'Mad Magazine' Shutters After 67 Years
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Mad Magazine is effectively ending its 67-year-long run. Issues of the satirical magazine will continue being published, but all the material will be recycled, except for end-of-the-year specials. Here's editor Al Feldstein in 1982, telling NPR's Noah Adams about the mission of the magazine when it launched in the early '50s.
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AL FELDSTEIN: It was a time of fear in terms of the parents who were feeling that things were getting out of hand. And they wanted somebody to do something to keep their young people from discovering what the world was like. And so Mad was like the first of these spokesmen that said, hey, young people of the world, look around you. You're being lied to; they're insulting your intelligence. And we're going to tell it like it is.
CORNISH: With that legacy, we wanted to explore more about Mad Magazine. Maria Reidelbach is author of "Completely Mad: A History Of The Comic Book And Magazine," and she explained the appeal of Mad earlier today.
MARIA REIDELBACH: If you could get your grubby little fingers on a Mad comic book, you had hit the jackpot. If you felt strange or if you felt like you didn't belong or if - like, my family, we were an Army family. We had lived in Europe; we came back to the United States. We didn't fit in. Mad Magazine was our family's favorite magazine aside from National Geographic.
CORNISH: Mad has been kind of chugging along for the last couple of years. Right? Can you talk about its legacy?
REIDELBACH: It was subversive material at a time when there was not much out there. Early on, in the 1950s, it broke with other comic books in being satirical. And then when other comics were forced to clean up their act during the McCarthy era, Mad Magazine dodged that by becoming a magazine. That's why it's called a magazine instead of a comic. And they were able to continue to put out quite subversive and kind of underground comics into the mainstream because of that dodge.
CORNISH: And not necessarily afraid of politics - not political, but not afraid of it.
REIDELBACH: They didn't have a political stance, but they definitely covered politics. They really had a lot of fun with that.
CORNISH: Here's an example of that. 1982, we were speaking with writer John Ficarra. And he wrote a fake questionnaire for membership in Jerry Falwell's conservative Moral Majority. And this had kind of, like, fake absurd questions, and readers were encouraged to actually mail their answers to Falwell.
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JOHN FICARRA: And we had such questions as - when taking a shower/bath, do you soap up the faucet so not as to see a reflection of yourself naked?
FICARRA: In addition to restoring prayer in public schools, do you also think the Supreme Court should allow the sacrificing of livestock in the classroom?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER, BYLINE: (Laughter).
FICARRA: Let me see - anything else? Do you wholeheartedly agree with the following statement, quote, "we would have enough money to build 10 MX missile systems if we just got rid of all the welfare cheats in one New York City tenement"?
CORNISH: Can you talk about how Mad kind of kept up with the times? Some of the humor there, just listening to that joke, makes me think of, like, shock jocks that I grew up with in the '90s.
REIDELBACH: Absolutely. And I - Howard Stern is also a fan of Mad Magazine. But you know, there's always new foibles out there. You know, culture is always doing weird things. Politicians never stop. And of course, the advertising industry and the consumer culture pumps out absurdity at an amazing rate. And Mad Magazine always takes aim at those targets and tries to turn them inside out, upside down, make it funny and make it insightful at the same time.
CORNISH: Maria Reidelbach is author of "Completely Mad: A History Of The Comic Book And Magazine." Happy Fourth of July.
REIDELBACH: Thank you. Such a pleasure to talk to you.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.'S "HYPNOTIZE [INSTRUMENTAL]") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.