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Friday, September 18, 2020

National Lampoon President Evan Shapiro On Finding Success as A Producer

When National Lampoon first released the “National Lampoon Radio Hour” in 1973, it broke ground in audio sketch and introduced a cast of fresh young talent that lit the world on fire: John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and Harold Ramis included. With the next decade, National Lampoon would also give the world “Animal House,” “Caddyshack” and the “Vacation” series of movies. Eventually, it would also help give starts to Conan O’Brien, Greg Daniels from the American version of “The Office,” and Al Jean from “The Simpsons,” beyond countless other comedy writers and producers.

National Lampoon relaunched the “National Lampoon Radio Hour” on Dec. 19 as a scripted podcast. Among the participating talent will within its first 11 episodes are lead writers Cole Escola (“At Home With Amy Sedaris,” “Difficult People”) and Jo Firestone (Adult Swim, “The Tonight Show”) and performers Maeve Higgins, Lorelei Ramirez, Rachel Dratch, Amy Sedaris, Chris Gethard, Julie Klausner and Jordan Klepper.

Evan Shapiro is notably the President of National Lampoon these days. Shapiro is an Emmy and Peabody Award Winner and has produced or created more than 150 television series, specials or documentaries, including “Portlandia” and “Comedy Bang Bang.” Shapiro is also a Professor for TV and Media at NYU/Stern School Of Business, and kindly took some time to answer some Q&As.

Darren Paltrowitz: What was your introduction to National Lampoon?

Evan Shapiro: As a kid? I read the magazine religiously. I heard the albums at JCC sleep-away camp. I watched the movies on a loop. Lately? I met my partners through a mutual friend and jumped at the chance to be a part.

DP: You yourself as are an Emmy-winner and a Peabody-winner with extensive production credits. But what was your first production credit that you really got hands-on with?

ES: In TV? I think it was Greg The Bunny at IFC. A puppet-comedy from the creative team behind the Oscar-nominated film “The Florida Project.”

DP: At what point did you realize that entertainment was going to be your trade for life? And that it wasn’t just fun to be working in entertainment?

ES: In 1982, when I watched “Nicholas Nickleby” on NBC over two nights, starting Roger Rees. That changed my life.

DP: Initially, did you want to be a writer or performer?

ES: Yes. I wanted to be a director. But when I started producing, I realized that was my true calling

DP: Are you working on anything besides being President of National Lampoon? Or does that get all of your time and attention these days?

ES: I am Executive Producing a YA project for Disney+ called “The Grimm Legacy,” about a fictional repository that houses real magical objects.

DP: When not busy with work, where does your free time usually go?

ES: Most of my free time goes into — in order — my family, teaching at NYU, mentoring a bunch of young people, and working with the American Theater Wing.

DP: As this is for the Jewish Journal, I feel the need to ask: When and where was your bar mitzvah? And did it have a theme?

ES: It was quite small. I was bar mitzvahed at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill [New Jersey]. We had lunch afterward. The theme was my hair, which was quite big at the time. Some things never change.

DP: Finally, Evan, any last words for the kids?

ES: People will tell you that the things you love can’t be your job. They’re wrong. The more you love what you do, the better you’ll be at it. Money is meaningless if you aren’t happy.

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