I don’t remember when I became aware of the magazine– but like many firsts in my life, it was likely later than many of my contemporaries. I don’t think it was my dad who showed it to me, probably one of the kids at school.
It may well have been too sophisticated for me; I certainly didn’t understand most of the social and political references, including the cold war context of “Spy vs. Spy”. I ignored the appropriated image of Alfred E. Neuman’s “What? Me worry!?!” and only sometimes “got” Don Martin’s comic strip. The first thing I did was carefully fold in the back cover to see how the captioned image magically morphed into something completely – caustically — different.
The second was to look for the movie and television spoofs. Like “The Sound of Money” with its caricature of Julie Andrews singing reworked lyrics to the ubiquitous song.
And for years I sang the lyrics to “Chopped Liver” (*sung to the tune of “Moon River”): “Chopped Liver, onions on the side / my social life has died, from you / My friends shun me, they out-run me / the smell of my breath, is slow death, sad but true / My odors’ twice as bad as beer, and people who drink beer agree / I know that my breath will not end / always I’ll offend, my halitosis friends / Chopped liver, in me.
In retrospect however I think I absorbed the magazine’s subliminal message of being skeptical and critical of anything and everything I was being taught. Whatever was being presented –at home, at school, in the media — was subject to spoof, including how it was presented.
I think Mad showed me that I wasn’t crazy: it was the world that was ridiculous. There was another – funnier, darker — side to everything. Inadvertently perhaps, my sense of humor, my appreciation of wit and sarcasm, can be attributed to reading Mad magazine in my formative years. Though I haven’t looked at an issue of Mad in many years, I now realize its iconoclastic perspective helped make me the man I have become.