Animal House is a movie of pure joy, and from the time I first saw the trailer in theaters in 1978, I knew I would love it. It’s one of those movies guys quote all the time, because it meant so much to guys like me. It was the college we all wanted to attend, and Delta House was the fraternity that even guys who hated fraternities wanted to join.
No comedy has yet compared in sheer hilarity, wonderful moments of dark comedy, and true, human warmth. It was the first cinematic child of National Lampoon, and still the best; and since the day I saw the movie shining up on the screen, I’ve collected as many of the related books as I could lay my hands on.
Fat, Drunk, and Stupid is, as the subtitle says, The Inside Story Behind the Making Of Animal House. This is the latest nonfiction book about the Deltas and their legacy, written by a guy who should know all about it: Matty Simmons, founder of National Lampoon, and right there in the middle of the events surrounding the fall of ’63 at Faber College.
Simmons was an editor, but not much of a writer; so while this book is charming, moderately reflective, and certainly informative, it is by no means exhaustive or well-researched. These are his reminiscences, 34 years later, and as such serve, basically, as his anecdotal, oral history of Animal House.
Not a problem. There are other sources than can fill in what he’s missed. For the most part, this book is a fond and nostalgic look back at how a little movie got made . . . and suddenly became better and bigger than the sum of its parts. It concentrates on the background of Lampoon’s business deals with studio heads, the writing and all the script problems (The original treatment called for a beer keg in the parade, going into Kennedy’s paper-mache forehead), and then the success of the movie and its cultural impact. Don’t expect a detailed examination of how shots were set-up and the script was dissected and interpreted. That’s not what this book is about.
The world is a better place because of Animal House. Because it’s not about a crazy fraternity. It’s about friendship, and about the kids we grew up with.
Write to Universal. Don’t you think it’s time for a sequel? You know what to do . . .
Order the book here.