Doug Kenney passed away in 1980, and there’s a cruelty in his missing out on a decade full of comedy that he had a major hand in cultivating and inspiring. The co-founder of National Lampoon turned irreverence and absurdism into the cornerstones of modern humor as the co-writer of films like Animal House and Caddyshack, even as he became as consumed with the vices of the era as he was with the advancement of comedy as an art form.
Kenney’s turbulent and frequently brilliant life became the subject of Doug Karp’s biography A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever. That book in turn serves as the spine of David Wain’s latest directorial outing, a film entitled simply A Futile and Stupid Gesture. The Netflix release sees Will Forte step into Kenney’s formidable shoes, capturing the vulnerability and tumult of comic genius. Wain seems an incredibly appropriate filmmaker to tell Kenney’s story, particularly given that so much of The State expanded on the template that National Lampoon had already established, and Forte has showcased his dramatic chops in fare like Nebraska. Kenney’s story might be painful, but it’s not without its comic highs, and we’re optimistic that A Futile and Stupid Gesture will find the humor in all of the tumult.
Co-starring Domhnall Gleeson and Emmy Rossum, the film will premiere at next month’s Sundance Film Festival in advance of its January 26th release on Netflix. In the meantime, you can check out the first trailer, showing off Forte as Kenney at his very best, above