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''National Lampoon'', a dying publication

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If you ever enjoyed reading National Lampoon, stop snickering. After nearly a decade of plummeting circulation — from 1 million copies in 1982 to 146,500 in 1991 — the ribald 22-year-old humor magazine recently closed its New York office and fired the staff there. According to Lampoon‘s parent company, J2 Communications, it will publish out of J2’s L.A. office 6 times a year instead of the current 10. ”It’s simply a matter of consolidating,” says J2’s vice president of marketing, Duncan Murray. ”It’s very difficult to run a company 3,000 miles away.”

It’s hard not to see Lampoon as the last gasp of an era in which toga parties were cool. (The times, they are a-changin’ in Britain, too, where the 150-year-old glossy humor magazine Punch recently hit the stands with what was expected to be its last issue.)

Trading on the success of 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House and 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, J2’s upcoming movie and TV projects include a film parody of Lethal Weapon and a Saturday-morning cartoon show that the company hopes will revive interest in the faltering publication. Unless Lampoon can get with the ’90s, J2 could lose this valuable franchise: If the mag stops publishing, a contract clause requires the company to return the trademark name to the original owner, The Harvard Lampoon.

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