The National Lampoon has become such a well-known institution -- through movies and stage shows, as well as the pages of the magazine itself -- that a good deal of curiosity greets any new venture it undertakes. This goes double when the writers include such notable comedians as Chevy Chase and the late John Belushi, both of whom are listed as contributors to ``Class of '86,'' the Lampoon's new Off Broadway revue, onstage now at the Village Gate.
But famous names and the Lampoon imprimatur don't guarantee that a good time will be had by all. While it has energy to spare, along with some fresh and clever comedy ideas, ``Class of '86'' is weighed down by its panting eagerness to be outrageous and offensive -- a goal at which it succeeds all too well.
Introduced by a nebulous skit about two '60s hippies waking up in the '80s, the show wanders fitfully from gag to gag, satirizing such current foibles as health-food mania, show-biz-style evangelism, and distasteful TV commercials.
A few sketches work very well. My favorite is about a would-be yuppie who has to present a courtroom-type defense when he's accused of being modest and unpretentious. The prosecutor who strips him of his yuppiehood? Perrier Mason, of course.
But too many skits rely on self-consciously sick humor and torrents of four-letter words for some, or all, of their effect. In a few cases, genuinely smart wordplay or sight gags help to compensate for this foolishness. At other times, you get to wondering whether this ``Class of '86'' might be a kindergarten class.
The show was directed by Jerry Adler, with Andrew Simmons as head writer. The commendably enthusiastic performers are Rodger Bumpass, Veanne Cox, Annie Golden, John Michael Higgins, Tommy Koenig, and Brian Brucker O'Connor, plus a four-man rock band.