Thursday, May 1, 2014
'What, Me Worry?'
Remember what a big deal Mad Magazine used to be? I just read in The New York Times that the former editor of Mad, who carried it through its glory days from the 1950s through the '70s, died this week. It made me remember a couple of eventful brushes with Mad from my childhood.
The first came in the mid-70s, when my brother and I would stay at a neighbor's house each day after school. The neighbor had a son a few years older than me, and like many pre-teens in that era, he had a stash of Mad Magazines lying around. I vividly remember one from October 1974 that parodied "The Exorcist" (now available on eBay!). I read that magazine over and over. I had never seen "The Exorcist," and I probably didn't know the meaning of the word satire, but I appreciated the gross-out humor.
A few years later, I was given a copy of a book called "The Mad Morality: Or, The Ten Commandments Revisited," written by a Christian theologian named Vernard Eller. (Here's a copy for sale.) I think I got this book in Sunday School, which is kind of mind-blowing. (That was back when Christianity was trying to be hip.) As I recall, it used irreverent cartoons from Mad to address society's adherence (or lack thereof) to the Ten Commandments. Also a funny book, which I kept for several years, and also etched into my memory.
For anyone of my generation, Alfred E. Neuman was an immediately recognizable social mascot. Is that still true? I wonder. Mad has faded from view these days, but as the Times points out, it informed a whole new generation of modern comedy, from "Saturday Night Live" to "South Park."
I might actually buy those old Mad publications, just for old time's sake.
(Photo: Street art by Rone in Shoreditch, London.)