The Harvard Lampoon

The Harvard Lampoon

The Harvard Lampoon building on the night of its 100th Anniversary celebration. Designed by Edmund M. Wheelwright.
Categories Humor magazine
Year founded February 1876 (1876-02)
Based in Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Language English

The Harvard Lampoon is an undergraduate humor publication founded in 1876 by seven undergraduates at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The Harvard Lampoon publication was founded in 1876 by seven undergraduates at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts who were inspired by popular magazines like Punch (1841) and Puck (1871).[1][2] Without counting breaks during World War I and World War II, The Harvard Lampoon is the world's second longest continually published humor magazine (after Nebelspalter).

Lampy posing in an image from an 1886 Lampoon

The organization also produces occasional humor books (the best known being the 1969 J.R.R. Tolkien parody Bored of the Rings) and parodies of national magazines such as Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated. Much of the organization's capital is provided by the licensing of the "Lampoon" name to National Lampoon, begun by Harvard Lampoon graduates in 1970.

The Lampoon publishes five issues annually. In 2006, the Lampoon began regularly releasing content on its website, including pieces from the magazine and web-only content. In 2009, the Lampoon published a parody of Twilight called Nightlight, which is a New York Times bestseller.[3] In February 2012, the Lampoon released a parody of The Hunger Games called The Hunger Pains.[4][5] It is also a New York Times bestseller.[6]

Lampoon's Ibis Mascot c.1888

The organization is housed a few blocks from Harvard Square in a small mock-Flemish castle, the Harvard Lampoon Building.

The Lampoon is known for its bacchanalian parties, which can result in smashed plates and furniture. The Lampoon's affairs are administered by Harvard Lampoon, Inc., whose Board of Graduate Trustees includes such people as James Murdoch, Ted Widmer, and Bill Oakley.[7] Robert K. Hoffman, co-founder of the National Lampoon and major donor to the Dallas Museum of Art was a Trustee until his death in 2006, and was declared a Trustee "Ad-Infinitum" a year later.


The 1885 Lampoon staff includes several notables, such as philosopher G. Santayana and newspaperman W.R. Hearst
Title Dingbat from an 1886 Lampoon

The Harvard Lampoon was first published in 1876 by seven founders including Ralph Wormeley Curtis, Edward Sandford Martin, Edmund March Wheelwright, and Arthur Murray Sherwood,[8] (who was the father of Robert E. Sherwood).[9] The Lampoon and its sensibility have been an especially important expression of American humor and comedy since the late 1960s. An important line of demarcation came when Lampoon editors Douglas Kenney and Henry Beard wrote the Tolkien parody Bored of the Rings. The success of this book and the attention it brought its authors led directly to the creation of the National Lampoon magazine, which spun off a live show Lemmings, and then a radio show in the early 1970s, The National Lampoon Radio Hour which featured such performers as Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Chevy Chase.

Writers from these shows were subsequently hired to help create Saturday Night Live. This was the first in a line of many TV shows that Lampoon graduates went on to write for, including The Simpsons, Futurama, Saturday Night Live, Late Night with David Letterman, Seinfeld, Friends, The League, NewsRadio, The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and dozens of others. An old copy of the magazine was shown in the fourth season finale of NewsRadio, and referred to as the "nefarious scandal sheet."

Cartoon by philosopher G. Santayana, Harvard class of 1886

Lampoon alumni include such comedians as Conan O'Brien, Andy Borowitz, B. J. Novak, Greg Daniels, and Colin Jost. Etan Cohen wrote for Beavis and Butthead as an undergraduate member. In 1986 former editor Kurt Andersen co-founded the satirical magazine Spy, which employed Lampoon writers Paul Simms and Eric Kaplan, and published the work of Lampoon alumni Patricia Marx, Lawrence O'Donnell and Mark O'Donnell. The Lampoon has also graduated many noted authors such as George Plimpton, George Santayana, John Updike, and William Gaddis. Actor Fred Gwynne was a cartoonist at the Lampoon and became its president.

Celebrities often visit the Lampoon to be inducted as honorary members of the organization. Past guests include Tony Hawk, Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, Tracey Ullman, John Cleese, Jay Leno, Winston Churchill, Aerosmith, Adam Sandler, Billy Crystal, the cast of Saturday Night Live, Sarah Silverman, and John Wayne.

Rivalry with The Harvard Crimson

The Lampoon has a long-standing rivalry with Harvard's student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, which repeatedly refers to the Lampoon in its pages as a "semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization which used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine".

1886 example of Crimson-teasing by Lampoon editor T.P. Sanborn

A noted event in the history of the LampoonCrimson rivalry was the Crimson's 1953 theft of the Lampoon Castle's ibis statue and presentation of it as a gift to the government of the Soviet Union.[10][11]

On September 27, 2011, the Lampoon stole the Harvard Crimson President's Chair and had it used as a prop on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.[12]

On June 2, 2015, the "Lampoon" stole the "Harvard Crimson" President's Chair, pretended to be the "Harvard Crimson" editorial staff, and took the chair to Trump Tower to endorse GOP nominee Donald Trump. Trump later threatened to sue the undergraduates.[13]


  1. Wright is cited as Comedian of Year, The Salina Journal, 4 April 1990, p. 24, retrieved November 22, 2013
  2. "The Last Laugh," Boston Globe Magazine, March 11, 2001.
  3. Schuessler, Jennifer. "Hardcover". The New York Times.
  5. "The Hunger Pains". Amazon. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  6. Cowles, Gregory. "Print & E-Books". The New York Times.
  7. The Alumni - September-October '97 - Reading Homer
  8. "The Founders. A.D. 1876". The Harvard lampoon fiftieth anniversary 1876–1926. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard lampoon. 1926.
  9. Report - Harvard College (1780– ). Class of 1877. 1917. p. 338.
  10. "The Rhodes Roster", Harvard Magazine, 2004, retrieved 10-11-2013 Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  11. "'Dove of Peace' is 'Bird': Harvard Crimson's Gift to Reds Ends Up as Campus Prank", New York Times, p. 24, 1953-04-22
  12. "Crimson President's Chair on Jimmy Fallon!". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 28 September 2011.

External links

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