The Classic National Lampoon Box Set
This four-CD set offers a little something -- actually, a lot of something -- for everyone, though not enough of the actual best of the National Lampoon. Essentially a packaging of four existing CDs -- That's Not Funny, That's Sick, White Album, and Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll, and the End of the World, along with Greatest Hits of the National Lampoon -- it has too many unfunny moments on discs one, two, and three, representing the downward spiral of the organization, and not enough highlights of the true best material represented on disc four, the greatest-hits volume, which covers the Lampoon's earlier history. Disc four is the highlight, containing as it does the best moments of the Radio Dinner album -- "Deteriorata," "Those Fabulous Sixties," and "Magical Misery Tour" -- plus bits from Lemmings, Missing White House Tapes, and Goodbye Pop. The other three discs don't hold up nearly as well, representing a newer (and decidedly more uncensored) generation of writers and performers who aren't half as clever. As it happens, at least part of Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll, and the End of the World, with its barbed look at the politics, morality, and hypocrisy of the early '80s, holds up well today, including the song "Cocaine" (no, drug czar William Bennett wasn't blowing his money up his nose with cocaine, but he was shoveling it onto the gaming tables of casinos at Vegas, while debating publicly whether his was a cabinet-level position). And with the actress' re-emergence in 2005, "Jane Fonda Speaks Out" is newly topical, with its vicious digs at its subject and her ex-husband Tom Hayden. But there aren't enough moments like that on the first three discs, and not quite enough of the truly great parts of the Lampoon's best years on disc four, to make this more than a partly satisfying overview. Now, a three-disc set of Radio Dinner, Lemmings, and Missing White House Tapes, on the other hand -- there you're talking greatness, and an indispensable collection.