MAD magazine celebrates 60 years of satire, works to stay relevant
Alfred Neuman still looks like the gap-toothed grinning idiot who’s too amused by life’s pranks to be anxious – the same freckled and reckless boy mascot who perpetually puts the “sophomore” in sophomoric. But as MAD magazine turns a hard-to-fathom 60 years old, you peer a little closer to see whether gravity, if not gravitas, is tugging at that cartoon smirk.
As MAD celebrates its 60th anniversary, the publication’s main worry – albeit one treated with trademark nonchalance on the surface – is how to stay at the forefront of the very marketplace it helped pioneer more than half a century ago. For at least two generations, MAD was the satiric wolf in “kids’ magazine” clothing that subversively encouraged readers to question authority, think for themselves and challenge a world that could take itself too seriously.
On the way to establishing its own sly freedom forum, MAD also became a towering pillar of American comedy, reaching a peak circulation of 2 million in 1972 and helping set the stage for Saturday Night Live and fire the cultural synapses of the minds behind such eventual quasi-competitors as The Simpsons, the Onion and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
But now that the circulation averages about 200,000, how do you avoid the perception that you’ve become a sexagenarian whose relevance has passed?
One way is to bring older readers back into the fold by showing them that Alfred Neuman is as stupidly brilliant as ever.
And so there is Totally MAD: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity, which – after a foreword co-written by Stephen Colbert – unfurls a collection of first-rate contributions that cover many of MAD’s most beloved features, parodic posters, and movie spoofs.
“Totally MAD is for older readers,” said veteran MAD editor John Ficarra. “This is clearly a nostalgia trip and hopefully, they’ll be transported back to their bedrooms or their cousin’s basement.”