Today, the world of comedy has been dealt a pretty sad blow with the news that Matty Simmons, who co-founded the National Lampoon magazine and produced National Lampoon film’s such as Animal House and Vacation, has passed away at 93.
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Yesterday I lost my hero. My dad had gone from the sharpest, healthiest 93 year old most people have encountered to abruptly having every imaginable issue except corona. What he did in a lifetime was legendary. A founder of the National Lampoon and the Diners Club Card. Producer of Animal House and the Vacation series. He wrote like nine books and could finish a novel faster than I’ll probably finish this post. When we lost my mom a couple years ago it felt like a part of us both died. He told me early on, were a team now and we have to stick together. We did just that and became inseparably close. He became my best friend in the world. I truly don’t know how I’m going to be without him. He always told me “you’re Kate Bradley Simmons and you can do anything” so I’ll follow his words and try my best. It’s really wild. My mom left this world during a horrific stage four hurricane and now my dad during a world pandemic. What a profound testament to what powerful people they were. Alas, they can finally be together again.
“Yesterday I lost my hero,” his daughter Kate Simmons wrote in an Instagram post. “My dad had gone from the sharpest, healthiest 93 year old most people have encountered to abruptly having every imaginable issue except corona.“
In April 1970, comedy was in for a rude awakening and was bound to never be the same when the very first issue of National Lampoon hit the newsstands. Behind it was Harvard Lampoon alumni Doug Kenney and Henry Beard. To help oversee the magazine, they enlisted the help of Matty Simmons, best known at that time for the Weight Watchers magazine. Together, they changed the landscape of comedy and usher in a changing of the guards.
National Lampoon helped introduce us to some of the sharpest minds of comedy, with a long roster that includes John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Christopher Guest, Richard Belzer, and Michael O’Donoghue. In addition to the magazine, they were responsible for a popular stage show, Lemmings, a radio show dubbed The National Lampoon Radio Hour, and countless records.
In 1978, the National Lampoon brand brought us Animal House, starring John Belushi and produced by Simmons. A runaway hit at the box office, it helped mold every raucous college and teen film that would come. And to follow that up with the Vacation series of films just goes to show what a lasting impact both National Lampoon as well as Simmons has had on us all.
“When we lost my mom a couple years ago,” his daughter goes on to share in her post, “it felt like a part of us both died. He told me early on, were a team now and we have to stick together. We did just that and became inseparably close. He became my best friend in the world. I truly don’t know how I’m going to be without him. He always told me ‘you’re Kate Bradley Simmons and you can do anything’ so I’ll follow his words and try my best.”
In addition to his work as a producer, Matty Simmons was also an accomplished writer, even writing a book on the making of Animal House titles Fat, Drunk, and Stupid: The Making of Animal House. He kept working until the end, hosting an online interview show last year titled Comedy Happens. Additionally, he was portrayed in 2018’s A Futile and Stupid Gesture by Matt Walsh.
Without Simmons, the National Lampoon wouldn’t have been what it became. And given just how much of modern-day comedy we owe to the Lampoon, this one hits us especially hard. May he rest in peace.