Lampoon: A satiric, often vicious, attack on an individual (or occasionally an institution or society in general). Lampoons were common — and popular — in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, but with the development of libel laws they became legally risky for their composers and thus waned as the vehicle of choice for satirizing specific people. However, public figures have remained vulnerable to lampoons.
EXAMPLES: In his poetic “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot” (1735), Alexander Pope satirized Joseph Addison and Bubb Doddington in the fictional guises of Atticus and Bufo respectively; by contrast, he lampooned John, Lord Hervey, effeminate courtier and confidant of Queen Caroline, through an attack far more personally derogatory than his treatments of Addison and Doddington. He portrayed Hervey through the character of Sporus, whom he called a “thing of silk,” a “mere white curd of ass’s milk,” a “painted child of dirt that stinks and stings,” and a “vile antithesis” (presumably a reference to Hervey’s allegedly androgynous qualities).
The television show Saturday Night Live (1975— ) has lampooned political figures throughout its history. Comedian Stephen Colbert, in character as the over-the-top conservative pundit of his mock-news television show The Colbert Report (2005—14), lampooned George W. Bush at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, targeting the president as well as the press with the following remarks: “I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound — with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.” In the following comic strip, Garry Trudeau, who has long satirized the American political landscape in his cartoon series Doonesbury (1970— ), lampooned the speech of teenagers in the 1990s.
The first panel shows a man and a woman having a conversation. The man is having coffee and the woman says, “YOU KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM WAS, DADSTER? YOU DIDN’T MOVE FAST ENOUGH! YOU DIDN’T GET YOUR BEST OFFER ON THE TABLE!”
The second panel shows the man looking at the woman without any interest in the conversation, the woman says, “WHEN HER PARIS JOB CAME UP, YOU WERE LIKE, ’DON’T GO,’ OKAY? AND THEN SHE WAS LIKE ’WHY NOT?’ AND YOU WERE LIKE, ’GEE, I DUNNO,’ AND SO SHE WAS LIKE, ’AU REVOIR,’ OKAY? ”
The third panel shows the woman saying, “AND THEN THREE MONTHS LATER, YOU SHOW UP AND YOU’RE LIKE, ’TA-DA! LET’S GET MARRIED!’ AND SHE’S LIKE, HELLO? EXCUSE ME? ”
The FOURTH panel shows the woman still talking and the man looking at his coffee without any interest. The woman says, “AND NOW YOU’RE LIKE ’BOO-HOO?’ PUH-LEEZE!” and the man responds with, “HARSH, HONEY…”
The National Lampoon series of films (1983—97) lampooned the American family. The movie Shrek (2001), in which Shrek, an ogre, saves Princess Fiona, a human by day and an ogre by night, lampooned the fairy-tale formula.