Aaron Jackson on Gaying Up National Lampoon and Shouting at Straight People

The star of "National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast" calls his castmates "little weirdos."

In the latest episode of ABC’s The Bachelorette, a hung male contestant gets his junk sliced and diced by a propellor blade during a date on a plane, and any suitor who doesn’t receive a rose is executed.

Even with Bowen Yang and Julio Torres bringing a thirsty, threeway-obsessed Instagay bottom Harry Styles to Saturday Night Live, this satirical, salty skit is just a little too filthy for network TV. Instead, you can find it on the first episode of Forever Dog Podcast Network’s National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast, a high-energy retooling of the comedy brand’s raunchy 1973 radio show, which starred legendary comedians John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Christopher Guest, Ghostbusters’ Harold Ramis, and Chevy Chase.

Best known for movies like Animal House and the National Lampoon Vacation series, the formerly bro-y National Lampoon franchise is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2020. However, this new reboot—with head writer and star Cole Escola (Difficult People, At Home With Amy Sedaris) and fellow LGBTQ+ comics Aaron Jackson, Alex English, and Lorelei Ramirez—is decidedly queered-up. To add to its appeal, the season's 11 episodes, which air weekly every Thursday starting December 19 (each will also air on YouTube), feature guest stars Rachel Dratch, Amy Sedaris, and Chris Gethard.

NewNowNext caught up with the New York–based Jackson—of national improv and sketch comedy troupe Upright Citizen’s Brigade and Comedy Central’s The Opposition With Jordan Klepper—to talk about bringing “yes, homo” to the boys' club, trolling beaches with Bowen Yang, and if he ever worries about getting doxxed for going too far.

So were you already familiar with National Lampoon?

I just got an offer from the Forever Dog people. I think it’s because I know Cole Escola and [senior writer] Jo Firestone. I'd never heard of the Radio Hour, but I did know about the Lampoon brand and saw all the movies growing up.

National Lampoon was always very cisgender, hetero, and bro-y. Would you say you’re actively un-bro-ing it?

I think their main thing was they were very subversive. It just so happened that in the 1970s and '80s comedy was more of a boys' club. It’s still a boys' club, but it was even more so then. We’re still subversive, but definitely not bro-y. The cast they hired for the podcast are little weirdos.

National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast

"National Lampoon Radio Hour" cast.

The cast of National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast.

In November, National Lampoon presented a queer female stand-up showcase, the Lesbian Agenda, at the NY Comedy Festival.

Right, Sophie Santos’ show. More diverse funny people have been given the spotlight in the past decade. Let’s get all these comedic perspectives.

What is your favorite bit on the podcast this first season?

I do one about a sniper who rides in a hot air balloon. I just wrote it, and it got in the show. I can’t even remember how I thought of it.

Cole, Alex, Lorelei—how insane was the writers' room?

It was a bizarrely kind, lovely room, and you got to laugh your ass off every day. Lorelei and I had desks next to each other, and we wrote a sketch together about trying to cross the border, but the border is like one of those Six Flags fright-fest haunted houses. That got cut. It was dark!

National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast

Aaron Jackson.

What do you do in the comedy world when you’re paired up with someone who isn’t funny?

Comedy is subjective, so if somebody isn’t that funny to me, I might think it’s just not my style. Like any job, you have to work with people you might not gel with. But someone actively, truly unfunny? I guess I'd try and slip in as many of my ideas as I could. I would try to take control of the situation.

How do you feel about Bowen Yang's sudden mainstream success? Do you guys ever hang?

Yes, Bowen and I are dear friends. I wish him nothing but ill will. [Laughs] Everybody loves Bowen and did for years. One time we went to Jacob Riis Beach together, a big beach in the Rockaways with a tiny gay section at the end of it. I think it’s been there since the 1950s or even before that, and it’s a patch of historic, horrible, rocky land, and there were some people at the other end of these big rocks we thought were straight, and Bowen and I kept shouting at them, "Y’all gay?!" That’s what I think of when I think of Bowen: shouting at straight people over the sea and rocks, asking if they’re gay.

Tell me about this upcoming novel of yours, The Astonishing Life of August March.

It comes out April 7 from HarperCollins, and it’s about a young boy who is born and then abandoned in an NYC theater during the pre-WWII era, and grows up there. Sort of the way The Jungle Book’s Mowgli was raised in the jungle, August was raised in the NYC theater, and the theater gets torn down and he has to somehow make his way in life. It’s an odd, misfit, quirky coming-of-age comic novel.

And what’s the status of the movie version of your UCB stage musical F***king Identical Twins? Any movement?

Josh Sharp and I ran that as a musical for a little over a year, and then optioned it. It’s like The Parent Trap, but instead of two little girls it’s about two 40-year-old male scumbags who switch places to reunite their parents. Every character in it has no business being in a family-friendly romp. So that’s with a company called Chernin Entertainment, which has a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox. We wrote it for Fox, and they passed on it, which we knew they would because it’s a fucked-up queer psycho musical.

National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast

Aaron Jackson and Alex English.

Aaron Jackson and Alex English.

Have you ever been worried your comedy would get you doxxed?

I was on a show called The Opposition, which was a political show where we played satirical alt-right people, and I played a Milo [Yiannopoulos] sort of horrid faggot, and I was afraid of maybe getting a little bit doxxed in that arena, because you’re dealing with the kind of people who like to doxx. And one time when I was in high school I did a scene in a talent show and one of the lines was "So what if I don’t have a penis?" They told me I couldn’t say it, and I argued there’s nothing sexual about it—it’s not a swear word like dick or cock—and said it anyway, and I got in trouble. That’s a time my comedy got me in trouble. In high school!

Who would you most love to stan Radio Hour?

This sounds cheesy, but I would love if young comedy nerds listened to it! High schoolers, young people. If they got into it, and if this was a weird gateway drug into comedy for them, that would warm my cold dead heart.

National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast premieres December 19.

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