July 10th, 2019
A moment of respectful silence please for my old friend, Alfred E. Neuman.
I was dismayed to read in the newspaper recently that MAD Magazine was closing up shop for good. Yes yes, they say that they will still have some of the old material available through comic shops and subscribers but nothing new. Just reprints of the old stuff. I am officially sad. It's the end of an era for me. I was a serious fan.
MAD Magazine started in 1952. That is the year before I was born. So it, literally, as been around as long as I have! I think I discovered it when I was maybe, 11 or 12 years old. Up 'til then, I was mad for comic books. Oh yeah, Superman, Batman, Aquaman were heros of mine. And then of course, all of the Archie comics too. I admit it. I was a fan. A nerd but a fan. That's where the bulk of my allowance went for years. And then one day, while scouting comics, I came across MAD Magazine and my world was never the same again.
I was delighted and surprised to find out that there were other people out there with my weirdo sensibilities. It was funny, it was inventive, it was irreverent and ingenious and I adored every issue. It spoke to me in a way that nobody and nothing else did.
Before I actually knew what satire and parody actually were at that young age, I've still had a taste for it. I always did. And the tiny rebel in me loved that the folks at MAD Magazine had exactly zero filters. Everyone and everything was fair game. Pop Culture, Politics, Entertainment, Public Figures and even every folks going about their every day lives, no one was spared. They were ground breaking.
And they also had excellent timing. In the 1950's there was an entire sub-culture that was finding it's voice. They were the skeptical generation, they questioned authority at a time when authority was not accustomed to being questioned. MAD Magazine questioned everyone and everything. They challenged readers to think for themselves. And they did it all so very cleverly.
It was difficult for anyone to get upset with being the subject of their barbs, after all, it was all a joke, right? But they were clever jokes, not cheap shots. Folks didn't get offended as easily back then. And it was enticing, it was a siren call to some very impressive folks. There is a remarkably varied group of names that sing the praises of Mad Magazine. Just by way of example: Al Yankovic (which should come as no surprise to anyone), critic Roger Ebert was also a huge fan. Michael J Fox, Monty Python's Terry Gilliam and rocker Patti Smith are also on record as pro MAD.
Like little old me. So I found myself in good company. Luckily for me, my parents never censored my reading material. I was allowed to read anything I chose. They didn't always understand my choices, but they didn't meddle with them. And I chose, among other things, MAD.
It made me laugh, it made me think and it kept me on my toes. And it amused me tremendously. I still know all of the words to the MAD version of Christmas Carols, it was always one of my favourite issues. (to the tune of Jingle Bells) "Christmas Bills, Christmas Bills, piling on the floor, every day the mailman comes to bring a dozen more " Yeah, now that's going to be in my head for awhile.
I suppose it's not shock that the peak of MAD magazines popularity was in the 70's. If you look at it historically, the MAD magazine attitude was perfect for the era. And then the 80's happened, and people calmed down. The war was over, the protestors grew up. Then the 90's came along and brought with it the Material Girl. The MAD readership got real jobs, got married and had kids and bills to pay. They became the characters MAD was writing parodies about and maybe that just wasn't as funny to them anymore.
I never lost my appreciation for it though. And in fact, one of the things Tim put in Bob's Christmas stocking this year was an issue of MAD! LOL I just remembered that. there will be no MAD in his stocking this year ;( Or any year for that matter.
I think I understand why it's not popular anymore actually. There is no longer a need for it. Our current world situation is already crazy. Real life is MAD MAgazine. We have become parodies of ourselves. We are living our own satire. But it's not very funny.
Rest in Peace, Alfred E. Neuman.
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