The demise of ‘Mad’ magazine – and the nation that it satirized

August 19, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism.

Many laments were sounded out earlier this summer with DCComics’ announcement that it would no longer be producing Mad magazine with any original content.

Typical of those is Jeet Heer‘s article in The Nation magazine:

Mad was often rude, tasteless, and childish—which made it all the more potent as a tributary of youth culture. The kids who read Mad learned from it to distrust authority, whether in the form of politicians, advertisers or media figures. That was a lesson that successive generations took to heart. Without Mad, it’s impossible to imagine underground comics, National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, The Daily Show, or Stephen Colbert. In the historical sweep of American culture, Mad is the crucial link between the anarchic humor of the Marx Brothers and the counterculture that emerged in the 1960s. Source: ‘Mad’ Magazine Told the Truth About War, Advertising, and the Media

Mad’s chief target in the years of its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s was the lies of public officials. And there were plenty of those.

Besides, to those of us who were pre-teens and teens of the era, Mad was just hilariously funny. Its caricatures were on target and the situations it created were suitably absurd. And its ever-present mascot, Alfred E. Newman, gave us the perfect bromide for any of life’s uncertainties: “What? Me Worry?”

Mad’s demise has been a sad one, not so much for the magazine itself, but for the nation, which is much stronger when there is a voice saying that our leaders have no clothes.


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