They say that the only constant in life is change.
And they also say that nothing lasts forever.
And they say that writers should avoid cliches, but hey, I’ve just started this post with two, which only goes to show that rules are made to be broken (yay – cliche number three).
Which is my round-about way of leading to the topic of this post. The passing of one of the great influences on my life. The (reported) end of Mad Magazine.
I must have discovered Mad around age 9 or 10, through my dad. He had a collection of his own, but sadly it didn’t last long enough to be passed to me. The one thing he did retain was a hardback anthology of material from the ’50s titled Mad Forever, so this was my first introduction to Alfred E. Neuman and Don Martin and the other distinctive artists and writers who defined this institution. It made an impression.
A couple of years later, we were waiting at the airport and as I must have appeared bored (or more likely, I was whinging quite loudly about it) my dad purchased some reading material for me – two current copies of Mad. I remember very clearly (and this will seriously age me) – one featured the final John Wayne movie, ‘The Shootist’ and the other featured ‘Welcome Back Kotter’.
Thus began a relationship that lasted many years. A prized thirteenth birthday gift was a three year subscription, which sealed the deal. I still remember how exciting it was to get that package in the mail. Seeing what movie and TV show were in their sites. Seeking out the Sergio Aragones cartoons in the margins. Marvelling at whatever new sound effect Don Martin had created. And carefully completing the back page ‘fold-in’.
Even when a local Australian version became available, I still continued to receive the real deal, sent from the ‘states. And I began to build back the other way, finding back issues in used book and magazine shops. I amassed a pretty significant collection. I still have it (I also still have the original hardback anthology).
The highpoint of my obsession with Mad had to be the time I visited New York and popped into the Mad office. It was surprisingly small – barely a hole in the wall with just a couple of rooms – as pretty much all contributors (the usual gang of idiots) were freelancers. But I got to meet longtime editor William Gaines and even got him to autograph a magazine for me – cool.
I learnt so much from Mad Magazine. A certain scepticism for those in power. A realisation that humour can be found anywhere – from the grand to the banal. A general attitude to life, and a desire to think for myself. It formed part of the arc of my life and the development of my writing voice, as I moved on to further influences like Monty Python, Douglas Adams and The Young Ones.
As I said above, nothing lasts forever, even the best things. I haven’t actually read a Mad Magazine for an awfully long time. Certainly for me, its glory days were long past. Still, I can’t help feeling a bit sad that something that was once so important to me will soon be no more (or so the media reports are claiming). And that kids won’t enjoy that experience of discovering their first Mad Magazine, and seeing the world in a completely different way.
So, in salute, I offer one final ‘What, me worry?’ Mad Magazine is dead. Long live Mad Magazine.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as