Mad (#441 – May 2004)

When I was in college, strapped for cash and not able to meet my rent by selling platelets, I made the difficult decision (soothed by cheap wine) to sell my Mad Magazine collection to a local antique shop. I'd collected Mad for a good long while – enthusiastically in elementary school and junior high, and rather more obligatorily through most of high school – and my box of back issues translated into a nice handful of cash. A part of me has always regretted whoring out my childhood for a few bucks, but I always figured, especially with eBay, that should Michael Jackson-like fortune ever come my way, I can easily re-acquire all the issues and paperbacks I'd given up (perhaps even the copy of The MAD Cradle to Grave Primer personally signed to me by George Woodbridge, who was probably blankly surprised that anyone had bought his book).

Hell, since I have so much damn money, I may as well go full-on Jacko and buy up the skeletons of Woodbridge, Sergio Aragones, Dave Berg, Don Martin, Mort Drucker, Antonio Prohias, Bill Gaines, Paul Peter Porges, and Al Jaffée. If they're not all dead by then, why, I have the dough to make it so.

My comedic holy trinity as a child was Mad, "Weird Al" Yankovic, and. Dr. Demento, none of whom could do any wrong and all of whom were my personal saviours at various points. Though I like to brush this stage of my life under the rug, I can hardly deny that these paragons of wackiness shaped me in irreversible ways, and that without them, The Loud Bassoon would never have come about (though I'm extremely relieved that somewhere along the way, I acquired the sensibility to depart from lame satire, to focus instead on inscrutable running monologues).

So when a recent issue of Mad came my way quite by happenstance, I thought it obligatory to peek in and catch up with my old friend, to see if he'd started combing his hair any better or dressed more fashionably. He hasn't, but I can't say I don't still have a soft spot in my heart for the old guy.

In some ways it's comforting to find that Mad is still Mad, despite a few superficial changes (they're now partially in color, and they run ads). That there must still be little kids like I was, who require a steady diet of crude humor and parody to help them assert their place in the world, brings solace to my mind. These very kids may one day grow up to create the next generation's Loud Bassoon, and may similarly toil in utter obscurity. *Sigh of relief*

Although, come to think of it, I am probably the exception to the rule – that is, the one who broke from the church and started a smaller, cooler church stocked with much less common firearms. The typical Mad reader is probably the one who continues dutifully along the path, later joining the ranks of The Onion, or "SNL," or shit like JibJab. See, to me, Mad was always more about irreverent rejection of the status quo … looking at it objectively, what it really is, is totally broad satire pandering to the lowest possible common denominator.

Mad #441 skewers "Alias" ("Ailing-Us") and "Everwood" ("Everwooden"), two shows I have never seen, and these bear a recognizable stamp from my days as a Mad reader. "Spy Vs. Spy" and the "Fold-In" are still there. Ol' Sergio Aragones takes a look at bowling. "Mad Deconstructs TV Talk Shows" is not too far off from the commentary of old; same with a feature that differentiates comedy, drama, and reality TV shows based on various scenarios ("It's a comedy … when the cops are buffoons. It's a drama … when the cops are corrupt. It's a reality show … when the cops are involved in high-speed chases of shirtless drunk men.")

Witless as ever, but par for the Mad course. New twists on the formula include a captioned color photo-montage making fun of "Survivor All-Stars," "The Fundalini Pages" (with quickie little bits o' random comedy), and a rather out-of-place comic strip called "Montrose and the Mechanic," which goes on for four pages and has a completely different sense of humor from the rest of the content.

Overall, the feeling was familiar, with a twinge of time having marched on, like when you return to your home town and find that the public playground has been made child-safe, or that the local drunk is ten years sober (though in my case, no, Dad has still not stopped drinking). I didn't feel like I was a Mad kind of guy, and couldn't tell you (since its topics were mostly things I'm not aware of) whether it's any more clueless or savagely on-the-mark than it ever was.

My guess is Mad is just as clueless, and just as on-the-mark, as it ever was, and I guess I hope it's always around for kids to surreptitiously read in class, or to inspire people to make erotic Fold-Ins. But I hope that more Mad readers eventually repudiate it and follow a less-traveled path, because God damn it, fuck JibJab, you know?

Review by La Fée