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Getting MAD at Bush
February 5, 2008 3:24 PM   Subscribe

In all its 55 year history, MAD magazine has been known much more for media satire than political satire... anything political was often camouflaged as a movie or TV parody and generally less partisan than most. (How can you take their politics seriously when they offered Alfred E. Neuman for President?) Another thing about MAD is how rarely it goes outside its "Usual Cast of Idiots" for content. Well, things have changed, as the MAD editors used 10 Pulitzer Prize Winning Op/Ed Cartoonists to illustrate the incendiarilly-titled “Why George W. Bush Is in Favor of Global Warming”. The usually web-shy MAD even allowed the New York Times to put most of the piece online in a slideshow.

Self-derail: While looking for past political content from MAD online, I uncovered this cover from 1974 that would probably be controversial today.
posted by wendell (55 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
"What? Me Worry?"

Actually, the fact they put Neuman up as a valid write-in candidate for every presidential election for over half a century IS a major political statement. That statement is this: "Politics are laughable." What better political statement could there possibly be? Politics have been laughable since before November of 1954, but Neuman wasn't around before November of 1954. Or rather, if he was, no one noticed.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:37 PM on February 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


ZachsMind: Actually, the fact they put Neuman up as a valid write-in candidate for every presidential election for over half a century IS a major political statement. That statement is this: "Politics are laughable." What better political statement could there possibly be?

Apparently, however, the editors of MAD don't really think that politics is laughable anymore. Else they wouldn't be doing this. They're clearly much more perspicatious, and much funnier, than the old MAD editors.
posted by koeselitz at 3:42 PM on February 5, 2008


Boy! They're really sockin' it to that Spiro Agnew guy again, he must work there or something.
posted by sourwookie at 3:47 PM on February 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


I grew up reading MAD magazine, and had a stack that went back into the 60's from my brothers. We had friends that would come over to our house to read them since there were some parents that wouldn't let their kids have MAD magazine in the house. I think there always was a bit of political satire. It wasn't blatant stuff like in these political cartoons, but more subtle jabs at people. Of course this was the 60's and 70's during the whole hippie movement, and a lot of the political stuff was conservative parents versus liberal kids. Fun stuff!
posted by Eekacat at 3:48 PM on February 5, 2008


I once had a subscription to MAD. Of course, I couldn't legally drive or work then, either.


That said, its nice to see them undertake such a project. The cartoon with Bush sitting at his desk with his feet up reading My Pet Goat is probably the most condemning of the lot, I think.
posted by Atreides at 3:48 PM on February 5, 2008


Finally, a publication, any publication willing to tell it like it is! Surely this will be the thing that gets Shrub out of office!

They've got an awfully big swagger to be only 7 years too damned late. A pox on both their houses.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 3:54 PM on February 5, 2008


I dunno...I have a healthy appreciation for Mad, but Bush is a pretty soft target. I would have been a lot more impressed with this had they done it two or three years ago.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:55 PM on February 5, 2008


(Or yeah, even seven. Now that would've been ballsy.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:56 PM on February 5, 2008


I used to read a lot of old MAD magazines from the '60s and '70s, and I remember some particularly political pieces, even some from the '80s and early '90s. One of the older ones had the lyrics to "America the Beautiful" with photographs as a counterpoint or rebutt of the lyric, one of them being a photo of the Capitol dome in the background, with a slum and poor black childeren in the foreground. Another, from the early '90s, was from a piece that wasn't itself entierly political, but asked, essentially, why pro-lifers who allegedly care so much for life also tend to be rabid death penalty advocates, with a drawing of George Bush front-and-center on each side.
posted by Snyder at 3:56 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


They should do one of those rear-leaf fold-ins, showing Iraq bristling with WMDs & Al-Qaeda terrorists, but when you fold the page in, all that's left is Saddam snorting coke off a call-girl's bosom, maybe a camel or two, and a whole bunch of oil wells.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:07 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "They're clearly much more perspicacious, and much funnier, than the old MAD editors."

0.o

What does sweating have to do with it?
posted by ZachsMind at 4:11 PM on February 5, 2008


Who was the MAD artist from the 60s era whose characters all looked like Giants Coach Tom Coughlin?
posted by hal9k at 4:14 PM on February 5, 2008


Jack Davis?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:19 PM on February 5, 2008


Probably a better answer with a link.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:25 PM on February 5, 2008


Attacking George Bush with political cartoons in 2008? That is not a bold move. Aside from that, do we really need the for dummies explanation at the top of each cartoon?
posted by Evstar at 4:28 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's funny is that Bush dissed the Kyoto Protocol back when he first entered office. So previous posters are correct: this is seven years too late, and therefore not half as funny as it could be.

What's funny about that is that using Purlitzer prize winning cartoonists in MAD magazine is actually newsworthy.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:31 PM on February 5, 2008


How can you take their politics seriously when they offered Alfred E. Neuman for President?

I dunno, I'd take Alfred over the current choices.
posted by jonmc at 4:33 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


usual gang of idiots. It had to be said.
posted by yoga at 4:37 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


jonmc: "I dunno, I'd take Alfred over the current choices."

I'd take Alfred over any choices we've had in the past fifty or sixty years, with the possible exception of Pat Paulsen. In fact, if the only candidates in the running were Paulsen & Neuman, I might actually vote again. As for the fact one of them is dead and the other one is fictitious... so?
posted by ZachsMind at 4:46 PM on February 5, 2008


I've actually had this thought myself a few times.
posted by hwestiii at 4:56 PM on February 5, 2008


On the other hand,Mad has been lampooned, as well.
posted by TedW at 5:07 PM on February 5, 2008


On the other hand,Mad has been lampooned, as well.

That was more a lampoon of Bush using Mad. This thing of beauty is a lampoon of Mad.
posted by jonmc at 5:13 PM on February 5, 2008


"has been known much more for media satire than political satire... anything political was often camouflaged as a movie or TV parody and generally less partisan than most."

No, that's wrong. From the early to mid '60s through the '70s, Mad routinely ran leftist critiques of politics, especially LBJ and Nixon. It was arguably less partisan, but only because they had an anti-establishment bent that applied to both Democrats and Republicans. But that's like saying that the anti-Vietnam movement was non-partisan.
posted by klangklangston at 5:15 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Attacking George Bush with political cartoons in 2008? That is not a bold move. Aside from that, do we really need the for dummies explanation at the top of each cartoon?

Actually, Mad has been lambasting for a long time, and pretty consistently and directly too. Thus all the material in this book. Heck, it was on shelves months ago.

The ongoing Ashcroft jokes, ripping on Condi Rice, heck, even "Saddam Says" was funny. The number of fold-ins alone make Bush their most popular target.

I have subscriptions to far too many magazines, but I consider Mad my most valuable. Rip on the press for covering Mad Magazine now, but don't claim they're playing it safe because you haven't been reading it.
posted by Gucky at 5:24 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


They're clearly much more perspicatious, and much funnier, than the old MAD editors.

If by "old" you mean the '80s or something, I can't comment. If you mean the earliest MAD, from the '50s, you're full of shit. Harvey Kurtzman's MAD was possibly the funniest periodical ever published in these United States. (Get off the lawn with your damn Onions!)
posted by languagehat at 5:30 PM on February 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


Plus they were critical of the advertising and marketing worlds years before Adbusters, in some very similar ways
posted by jtron at 5:31 PM on February 5, 2008


Rip on the press for covering Mad Magazine now, but don't claim they're playing it safe because you haven't been reading it.

Indeed. I still have this "Got Coke" satire (from 2000?). Though looking back on all that's happened since (torture, spying, election fraud, resource wars, etc.) one might consider that "playing it safe."
posted by peppito at 5:44 PM on February 5, 2008


yeah, erase the "." in the link...
posted by peppito at 5:46 PM on February 5, 2008


Everything I learned about the 60's and 70's I learned from MAD. Pretty balanced view, really; they pretty much skewer everyone.
posted by notsnot at 5:57 PM on February 5, 2008


I, too loved the Mad I grew up with in the 70s. Though the most memorable piece to me was a send up of the Sex Pistols called "Johnny Turd and the Commodes", which I read as an 11 year old in 1978. Unfortunately for me, rather than frightening me or disgusting me about the proclivities of punk rockers (which I think was the intent of the fucking hippies who wrote it), it got me hooked on punk. My very first Ramones and Sex Pistols records came very soon there after.

Mad sucked in the 80s. Pretty much everyone in the mainstream had moved on to National Lampoon or Spy by then.
posted by psmealey at 5:58 PM on February 5, 2008


Spy.
Now that brings back memories!
posted by Dizzy at 6:20 PM on February 5, 2008


Erm, my write-in candidate since I started voting for president has been Alfred E. Newman. Please respect that. By the way, he always wins.
posted by telstar at 6:28 PM on February 5, 2008


TheNewWazoo and kittens for breakfast: I don't think criticizing them for not doing this earlier is really fair. They've been lashing out at Bush for quite a long time, contrary to what the writeup suggests.

Their infamous "Episode 2: Clone of the Attack" poster (included in the slideshow) came out in 2002 before the Iraq war even started. I think they've been fairly on top of things politically, and pretty consistent about it.
posted by cecilkorik at 6:33 PM on February 5, 2008


“Harvey Kurtzman's MAD was possibly the funniest periodical ever published in these United States”

Yeah. 2nded. I used to raid the paper recycling repository for porno when I was a kid.
...what?
Anyway, we used to ...yes, ‘we’... I brought friends.
...what?
We used to find loads of old MAD magazines from the early days. I have a couple with the original cheezy plastic records in them (All in the Family I believe is one). Old Playboys and such I’ve since re-recycled. But I’ve held onto those. Still damn funny.

And yeah they've always been political, they nailed Carter, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, everyone. Pretty much whatever the zeitgeist of the country was, they got into it. I really miss checking out Sergio Aragones’ marginal drawings.
About the only time I’ve ever wanted to be famous was so I could be seen, photographed and featured in MAD reading MAD inappropriately (like in session in congress or something).
posted by Smedleyman at 6:34 PM on February 5, 2008


Their infamous "Episode 2: Clone of the Attack" poster (included in the slideshow) came out in 2002 before the Iraq war even started. I think they've been fairly on top of things politically, and pretty consistent about it.

It does seem that this represents a bit of extra effort, though. In any event, what I said was meant less as a scathing critique of Mad than as a general ho-hum re: this particular feature's boldness. Which is to say, cracking on Bush at this point is kinda like making a Cleveland joke. But I do think the cartoons are pretty funny.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:48 PM on February 5, 2008


On the other hand,Mad has been lampooned, as well.

My childhood was programed with early to mid 1970's Mad magazines. Near the end of my regular readership I became aware of National Lampoon, and subtly realized that most kids make the transition as a rite of passage. I really never got into National Lampoon, but one piece of theirs really did it for me.

This was a satire on Mad magazine, which seemed like a profoundly meta concept for me at the time. Mad did satire all the time, often taking shots at hypocrisy and "rip-offs". What, I wondered, could National Lampoon find to skewer Mad with?

The most damning element of the satire was how Mad RECYCLED OLD CONTENT ALL THE TIME. The National Lampoon satire took it to the limit of course, showing a 1970's Mad magazine recycling some hackneyed 1950's panel cartoon.

This really hit me dead on, as it was one of the ONLY subjects that Mad would not self-parody. And in all seriousness, 'cause you know the editors of Mad are reading this, WHAT THE FUCK?? What kind of hypocrisy is that; when half your magazine's content decries the evils of "rip-offs" yet you yourself republish old content and sell it as new?

Yeah, I kind of stopped reading Mad after that...
posted by Tube at 6:56 PM on February 5, 2008


Of course, forays into the political world are not without consequences. Witness the grisly murder of MAD's Pee-yew-litzer Prize-winning editor Phil Fonebone in the back streets of Potrzebie, Blecchistan.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:38 PM on February 5, 2008


Mad Magazine: unFair and unBalanced
posted by spock at 7:41 PM on February 5, 2008


“What kind of hypocrisy is that; when half your magazine's content decries the evils of "rip-offs" yet you yourself republish old content and sell it as new?”

Well...they do call themselves ‘idiots.’
And sure, I think the content has gone down a bit. That’s why I don’t buy it anymore. So you’re right about that.
But most of the anger - the valid anger anyway - decrying the evil of rip-offs comes from the industry basically going after William Gaines and forcing a lot of stuff ‘underground’ - not the least of which MAD comics became MAD magazine in order to avoid the Comics Code Authority.
That there’s hypocracy. MAD is just a bunch of goofs trying to fill some pages. I don’t think they’ve really ever had any pretense beyond that.
And part of the problem then becomes how do you fill a whole bulked up ‘magazine’ with a comic book sized writing/artist staff and budget? Meanwhile in the 70’s - best selling comic? Archie. Yeah, there’s some humor for you.
I mean why did Larry Flint have to go through all the crap he did covering everyone elses right to free speech? Because no one else ever took it that far in the first place.
MAD has been in print for more than 50 years fighting censorship battles long before the Comic Book Defense Fund was around. F’ing Archie? What are they doing that’s cutting edge? National Lampoon is a different story. People think it is, and it’s packaged for, adults. Or at least college aged folks. Whole different set of dice than the ‘kid’ set.

Meanwhile you still have zelots of whatever stripe (say, wasn’t some politician ranting against GTA recently?) still kicking your wagon over what you put in a comic “for kids” (’cause it’s all for kids, amirite?) while publishing costs go up, the internet takes up a lot of your biz, etc. etc.
Plus while Feldstein has been trying to maintain that sardonic flavor, it’s tough to keep in touch with the roots of that vibe. That Hymie Mermalman New York Nebbish sort of thing that Alfred E. Newman represents. That’s sort of fading from our culture (f’rinstance about 20% -40% of you are vaguely offended by that while not even knowing wtf I’m talking about) - and beyond that MAD has always had that vaguely subversive vibe too it.
Very tough for business folks to invest in. They’re not exactly the kinds of lion Gaines was.
(I don’t know any publisher today who has the kind of balls to go before a senate committee and tell them basically to go fuck themselves. Even if - especially if - you’re sabotaging your own case.)
And the concept ‘institution’ doesn’t mean anything when it comes time to pay the bills.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:24 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Attacking George Bush with political cartoons in 2008? That is not a bold move. Aside from that, do we really need the for dummies explanation at the top of each cartoon?

I agree. Besides, the "usual gang of idiots" at Mad are usually far more savage, and far more effective than any idiotic editorial cartoonist, so I kind of wonder why they had to dilute their message in this way.

Is there anything more banal, meaningless and just plain stupid than 99% of editorial cartoons?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:24 PM on February 5, 2008


Bush is really starting to look a lot like Alfred E Neuman.
posted by mike3k at 8:56 PM on February 5, 2008


"Is there anything more banal, meaningless and just plain stupid than 99% of editorial cartoons?"

Yes. The other 1%.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:42 PM on February 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Bush is really starting to look a lot like Alfred E Neuman.

And he's always had Alfred's command of grammar.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:55 PM on February 5, 2008


Mad lost a lot of its edge, for me, when they started running real advertisements. I read it in the 70's-80's. My son reads it today. It's still better than most of the other crud for kids on the magazine rack at the library. (Peter Bagge's one of their regulars these days.)

I remember Mad poking politicians all the time, but never making a scathing attack. This smacks of "We're still relevant"ism to me, especially with the bringing in of the Pulitzers. Still, I'm glad it's there.

And what was a National Lampoon? Spy? Were those magazines?
posted by not_on_display at 10:08 PM on February 5, 2008


It was funny when I was in junior highschool.

Can't really imagine it doing much for me since.
posted by HTuttle at 11:07 PM on February 5, 2008


I've got this thing stuck in my head that I remember as being one of Al Jaffee's Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, but surely can't be:

A couple of 'squares' see a long haired hippy on the street.

Squares: Hey hippy, are you a boy or a girl?
Hippy: Why don't you suck my dick and find out?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:05 AM on February 6, 2008


The movie-poster parodies reminded me of this beauty that graced the door of my dorm at UT back in the day.
posted by pax digita at 5:08 AM on February 6, 2008


Plus while Feldstein has been trying to maintain that sardonic flavor, it’s tough to keep in touch with the roots of that vibe.

I feel compelled to point out that Al Feldstein retired from Mad back in 1984. I expect his critique of Bush would have been at least as savage, though.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:14 AM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


PeterMcDermott, that quote you mention is actually from a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic. It ran along the bottom of one page as a separate, 1-row smaller strip. Gilbert Shelton did that once in a while but really hit his stride with Fat Freddy's Cat. Clang, honk, tweet!

And let us not forget that the first true test of MAD's right to run parodies of exisiting characters came with the brouhaha surrounding the publication of Superduperman. Chugga-ghugga-chug! *sigh* Wally Wood...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:37 AM on February 6, 2008


I got the PDF Mad archive for Christmas - the entire (searchable) history of the magazine on a DVD. No DRM. Pretty cool if you're into reliving your pre-teen years.
posted by fungible at 7:57 AM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


My friend introduced me to William E. Gaines on the street of Jersey City one day walking back from lunch. He didn't tell me who he was until after we were on our way. Its probably best, because I would have embarrassed my friend with my fanboy antics.
posted by sfts2 at 8:31 AM on February 6, 2008


PeterMcDermott, that quote you mention is actually from a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic.

I remember we had 'reading week' back in Grade 9 where we students had to bring in and read books during home room for the week or whatever.

A friend lent me a bunch of 'Freak Brothers' comics, and I laughed so hard (everyone else in class was really quiet, concentrating on, presumably, 'Tiger Eyes' or 'Forever') that I farted.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:14 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Peter Bagge's one of their regulars these days.)

Peter Bagge is one of my personal saviors. That is all.
posted by jonmc at 4:59 PM on February 6, 2008


fungible said: I got the PDF Mad archive for Christmas - the entire (searchable) history of the magazine on a DVD.

I did not know that such a thing existed! I have to go buy it. I just recently scored some original Spy Vs Spy art drawn on the MAD layout boards in a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund auction. I've always loved MAD. It's one of my small guilty pleasures.

And they have always been political. I have some issues from each decade from the 60s through the present, and every single issue has political humor. In fact, MAD may have helped form my rather irreverent attitude towards the government, large corporations and culture in general. For which I'm grateful.
posted by dejah420 at 8:37 PM on February 6, 2008


My favorite MAD memory is from the 60's. The fold-in became a movie maruee, and read "The Whitehouse! Starring Ronald Reagan". I think this was when Reagan became governor of California.
posted by Goofyy at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2008


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