July 19, 2019

Mad Magazine's Jewish Sensibility

“Mad magazine is on life support, and I can’t say I’m either surprised or all that sad about it. DC Entertainment announced last week that the satirical magazine will stop publishing new content. It was like hearing about a beloved old relative who passed away: I hadn’t had any meaningful contact in years, but had fond memories of when we were still close.

For me, that meant during my pre-bar-mitzvah years, growing up in the 1970s. For a suburban kid binging on a diet of Saturday morning cartoons and grim, adults-only dispatches on the nightly news, Mad was a hoot — hilarious, irreverent, slightly risqué.

Today I am a man, and realize Mad was something more.

Many of the eulogies have focused on the political legacy of the magazine. The Denver Post once celebrated its “mid-20th-century history of bold political satire and anti-censorship court cases.” (In 1964 the Supreme Court refused to hear music publishers’ complaints over the magazine’s right to publish song parodies.) Others suggested that its mocking attitude influenced the ’60s generation to “question authority.” The Washington Post called it the “most influential magazine of the post-World War II era.”

Looking back on the old issues, I’m also struck by how political they were, with biting parodies of the 1960s “Establishment” represented by Richard Nixon, George McGovern and Henry Kissinger. An American flag poster from 1971 would still raise eyebrows today, reworking the pledge of allegiance into a bitterly ironic statement on American divisions, addressed to “one nation under God with liberty and justice for all, including kikes, wops, spics, niggers, WASPS, etc.”

Watergate, the Vietnam war, the “generation gap,” the civil rights movement: Mad translated the issues dominating the news of the day and the whispered conversations of my parents and their friends into a comic language we kids could understand.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."

"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."

"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."

"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."

"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."

"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."

"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."

"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."

"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."

"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."

"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."

"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."