What-Me Worry About MAD’s Demise
I’m quite sure none of you gave this any serious thought, but doesn’t it seem a bit suspicious that Mad Magazine announced it’s all but shutting down shortly after its “face,” Alfred E. Neuman was referenced by Pres. Donald Trump? You may recall Trump derided the chances of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s chances of succeeding him in the White House, telling Politico, “Alfred E. Neuman cannot become President of the United States.” Fact is, Neuman did give it a shot in back in the ’60’s, running under his fairly over confident slogan “What-Me-Worry?”
For Buttigieg’s part, he tweeted that he had to look up who Neuman is because he claimed he wasn’t familiar with the reference. To that, I say, anyone who doesn’t know who Alfred E. Neuman is cannot be President, since the gap-toothed ginger represents just what made me what I am today–a semi-retired aging Baby Boomer who spends much of his day writing things in his basement office partially adorned with water color courtroom paintings of Pete Rose on the wall. I covered the case. Our artist kicked over the water for his paints in the jury box and it still makes me laugh.
Now, two months later, Mad announces it’s shutting down. Coincidence, I think not. Once a chump like Trump co-opts the magazine’s mascot, you know only bad things can happen to a publication that took great joy in lambasting him and most of his predecessors over the past 60 some-odd years. That means my whole life.
But I will not be denied. My brother and I were devoted readers as we refused to mature into adolescence and adulthood, regularly coughing up a quarter, and later 35 cents (cheap!) for issues of Mad and deep in a box in my awesome basement I came up with these three beauties from the 60’s. The pages are brittle, but then again, so was the humor.
In what other publication could a kid learn to be a cynical shit though tough love satire like this classic showing the big bad wolf blowing down the Berlin Wall.
I still crack up about the warning about making sure we pay close attention to the asterisk in ads. 1964 Plymic “luxury car with the economy price” for $2,164. Asterisk-all the stuff you need like power brakes, seats, a roof….are extra.
There was the famous inside back cover fold in. Here’s one asking “Who wants to be President more than anything? with caricatures of former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and failed 1964 candidate Barry Goldwater. Fold it in…and it reveals the real answer….Richard Nixon!
Think things are much different today than they were in Mad’s heyday in the 1960’s. You would be wrong. Take a look at Chapter 1 in The Mad Primer of Bigots, Extremists and Other Loose Ends, which concludes, “Now you know what a Super Patriot is. He’s someone who loves his country while hating 93% of the people who live in it.”
Mad held nothing sacred, taking aim at even the most sacred chestnuts such as the soundtrack from “Sound of Music” as part of its feature titled, “Fakeout Record Jackets.”
Of course Mad’s classic subversive Spy vs. Spy strip basically lampooned how idiotic creating international conflicts is with every perceived “victory” being pyrrhic in the end.
Right up until the end, Mad shoved it up butts that deserved thorough stuffing, including recently departed Press Secretary Sarah Sanders …
and the arrogant Facebook posse.
But the bottom line is we need Mad’s kind of satire to keep us laughing when so much seems so hard to take. Oh sure, a lot of what “the usual gang of idiots” published was technically “fake,” but like all good comedy, based on truth…and that’s what helps us keep it real.
RIP MAD. Neuman in 2020! Sorry, Pete.