Is MAD Magazine still mad?

    Pop culture has been a monumental part of American society for many generations. People enjoy the familiar faces and storylines, not to mention all the celebrity gossip that is fit for a middle school girl’s slumber party. Mainstream society has always had a pretty frivolous sense of what counts as entertainment. MAD recognizes this trait in society and mocks it to the point that MAD will never let us live it down.
When people think of MAD, what comes to mind is Alfred E. Neuman, the cover’s perpetual goofy-eyed red-headed boy with the satellite ears and the gapped teeth. His iconic and ever-changing appearance is as kooky as the material of the magazine itself. Though it keeps up with current times, the satirical and immature slapstick brand of humor, which has changed little since MAD’s first publication in 1952, seems outdated and best fit for the grandparents.
The quality of humor appears to be stuck in the 1950s and tends to focus more on aspects of gross-outs than sociably acceptable raunchiness. When people want to see a girl in a bikini, with MAD, they will see a girl in a bikini vomiting. But in the magazine’s defense, this kind degenerative of humor has the ability to always transcend generations.
The monthly magazine is completely animated and features a random mix of comic strips. Through illustrations of characters with overly-emphasized facial features and body parts, MAD makes light of the many pop culture references which plague and grace our everyday lives. In the November issue, there is a comic that pokes fun at the GEICO cavemen for having their own television show and imagines what it would be like if other commercial advertising icons got their own show. This includes a Mrs. Butterworth being a criminal defense attorney and the Travelocity gnome as a run-of-the-mill spastic father on a sitcom show.
The comical expression of this parody segment has been imitated many times. From Saturday Night Live to The Simpsons, the adolescent sense of humor has surfaced, but MAD was one of the pioneers of this type of comedy and paved the way for the innovative types of physical and joke-telling comedies society enjoys today. MAD shamelessly and cleverly delves into issues for which America has a soft spot and turns them into juvenile amusement for easy and spontaneous laughs.
The most popular and often-adapted segment from MAD is “Spy vs. Spy,” which is an endless and wordless tale of witless spies battling to the death. MAD comes up with new and intellectually tactical ways for the two spies to foil each other’s plans. In the November issue, one spy uses a fingerprint code to get into a bar and the other one poses as the bartender to get his fingerprint, opens the door, and gets punched by a giant robotic hand. This classic comedy will never lose its style.
    MAD is a magazine that proudly boasts its attraction to cheeky pop culture references and after-school humor. As long as there are people who refuse to grow up and still laugh at flatulence and other bowel-movement jokes, we will see some more reincarnations of Neuman’s infectious grin circling the atmosphere via MAD magazine. Try not to soil yourself when reading.
–Nick Shekeryk
nvsheker@syr.edu

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