The graphic design of MAD magazine covers has always been a parody itself of publications like TIME or Esquire or Cosmopolitan. Eyecatching and insightful, they poke fun at current political and cultural news with a satirical slant and the gap-toothed smile of Alfred E. Neumann. This week, Al Feldstein – longtime editor of MAD magazine in it’s heyday from 1956 to 1984 – passed away at age 88. He was an influential force in one of the big success stories of magazine publishing and comedy in print, guiding MAD from a fledgling comic book to a leading magazine of satire and humor in the pre-digital age.
Feldstein took MAD from a publication of a few hundred thousand to well over 2 million at its peak. “Basically everyone who was young between 1955 and 1975 read MAD, and that’s where your sense of humor came from,” said Bill Oakley, producer of The Simpsons. Today, those issues are collected by fans who treasure the magazine. Irreverent, satirical humor and spoofs of popular culture were the mainstay with recurring features like Spy vs. Spy, The Lighter Side of…, movie and TV satires, and a back cover called a “Fold-In”: a full page image and question that, once folded over onto itself, created a surprise alternate image and answer. MAD ad parodies, long before Saturday Night Live, were included in each issue, sometimes using Al himself:
So many institutions of the comedy world in print, television and the internet through the years owe much to MAD and Al Feldstein: Laugh-In, Saturday Night Live, National Lampoon, The Simpsons, SouthPark, The Onion. MAD lives on today in print and online. You can check out their website here. There’s even a MAD app for iPad released in 2012.
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