Don’t laugh at him (with him is fine), but Evan Shapiro believes his new class of the “National Lampoon Radio Hour” is as talented as the original one.
“We legitimately have what I would call ‘the next class’ of the ‘Radio Hour,'” Shapiro, the former head of Seeso who now leads The National Lampoon’s rebranding, told TheWrap. “The level of talent that was represented originally, at a different stage in their careers today, reflective of their time.”
In making that big comparison, Shapiro is talking about “where they are as artists, and their voices, and where their backgrounds are from, but also in their ability to take on mainstream culture in a very subversive way,” to be as clear for readers and fair to him as possible.
Names back when the original “Radio Show” launched included Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis and Christopher Guest, among others. Pretty good company for the new group, which includes names like Cole Escola, Jo Firestone, Brett Davis, Alex English, Maeve Higgins, Aaron Jackson, Rachel Pegram, Lorelei Ramirez, Meg Stalter and Martin Urbano.
Shapiro says he’s looking for “the thing that made Lampoon, Lampoon.” With that in mind, he wanted the legendary comedy brand to return to its roots of earning money by creating intellectual property that could earn more money down the road — it just won’t do any of that in print this time.
“You wouldn’t start a magazine now, you would do something else,” Shapiro told us, an actual magazine.
And so he’s doing this all in the most 2019 way possible: podcasting.
“Podcasting is one of the great places to go,” he said. It’s the “medium where today’s young audiences are getting their comedy,” Shapiro said.
Should audio-only not suffice in the earbuds era, “National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast,” which launches on Thursday, has also shot video for YouTube to serve as a “parallel universe,” in Shapiro’s words.
Shapiro says he doesn’t want National Lampoon to be “SNL,” the Lorne Michaels-produced sketch-comedy staple that basically ruined The National Lampoon by poaching so much of its talent.
“With all due respect to other sketch shows on television, the audience among 16 to 24-year-olds is not as good as it should be,” Shapiro said. “We feel that this puts us right in their pockets whenever they want it, in a show that is meant to be played both as albums and as singles.”
If you were wondering, Shapiro believes college kids are “more” aware “than most people think” of The National Lampoon, “because ‘Christmas Vacation’ is gonna be on television every day between now and the end of the year, and is considered a classic,” as one example.
In addition to that namedrop, which comes at a good time considering HBO Max’s “The Griswolds” news, Shapiro is looking to revive at least one other National Lampoon staple. He’s working on an update of the “Lemmings” stage show as well, Shapiro told us.
And no, Shapiro doesn’t see this whole thing shaking out like Seeso. Spoiler alert: That NBCUniversal streaming option with a focus on comedy did not have a happy ending.
“There’s two dramatic differences between these two ventures,” Shapiro said. “The name “Seeso’ we had to build from scratch. It was gonna be an uphill climb, so it required substantially more investment in brand awareness.”
And Seeso was its own platform, which cost subscribers money. Lampoon, on the other hand, will serve as a studio for other platforms. “We are a comedy arms provider in the streaming wars,” Shapiro said.
Plus, Seeso was for money, this is more for “data,” Shapiro said. So really, it’s three differences.
“National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast” premieres on Thursday, Dec. 19 with the first two episodes available across all podcasting platforms. Starting Dec. 26 with Episode 3, Spotify will premiere a new episode of the podcast each Thursday.