“What is your first memory of MAD Magazine?” So began my interview with MAD Magazine Editor-in-Chief John Ficarra at last week’s Comic-Con International. It wasn’t my question; it was Ficarra’s. My response? Without hesitation: “Spy vs. Spy.”
Ficarra and I met in the comfort of the DC Comics booth and chatted about MAD’s history, its famous fans, what the future holds—and a few surprises.
Those of a certain age may remember cultural icon MAD as their first real magazine subscription (full disclosure: I got mine for my 12th birthday). And this year, the magazine of humor, satire and the “What, me worry?” attitude of Alfred E. Neuman created by “the usual gang of idiots” celebrates 60 years!
My own relationship with the magazine began by procuring issues from my (much) older brother’s book case when I was eight or nine years old. I’m firmly convinced that the baby-boomer affinity for sharp satire and smart-alecky humor was osmotically implanted by MAD indoctrination.
But more importantly, MAD’s acute, satiric laser beam has always been aimed the idiocy of government, business and society. With abandoned delight, MAD has imparted to its young (and not-so-young) readers a healthy distrust of government, corporate America, and media. It exposed hypocrisy and stupidity. Every part of culture and society has been fair game for MAD‘s sweeping net—its pop-culture parodies sharply realized, the political humor biting. Where rival Cracked is simply silly, MAD’s for the smart(er) kids.
MAD‘s humorous who’s who list of contributors beyond the “usual gang of idiots” is quite telling. Among them: Charles M. Schulz, Chevy Chase, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Andy Griffith (!), Will Eisner, J. Fred Muggs (!!), Jimmy Kimmel, Jason Alexander, Walt Kelly, Rep. Barney Frank, Tom Wolfe, Steve Allen, Jules Feiffer, and Richard Nixon (the only President with a MAD writing credit).
October 30, in honor of its 60th birthday, the iconic humor magazine will be publishing a hardcover commemorative book. Totally MAD: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity will feature covers and interior pages from its long history, the pages will be filled with the work of MAD contributors, including Sergio Aragones (those great “marginals” running throughout each issue), Dave Berg (“Lighter Side”), Al Jaffe (the infamous MAD “fold-ins”), MAD’s Maddest Artist, Don Martin, Antonio Prohias (“Spy vs. Spy”), and more. Even after 60 years, MAD is going strong with an animated series on the Cartoon Network (Mondays at 8:45 p.m. ET), a blog and a brand new shiny iPad app (released on April Fool’s Day, Alfred E. Neuman’s birthday). MADTv ended its
Personally, my favorite features were the incomparable “Spy vs. Spy,” the television and movie parodies (I still have the issue featuring the Man From A.U.N.T.I.E.), the fold-ins, and Aragones’ frustratingly tiny “marginals.” What are yours? Let me know in the comments thread.