down and backwards, the cover is a cheerleader butt). Either way, let’s talk about it!

What this book actually is, is a thin-looking but superdense special edition of National Lampoon from 1974 parodying a high school year book from 1964, the bulk of which was written by Doug Kenney and P.J. O’Rourke. (Rick Meyerowitz in Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead additionally cites the “tireless brilliance” of art director David Kaestle, who also did most of the photography.)

According to Matty Simmons in his (unindexed!) If You Don’t Buy this Book, We’ll Kill This Dog, the April 1975 issue of Harper’s called it “the finest example of group writing since the King James bible” and I am here to tell you: You will die a thousand tiny deaths if you read it. READ MORE


Inside the Almost 100% Successful 1985 Late Night with David Letterman Book

Everyone knows that Merrill Markoe just wrote a book called Cool, Calm & Contentious. But did you know she also did a first book? It’s true, because that is how ordinal numbers work, and for the purposes of this, it is Late Night with David Letterman: The Book.

Perhaps you can tell by the cover that this book was published in 1985 (also: there are some Tip O’Neill jokes). But: it captures a lot of what we might now refer to as “Late Night High Ironic” and at the time was referred to as “confusing to anyone not accustomed to constantly adjusting their point of reference”. That the title page includes the actual book title underneath the crossed out title “The Day the Whistling Stopped: The Short, Tragic Life of Harriet Zwindel” might give you some indication of whether this book will be up your alley. READ MORE


It's Too Late, the Cones are Built: Inside the Strange, Writer-centric 1977 SNL Book

There is a book I love and it is not clear to me what the name is, but I think it is just Saturday Night Live. If you’re looking for it, you should search for Saturday Night Live, Host: Francisco Franco or maybe Saturday Night Live Franco but not James Franco edited by Anne Beatts and John Head Avon Books 1977 it is green? In any case, you should look for it!

With the (great) oral history of SNL by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller and with all the early seasons available to stream on Netflix and Hulu, it is maybe a little easier now to see what might have been interesting and new and galvanizing about the show when it first came on. But I started seriously watching SNL in the late Ebersol period, when Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal were on, and when I’d see something from the first season it was basically impenetrable to me.

Part of this was just youth, but I also had no other “in”: I was too young to have seen the movies to which the early season cast members had “graduated” (although it being 1984, I was about to know Murray and Aykroyd from Ghostbusters and work my way back). I knew Jane Curtin from Kate & Allie. John Belushi was dead and his wife was on the cover of People. And that was it. The stuff I saw from the first seasons didn’t even read as funny to me: what was (is?) the joke of the Coneheads?

But this book got me there. It has a lot of the Dadaist non-sequiturs-with-zero-follow-through that we now know as “most Tumblrs,” but it also goes deeper, is legit funny and edgy, and maybe most importantly — and this is probably because it is co-edited by Anne Beatts (and has Michael O’Donoghue as creative consultant) — it emphasizes the writers as much as the performers. READ MORE


Instead of Playing Music, Yo La Tengo Performs an Entire Seinfeld Episode

I saw Yo La Tengo Friday night in Chicago. On this tour, they have a giant Wheel-of-Fortune-style wheel, with accompanying theme music, that determines what the first of two 45 minute sets will consist of (for example, "Songs That Start with S," "Name Songs"). A guy from the audience spun and got "Spinners Choice," and he chose (based on audience urging) "Sitcom Theatre."

The band then left for a minute and came back on stage with scripts in hand and acted out the entire "Chinese Restaurant" episode of Seinfeld — all 22 minutes of it. Ira was Jerry, Georgia was Elaine and James was George. The stagehands did the other characters.

It was nuts. READ MORE