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'Lunatic' celebrates 30 years of Cornell humor in print

The Cornell Lunatic has a long history of believing it's the funniest campus humor magazine ever. Not wishing to let anyone forget this, Lunatic founder Joey Green '80 returned to campus April 1, the 30th anniversary of the magazine and the release date of the book "Lunacy: The Best of the Cornell Lunatic," which he edited.

"There's only a handful of really solid college humor magazines publishing, mostly from the Ivies," Green said. "Because of the Internet and TV and movies and DVDs, print is kind of dying. And because of a lot of things happening like shootings on campuses, it's clear that a lot more humor is needed."

Green gave a talk and signed books at the Cornell Store and met with President David Skorton to present him with a copy of the book. Green and former editor Steven Weinreb '81 also spent time with the current Lunatic staff, signed their books and gave them advice. "For God's sake, sell more ads," Weinreb said.

The latest Lunatic, "The Gentleman's Issue," also came out on schedule; it publishes every April Fool's Day and Halloween.

"You really develop a bond with everyone who writes for the magazine," said current editor-in-chief Aaron Edelman '08. "I knew I wanted to write for it before I even came to Cornell."

As a student, Green was a prolific political cartoonist for The Cornell Daily Sun. His first publishing venture was a book compiling the best of the Cornell Widow, a campus humor magazine published from 1894 until the mid-1960s. He was considering reviving the Widow and had started a parody organization, the Cornell Liberation Army, which distributed bumper stickers that said "Protest Student Activism."

"My friend back home called me a lunatic, and I thought, 'that's the name,'" he said.

It was a heady time for Ivy League humor. Green interned in 1978 with the National Lampoon, founded a few years earlier by Harvard Lampoon alumni. It was the summer the film "National Lampoon's Animal House" was released, he said. Based on writer Chris Miller's early 1960s Dartmouth years, the movie changed fraternity culture -- and housekeeping standards -- forever.

"It was an ideal place to be," Green said of the Lampoon. "I learned a lot of layout and art and design skills ... it was great to go to a place [with] the same sense of irreverence and support for that."

A 30th anniversary publication party was held March 29 at the Cornell Club in New York, attracting 48 Lunatic alumni.

"It was a lot of love for the magazine and crazy stories of pranks from all the years," Green said. "They had this passion and love for having a venue to express themselves creatively. There was a lot of the joy of spending your college years making people laugh, [and] in upsetting the Cornell administration."

Among the memorable pranks: "We did a fake football program at the Cornell-Yale homecoming game in 1979 and sold them as the real thing -- 2,200 of them," Green said.

Weinreb recalled the Lunatic sponsoring five showings of "Deep Throat" and the staff spiking punchbowls with pyridium (used to treat urinary tract infections) at a social function, sending students running to Gannett the next day complaining of orange urine.

"If we did that today we'd be serving felony terms," he said.

Speaking at the Cornell Store, Green recalled his successes in publishing by following his offbeat interests. A nearby table was filled with his many books, including "The Jolly President," rejected 20 times -- "the most remarkable rejection letters I ever received," he said.

Green has filled 10 books with unintended household uses for name-brand products, from cleaning toilets with Coca-Cola to dyeing hair with Kool-Aid and shaving with peanut butter. He's demonstrated these on television with Jay Leno and Rosie O'Donnell.

"When I write, I just write what's going to please me," Green said. "Life is an amazing journey, and you never know where it is going to take you. There's an old Yiddish saying -- 'Man plans, God laughs' -- and it's very, very true."

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