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When Jay Naughton stumbled upon the newly launched NationalLampoon.com one evening four years ago, he was transported back to the mag’s ’70s glory days. “I wasn’t a rabid fan,” he admits. “I’d read it because I was 15 and there were boobs in it.”
Searching for ribald memories in the “Flashback” section of the site, Naughton found only low-res scans of old magazine pages. Because his day job involves putting print material on the Web for a “quasi-governmental” company, Naughton contacted the site to offer his superior services. “This was my attempt to cash in on the dot-com craze,” Naughton says over beer at Shelly’s Back Room downtown, where he moonlights one night a week. Naughton’s offer of higher-quality scans was accepted—if he worked for free.
Having changed corporate ownership many times over the past 30 years, the magazine’s headquarters offered little to work with. “Everything’s lost,” says Naughton. “There’s no film. There’s no photos. There’s nothing.” All Naughton had to work with was “a box of old Lampoons [he] bought on eBay.”
“I was pissed that I picked the wrong company—the dot-com that wasn’t shelling out $50 million and Porsches,” he grouses. “But…I got Lampoon on my speed-dial. It says National Lampoon right there—boom.”
Emboldened by his new showbiz connection, Naughton began including witty comments along with the images he made for the magazine. His messages prompted ’Poon Editor in Chief Scott Rubin to promote Naughton to writing introductions for the pages, giving him the title Scanner Bitch.
Gradually, the “not 40”-year-old Montgomery County resident began “Webifying” old material, adding animation to the Lampoon’s Hello Kitty parody, Hello Jesus. Soon, he began producing original Hello Jesus cartoons, including an elaborate parody of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. His Paris Hilton sendup looks as if it took about 20 minutes to produce, but it is still among Google’s top hits.
Naughton’s material—crude, sophomoric, but undeniably amusing—fits with much of the original Lampoon’s style. “All of my stuff that you see is first draft. I just write it and upload it. Because if I sit on it and reread it, I’ll start changing everything.” One original piece, a dark take on the Kursk Russian sub disaster, generated the site’s “most hate mail ever,” which pleased its editors greatly.
After several years of faithful scanning and bitching, Naughton was rewarded with a publishing contract, producing—or reproducing—Lampoon books. His first credit came on the newly released National Lampoon’s Big Book of True Facts. (Naughton also runs the TrueFacts.com site, where he insists the pictures “are 100 percent Photoshop free.”) Also in progress is the “nightmare” task of re-creating the fabled National Lampoon Sunday Newspaper parody, as well as Michael O’Donoghue’s National Lampoon Encyclopedia of Humor.
“I have had minimal contact with anybody from the [magazine’s] 35-year history,” says Naughton with a shrug and a sip of his suds. One writer he prefers not to name protested having an old story posted, and cartoons are particularly iffy, rights-wise.
But his page gets 50,000 hits a month. “I’ve got no clout for being the scanner bitch, except every once in a while I’ll pull that…out,” Naughton says of his impressive Web stat. “No one knows who I am, but I get a million hits a month. I can fuck you up—so fix my car.” —Dave Nuttycombe