Monday, July 14, 2014

Still MAD

It says something when the funniest item in MAD magazine consistently is one called The MAD Vault, an excerpt from a past issue. Maybe it says something about me. Maybe it says something about the magazine.

I picked up my first issue of MAD, the March 1958 issue, as a 13-year-old. I have been reading it ever since, with just a few misses along the way. The price has risen from "25 cents Cheap" to "$5.99 Cheap!" but I still find it worth buying, even though I skim some articles and ignore others altogether. I just don't enjoy it as much as I once did. It's often too coarse for my taste. The March 1958 issue (No. 38) had mentions of vodka, mobsters, peeping toms and Jayne Mansfield, topics probably considered a little racy for the time. The recent June issue (No. 527) mentions illegal narcotics, butt selfies, STDs and a teacher sexually obsessed with a student. Times have changed, I guess.

Here's what I think of today's MAD, specifically that June issue:

The cover I still miss those classic cover drawings by artists like Kelly Freas and Norman Mingo, but I must admit Mark Fredrickson does a very good job.

The Alfred E. Neuman quote A quote from Alfred E. Neuman has been a mainstay on the table of contents page at least since 1958, and I always read it. And where else but in MAD magazine will you find the table of contents listed in the table of contents?

The Fundalini Pages These quick hitters don't all work, but enough of them do to make these pages near the front of the magazine among the best each issue.

The parody Prominent in each issue of MAD is a parody of a recent movie or popular TV show. These are always more fun if you are familiar with the subject of the parody, which I rarely seem to be anymore. I have read The Hobbit, however, so I read and enjoyed reading The Slobbit.

The Darker Side of the Lighter Side of ... For many years Dave Berg did a regular feature for the magazine in which he picked a topic, then drew comic strips about it. In recent years MAD has been recycling some of Berg's gags but with new, edgier punchlines. I was never a big Dave Berg fan, but I still like his versions better.

Planet Tad I never miss this. It consists of excerpts from the imagined blog of a 14-year-old boy and is consistently one of the funniest things in the magazine.

Spy vs. Spy I stopped reading this years ago. It seems to be the same gag over and over again.

The ads I hated it when MAD started accepting advertising several years ago, but now I don't mind them at all. So many of the real ads are difficult to distinguish from the ad parodies that it can be fun trying to figure out which is which.

The Strip Club These comic strips near the end of each issue just aren't that amusing, and they are usually a bit gross besides. One gag in the recent issue is about a student who thinks mercury tastes good and then falls over dead.

The Best of The Idiotical Like the Fundalini Pages, this feature is comprised of short gags. These come from the magazine's web site, and most of them are clever.

The MAD Fold-In The June issue marks the 50th anniversary of the Fold-In. I still think of it as a new feature that will never catch on. Actually I think it's a clever idea, but I have never wanted to ruin a magazine, which I consider a collectible, by folding in the back cover

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