John Updike's cartoon in the current Lampoon is certainly funny, but old Blot and Jester were leading with their chins when they ran it. The cartoon, which shows two Advocate editors piecing together an issue from a short story anthology, only serves to call one's attention to the four reprints in the 'Poon. And since the editors find it so hard to fill their magazine with new material, they might well change the name of the Lampoon to the Updike Gazette and persuade their talented colleague to do the whole thing.
Besides a bold, colorful cover by Lewis Gifford and two passable stories by Michael Arlen and Charles OsBorne, only Updike's drawing and light verse save the Lampoon from falling into the category of dull, soggy reading matter. On the other hand, Updike's Advocate sketch, his poem Famous Americans II, and five snappy drawings are really high quality material--worthy, I believe, of the Benchley, Williams Golden Age of Lampoonery.
End of an Era by Michael Arlen and Pd Rather Net by Osborne are fairly witty stories. Arlen started off with a meaty subject--Adolphe Menjou's resignation from the Ten Best Dressed List. For a few paragraphs Arlen's reminiscences are fine, but, regrettably, he continues with them long after they have lost their interest. Osborne's blast at Ripley's Believe It or Not is a good one-shot idea.
The rest of the issue varies from dull to distasteful. John Hubbard's Prof--is a satire on the General Education trend-idea-few-fact method of teaching. It is no great trick to distort this theory and make it seem ridiculous, and that is all Hubbard has done.
The two other stories, The Flying Buffalo by Eric Wentworth and The Play's the Thing by Osborne, are not outstanding. Osborne's opus is particularly disappointing. It starts off in promising style with a good plot and snappy dialogue. Just about the middle of the story, however, Osborne's dialogue becomes clammy and his plot starts sliding down to a pulpish ending.
Two newly-written poems, four recently-draw cartoons, and the reprints almost fill the rest of the issue. Tacked on are two little news items, printed with appropriate comments. One of these shows a deplorable lack of taste, and it is surprising that the Lampoon decided to print it. The poems are Henry Ziegler's The Lower Depths and Osborne's Joseph Was a Piker. Neither is funny.
The cartoons, by Gifford, Charles Robinson, and Sadri Khan, are mediocre at best. As for the reprints, none of them is even worth printing. In fact, one full page cartoon, which shows a man learning to swim in an empty pool, is undoubtedly the worst piece in the issue. The Poem Back Bay runs a close second.
In short, the Lampoon editors ought to congratulate themselves--for having had the sense to elect Updike to their Board of Editors.