A Literary Comedy Tradition.
IN THE BEGINNING: In 1981, legendary comedy writer Brian McConnachie invited a group of very special people to his home on 78th Street. His friends from Saturday Night Live were there, and SCTV, The National Lampoon, and The New Yorker—hip comedy royalty. The top-floor library was packed; as canapes circulated and someone (probably young Boylan) played the piano, the tall, dapper Brian tapped his champagne flute for attention. He was starting a magazine, he said, called The American Bystander. Twice per month and produced downtown, this new large-format humor publication would be smarter than the Lampoon, quirkier than SNL, funnier than The New Yorker. It would mix established talents with the brightest new people, and look utterly distinctive—high-class yet fun. "We are founding an American PUNCH."
For a year, Brian and his group of talented young editors worked on a prototype. The comedy world buzzed, and in 1982, a Pilot Issue was circulated to potential backers. Featuring work by Roz Chast, Sam Gross, Michael O'Donoghue and many others, the Pilot did not disappoint, immediately becoming a collector's item. But the country was in a recession and money was hard to come by. For want of a nail—or, in this case, $5 million—the kingdom of Bystander was lost.
But the dream lived on. For decades, Brian and his friend TV producer Alan Goldberg talked of what might have been, raising a glass to The American Bystander. The world seemed to need it more than ever—but how could it be done?
A CHANCE MEETING: In 2010, Brian and Alan met Michael Gerber, a comedy writer and editor of some renown. Brian had first learned of Michael after reading Mr. Gerber's massively popular parody of Harry Potter, the bestselling self-published comedy book of all time. When Brian and Alan learned that Michael had resurrected The Yale Record while an undergrad, an idea began to germinate. The oldest college humor magazine in the country, the uber-preppy Record had fallen on hard times until Michael had devised a custom editorial and publishing model that put it back in business. He'd recently taught the model to students at Cambridge University. Could Michael apply the same techniques to The American Bystander? "Let's try it."
A DREAM TEAM: Michael set to work, updating the Pilot's blend of easygoing satire, mellow eccentricity, and world-class illustration with a dream team of contributors. After years of careful work, a prototype was ready, and on October 18, 2015, The American Bystander Comedy Magazine was launched on Kickstarter. $41,802 later, it was clear: thanks to Brian's initial vision, Alan's belief, and Michael's work, The Bystander's day had come.
AN AMERICAN PUNCH: With DNA extending into every major comedy institution from The Simpsons to Monty Python, the values behind Bystander are top-flight contributors presenting sophisticated humor, beautiful artwork, and funny cartoons you can't find anywhere else. Our staff list is a Who's Who of smart comedy—you can delve into it on our website. In a world full of sleazy morons, hot takes, and cheap bling, The American Bystander has quietly forged a sterling reputation in the world of arts and letters.
WE DON'T ADVERTISE: IYK, as the kids say, YK. Each book-like limited-run issue goes out to a select group of readers who understand that quality costs money, and you get what you pay for. While you won't find Bystander on the newsstand, you will find it in common rooms at Harvard and Yale, and coffee tables from St. Bart's to Sausalito. Of late we've begun to offer clothing and other goods, to quietly spread our gospel. A unique outpost of amused elegance in an era increasingly lacking in both, The American Bystander isn't alt-comedy, it's art-comedy.
Come join us.