Frat's entertainment: why Animal House is still the king of college comedies

It may be tasteless, but National Lampoon captured the campus experience in a way no UK film has ever managed

I once saw National Lampoon’s Animal House at a back-to-school midnight show at the University of California at Santa Barbara in September 1984. I hadn’t counted on the entire two rows of frat-boys behind me who recited every single line of dialogue, in unison, just seconds before the characters onscreen did. It was the first time I realised the term “cult movie” really meant something. Here were a group of people who were modelling their lives – for good or ill, mostly ill – on a movie that spoke directly to their own college experience. One that, as a few epic, real frat-house parties soon showed me, was infinitely more colourful than my own, albeit infused with a sinister sense of everyone growing up way too fast.

Compared to my monochrome,

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