MAD Magazine recently announced that they were going to be ceasing publication after 67 years. I only again started reading the magazine after a hiatus in college. Since I was a child, I had read the magazine with glee, at first only taking it off the rack at the store so I could look at the Spy Vs Spy comic (the rest of the magazine didn’t matter).
MAD Magazine shaped me in many ways: it gave me my first taste of political satire. Paired with Mel Brooks films, I became incredibly aware of pop culture and media, especially strange for an elementary school student. For better or for worse, MAD made me approach the word with more caution.
I also became cynical, taking an approach that made me more sardonic. It wasn’t entirely MAD’s fault: I was a young man, looking for something to emulate. Growing up in a semi-rural area in the mid-2000’s, it was cool to be detached and to dislike things (that’s probably the subject of another post sometime). MAD was there and it gave me plenty of jokes to put out there as my own. To me, I wanted to be liked, and I knew that people liked comedy.
I have a large collection of MAD Magazines, and I like to read back through them: not all jokes have aged well. Jokes on sex, consent, sexuality, and gender identity reflect the perspectives of the times. Obviously, the magazine and the writers evolved as it went, but it raises the question of how much did I internalize while reading it as a child? Again, that isn’t just MAD Magazine, but it is a legitimate question.
MAD Magazine proved to be crucial and timely until the end. In one of the final issues, it published a parody of “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” by Edward Gorey, a four page spread about the prevalence of gun violence in schools. It is more satirical than funny, but it shows the important role MAD played as a cultural critic, a gadfly screaming that the emperor had no clothes.
I’m glad MAD Magazine existed: it provided a home for many talented writers and artists, and allowed me room to analyze pop culture and politics. Even with all of its faults, MAD Magazine shone brighter than any competitor. Somehow, I imagine that even without the magazine, MAD’s mascot Alfred E. Neuman will somehow survive, all while asking-
“What, me worry?”