Harvard Lampoon takes on National Geographic for April Fool's Day

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 9:41 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 9:41 a.m.

BOSTON - It looks like a typical National Geographic cover with the signature yellow border. So what's Paris Hilton doing on there?

Paris Hilton
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Paris Hilton

This photo released by Harvard Lampoon, the cover of the organization's National Geographic parody edition featuring Paris Hilton, scheduled to hit the newsstands April 1, 2008, is shown. The magazine is published five times a year.

Joshua Dalsimer/The Associated Press

The folks at Harvard Lampoon persuaded employees of one of the nation's most respected magazines to help them ensure their April Fool's parody with satire on Mongolia's wildest waterparks and "Native Girls Gone Wild" looked authentic.

The issue, coming out Tuesday, is the latest in a string of Harvard Lampoon magazine parodies. But the undergraduate group had never done National Geographic, which quickly responded when contacted by the students last summer.

"My guess was they were just extremely bored and they were tired of working with animals and scientists and wanted to hang out with college students," said Hayes Davenport, who edited the magazine with fellow Harvard senior Ross Arbes.

Davenport said other publications have helped with their parodies in the past, such as when USA Today printed the Lampoon's version on its press in 1989. And he said National Geographic's staffers who had no editorial control over the parody were eager to make fun of their ultraserious image.

The magazine helped print the parody and distribute it alongside its own April edition in some areas, Arbes said. A designer also helped lay out the parody to make it look as much like the original as possible.

"They provided things that were really valuable to us," Arbes said.

Editors from National Geographic could not be reached Monday, but the magazine released a facetious statement.

"Editors are unavailable for comment, having left the country ... as usual," it said. "There are reports of laughter from parts of the building, but that could just be because we are a fun place to work."

In one article, the Lampoon takes aim at a National Geographic contributor who toils away for years in search of a specific species. Their "Seeking the Island Fox" article has the writer cold, wet and annoyed at getting just a brief glance of a "pretty boring" animal.

In another jab at National Geographic's staid image, the Lampoon created three new editions to help keep the magazine relevant for younger generations, and features Hilton in a "Your Wildest Animal Fantasies" story.

And, of course, the Lampoon's version offers a send-up to anthropological nudity. A photo of a lion is actually made up of dozens of images of women's bare chests.

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