Mad Magazine and Me

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The first issue of Mad magazine appeared in August 1952. Coincidentally I was born at the end of that very month. Who knew that we had so much in common?tumblr_lsi7czNNvP1qhk04bo1_r1_500

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.

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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.