This is the story behind the genius and tragedy of the 1980 comedy film Caddyshack. Full disclosure: I love National Lampoon and have most of the Vacation movies completely memorized. I was excited that there was a new book about Caddyshack, one of my all-time favorites. It can be tough to watch movies from the 70s and 80s with regards to racism and sexism and recreational drug use, but parts of Caddyshack hold up fairly well. The pool ballet set to Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers" is still a classic and I wanted to learn more.
The book started out as a feel-good story about the early days of National Lampoon and Animal House and prodigy head writer Doug Kenney. The transition from Harvard Lampoon to National Lampoon and writers and comedians veering off to perform on Saturday Night Live or the big screen was orchestrated in large part by Doug Kenney with Harold Ramis, Rob Hoffman, Henry Beard, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, Jim Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Chevy Chase, among others. This changed comedy forever. Smart, funny, talented people. But that particular era ended as a tragic cautionary tale about the ramifications of Hollywood excess, primarily cocaine-fueled. It wasn't widely known at the time that cocaine was addictive or that you could overdose and die. That's a harsh reality.
The true heroes of Caddyshack for me turned out to be the old-timers, who were serious pros: Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. Reading about these somewhat unsung heroes made my day.
If you are interested in more about this time in comedy history, I also recommend A Futile and Stupid Gesture on Netflix, based on the book of the same name by Josh Carp. I feel as well-versed in the school of comedy for that time period as I can be. Be prepared to feel a lot of feelings, some of them sad. It's hard to think about so much talent lost.