Before there was "Saturday Night Live" and "SCTV," there was "The National Lampoon Radio Hour." As with its TV successors, clever and often biting satire was its signature.
Before there was "Saturday Night Live" and "SCTV," there was "The National Lampoon Radio Hour." As with its TV successors, clever and often biting satire was its signature. Nationally syndicated from November 1973-December 1974, the "Radio Hour" gave many their first introductions to the names Belushi, Chase, Murray and Radner, among other stars-to-be.
Now, a contemporary version of "Radio Hour" is being planned as a key component of the re-energizing of the National Lampoon brand being spearheaded by chief operating officer and longtime fan Dan Laikin, who with several minority partners bought the company about a year ago.
New York-based syndicator Network One has acquired exclusive rights to "Radio Hour" and anticipates a fall startup. Original "Radio Hour" alum Richard Belzer will host.
"I think the country needs this show right now," Belzer said. "It's almost a civic responsibility to bring back the great tradition and take-no-prisoners [attitude] of the Lampoon humor. There's no agenda other than being smart and funny."
Added Laikin: "Radio is one of the most underappreciated mediums and has a huge reach and value. It's a place where National Lampoon made its mark in the early 1970s and is a place we absolutely want to be. Richard Belzer's a great guy, and it's an honor working with him. He has such history with National Lampoon."
For the past year, Laikin and Network One have been developing original short-form Lampoon radio content. The 40 stations currently carrying National Lampoon's prep service will have right of first refusal. Rock and classic rock stations will be the first ones targeted to clear the new offering.
"National Lampoon runs throughout the spectrum, from high school seniors to 60-year-old guys," said Network One general manager Alan Donnes, who also will serve as the show's executive producer. "But we feel the brand is best recognized in [rock and classic rock]. We'll also offer it to campus radio stations."
Stations will likely air the hour-long show Saturday night or Sunday night. The idea, Donnes said, "is to do finishing touches just before it goes out; we'll probably wrap it up Friday [for] a Saturday delivery. If [President] Bush says something really stupid, rather than just stupid, we can insert it into the show."
Classic content from the original "Radio Hour" also will be part of the weekly mix, Donnes added.
Mirroring the original series' approach, anything and everything in American pop culture will be fair game. "It's an umbrella premise under which we can savagely take apart or gently rib whatever we want," Belzer said. "Part of the reason they brought me in was because I was there in the beginning; I'm ready for any critics. It's just a dream for me because there are no restrictions. With the talent we're going to put together, I'm confident that people won't be disappointed."
Donnes' business partner Tanner Colby is the show's head writer. Dave Thomas, Michael Moore, Kevin Rooney and Ron Zimmerman are among the writers Belzer said he has approached about contributing to the new "Radio Hour."
The medium is hardly new for Belzer, who co-hosted a daily radio show during the late 1970s on WNBC-AM in New York. "I love radio -- there's no makeup or cameras," he said. "I miss radio very much and look forward to getting back into it."