Futile and Stupid Gesture: David Wain’s Version of Josh Karp’s Book

Sundance Film Fest 2018–Doug Kenney, the comedy writer who co-founded National Lampoon and helped launch the careers of John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray, is the subject of the biopic, A Futile and Stupid Gesture.

David Wain’s film adaptation of Josh Karp’s book premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Fest and will begin streaming on Netflix on January 26.

Martin Mull, 74, is cast as the imagined modern-day Kenney (though he actually died at 33), narrating the film. selectively deciding which events to include or exclude.

As a youngster, Kenney is an impertinent, mart college student (portrayed by Will Forte), teaming up with Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) to oversee the Harvard Lampoon just before it becomes the comedy magazine, National Lampoon.

Cast and crew of ‘A Futile and Stupid Gesture’ attend the film’s premiere. © 2018 Sundance Institute | Ian Tilghman

A radio show introduces Chevy Chase (Joel McHale) and others as they go on to make Animal House. When the film becomes a sleeper hit in 1978, Kenney’s life changes for the worse.  His cocaine addiction escalates as he tries to deal with writer’s block. He eventually makes another comedy, Caddyshack, which also develops a cult following.

The film also looks at Kenney’s passing during a hiking trip in Hawaii, when he either fell or leapt to his death in some mysterious circumstances.

Wain is still best known for his own cult comedy Wet Hot American Summer, which premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Fest.

Wain told the premiere audience that, having watched Caddyshack “ten thousand times as a kid,” his goal was to make a film about “someone whose name we don’t know, but he really invented the comedy I grew up on.”