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'Futile Gesture,' a Serious Bio of Funnyman Kenney

Sep 10, 2006 (Weekend Edition Sunday)

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The comic talent behind National Lampoon magazine and the long-lived comic romps Caddyshack and Animal House lived a wild life... and a short one. Doug Kenney died in August 1980 after a fall from a cliff in Hawaii. He was just 33.

Kenney wrote much of the material that helped the likes of John Belushi, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase achieve early comic fame.

Josh Karp chronicles Kenney's role in co-founding National Lampoon, a publication that served as a catalyst for a new wave of American comedy — one Karp credits for influencing offerings from The Daily Show and The Onion to The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live.

The book A Futile and Stupid Gesture follows Kenney from a childhood lived in the shadow of an older brother to success at Harvard and beyond. (The title comes from the pivotal moment in Animal House when the Delta frat boys decide to sabotage Faber College's homecoming parade.)

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