Sean Kelly – RIP

Humorist, satirist, and comic writer Sean Kelly has passed away.

Sean Charles Kelly
July 22, 1940 – July 11, 2022


From The New York Times:

Sean Kelly, a wry master of literary and musical parodies who helped infuse National Lampoon with the sharp-edged and often crude humor it became known for, died on July 11 in Manhattan. He was 81.

His wife, Patricia Todd, said the cause of death, in a hospital, was heart and renal failure.

Mr. Kelly began writing for the Lampoon soon after it started in 1970, as it was developing a reputation for unrestrained irreverence toward politics, sex and popular culture, advancing humor for baby boomers beyond the boundaries set by Mad magazine. He later became an editor and, in 1975, was named editor in chief.


From Deadline:

Kelly joined the National Lampoon writing staff in 1970, later becoming an editor. In 1975, he and Tony Hendra were named the publication’s co-editors-in-chief. The duo were fired three years later but Kelly would continue an intermittent relationship with the publication until the mid-1980s.

Kelly would, later in his career, author numerous books and increasingly pivot to TV writing, including a couple episodes of Saturday Night Live during its infamous Jean Doumanian season in 1980.

More lastingly than the brief SNL tenure, Kelly also wrote for such children’s series as Goosebumps and Mr. Conductor’s Thomas Tales. He won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2004 for his contributions to PBS’ Between the Lions, having also been nominated for the same show in 2001.

Back to the N. Y. Times:

The targets of Mr. Kelly’s satire were wide-ranging.

With Michel Choquette, he conceived a map of world paranoia and wrote “Son-o’-God Comics,” about a nebbishy Jew who turns into a superhero Jesus; it was illustrated by Neal Adams, best known at the time for drawing Batman.

Mr. Kelly mimicked James Joyce’s idiosyncratic use of English in “Finnegans Wake” with “Finnswake Again,” which was reprinted in the James Joyce Quarterly. And, with Tony Hendra, he parodied the Babar the Elephant children’s books in a tale of a monkey uprising that ends with Babar and his wife, Celeste, strung up on meat hooks.


From Mark’s Very Large National Lampoon Site:

Sean Kelly

Contributing Editor, 1970
Associate Editor, 1972
Editor, 1973-76
Senior Editor, 1977-1984

Sean Kelly was involved with National Lampoon from nearly the start. His earliest byline appears in the July 1970 (Bad Taste) issue. He was soon on staff, eventually becoming Senior Editor in 1977 until he left the magazine in 1984.

On top of his responsibilities at National Lampoon, he became founding editor of Heavy Metal magazine in 1977. HM was sister publication to National Lampoon, and was essentially an English-language version of the French science-fiction/fantasy comic Metal Hurlant.

Sean’s Heavy Metal editorship would last two and a half years.


Perhaps Sean’s most famous (infamous?) collaboration with cartoonists and comic artists was his and Michel Choquette’s partnership with Neal Adams to depict the adventures of Son-O-God.

Though that was far from Sean’s only venture into comics at National Lampoon.

One day, Mr. Meyerowitz showed Mr. Kelly an illustration of Paul Bunyan and Smokey Bear.

“I had this idea: What if the two of them — Bunyan, who wanted to cut down trees, and Smokey, who wanted to save the forest — met and fought?” Mr. Meyerowitz said by phone. “It was quite bloody, and Sean wrote ‘The Ballad of Pulp and Paper.’”

all images © National Lampoon