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John Hughes: How National Lampoon led to “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller”

If P.J. O’Rourke was in fact dedicated to returning the National Lampoon to solid Middle American (as opposed to snotty Ivy League) values, he found a strong ally in John Hughes, a Lampoon writer so rooted in Middle America he never actually left his base in the Chicago suburbs even after he was put on the Lampoon staff, instead flying in for meetings at the magazine’s expense.

Like Alan Zweibel and Lorne Michaels, Hughes had slogged as a gag writer in his youth, selling jokes to the likes of Rodney Dangerfield, Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller. Like Chris Miller, he had been a copywriter and became an agency vice president by the time he was twenty-five while freelancing for Playboy. In fact, it was Miller’s work that had inspired Hughes to contact the Lampoon. “I read all of Chris Miller’s stuff and a couple of things by Doug Kenney and the stuff drove me insane,” he recalled, and in late 1977, he called and ended up talking to cartoonist Shary Flenniken, who told him to get in touch with Tony Hendra, at that point incubating his own satire magazine. But the socialist-leaning, literary Hendra and the basically apolitical-though-Republican-if-anything Hughes (who would make his name in 1985 as writer and director of "The Breakfast Club," a movie in which five high school kids are confined to a library and generally avoid reading, bored stiff though they are) were not a good fit.

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