Thursday, March 24, 2005

Not Mad so much as irritated...

As I have mentioned, I work in a public library. The majority of my job involves processing the library’s magazines and serials. One perk of this job, obviously, is that I to get to look at a lot of periodicals.

Our Young Adult department subscribes to the venerable humor magazine Mad. Sadly, ‘venerable’ doesn’t mean funny. Part of the problem is that Mad doesn’t really seem to have a firm market niche anymore. It’s not a little kid’s humor magazine, but it’s not ‘adult’ either, as with the old National Lampoon.

I think ‘Young Adult’ is probably about right. The magazine has gotten somewhat raunchier over the years, too much I think for actual youngsters, but the humor is just too juvenile to amuse adults (or at least this adult). I can’t imagine that many people over the age of, say, sixteen read it, unless it’s purely for nostalgia purposes. And such readers will probably find the markedly increased level of bathroom-level humor somewhat off-putting.

Perhaps I’m just projecting. However, about the only thing I find myself reading every month are the three or four page spreads of dialogue-less cartoons by old-timer Sergio Aragones, on whatever subject grabs his fancy this month. His stuff remains as funny now as it was thirty years ago. With the recent passing of fellow oldster David Berg, Aragones’ cartoons are about all the magazine offers that faithfully captures the magic Mad once had. Even the classic fold-up back cover gag is of mostly nostalgic interest. Then there’s the generally unsuccessful update of Spy vs. Spy—the latest issue prints both one of the new style entries and a ‘classic’ one. See which you think is funny.

I found it nearly surreal that the April 2005 issue of Mad would have a parody of the HBO television series Deadwood. Deadwood is a great show, but it’s most definitely ‘mature’ in every variety of content imaginable. It’s not for kids, and I mean up to mid-teens, and thus I found its appearance in a magazine also offering up a Lemony Snicket parody more than a little strange.

Moreover, it’s just bizarre to read such a stale, chestnut-ridden satire of such a sophisticated and brilliantly written program. There’s the lame pun title (“Dreadwood”), along with the obligatory puns on the character’s names: Wild Bill Hickok becomes Wild Bill Hiccup, a prostitute named Trixie is redubbed Trickie, a henchman named Dan becomes ‘Dank,’ etc. Oh, my sides. Seriously, does anyone think that humor of that level could appeal to anyone over the age of twelve? Then there’re the one punch line per panel gags, half of which could have come from a parody of The Outlaw Josey Wales or some other decades-old Western, and the rest generally just make fun of how much swearing there is on the show. Har de har har.

10 Comments:

At 7:51 AM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

It always amazes me when I see Mad is still around. When I was a callow youth, I read it fairly avidly and collected many of the paperback reprints; now, as a callow adult, I can't imagine what would inspire me to even pick it up to leaf through it. "Wild Bill Hiccup"? That joke was on Saturday morning cartoons thousands of years ago.

I guess I look at Mad as a magazine for something which has long since had its day, like, um, people who ship things via zeppelin. Its existence is not as startling as the existence of an audience.

 
At 8:11 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Actually, I think a lot of the paperbacks, generally collected material from the '60s and '70s, still hold up. The single artist books by Don Martin, David Berg and Sergio A. all remain funny.

But the current material is just pitiful. And applying stupid jokes to a parody of Yes, Dear is one thing. Attempting to knock a brilliant show like Deadwood with them is just weird. And again, are the markets the same? Are the kids presumably reading Mad watching Deadwood? I would hope not. And I can't even imagine that people that would appreciate Deadwood would read the contemporary Mad.

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger Cullen M. M. Waters said...

The movie/TV parodies in Mad never made me laugh, with one exception: The Morton Downey Jr. show parody. The memory of that one still brings a smile to my face.

 
At 9:39 AM, Anonymous twitterpate said...

Remember, no matter how old a joke is, there's always a kid who's hearing it for the first time. This allows material aimed at kids to be recycled beyond all meaning of time....

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Gaftrhjhj said...

To be fair, back in the 70s, Mad parodied the Godfather movies (called, if I remember aright, "The Oddfather," and "The Oddfather Part, Too"), which young kids also shouldn't have been watching.

I actually read the Mad versions long before I saw the movies.

 
At 9:44 AM, Anonymous KurtVon said...

Second on the old paperback collections. They had one on advertising that was not only funny, but incredibly accurate and informative . . . and even moreso nowadays.

Heck, I still use a punchline from that to criticize some of the advertising I see: A gas station with a huge sign proclaiming "Our gas contains absolutely no molassas." (The joke had to be spelled out unfortunately, and the accompanying text explained that the statment is completely true, but intentionally misleading.)

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger Gaftrhjhj said...

And as far as lame jokes, I actually remember reading "Blarney Miller".

Hoo boy! "Blarney Miller"! 'Cause the show's name is Barney Miller! Get it?

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

I agree that the paperbacks (the old ones, the ones who made us) still hold up, and Don Martin remains a delightful example of...something, I'm not sure what. His humor is like a mirror of H.P. Lovecraft.

And I'm with Scott in that I probably read the movie spoofs before I saw the movies in question. But I never had any trouble following the jokes, somehow.

 
At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Governor Breck said...

I remember reading their parody of Clockwork Orange (Crockwork Lemon) when I was 8 or 9 years old. Part of the Ludivico Technique was making Little Alex watch old Dean Martin movies, which astounded my parents when I started saying things like, "How about a drinkee, Dino? Better make that a double!" Of course, my parents used to let me buy the old (good) National Lampoons because they thought it was on the same age level as Mad.

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger Brad said...

Here's an idea how stale Mad has become: Wild Bill Hiccup was the name in a recurring character in Richard Scarry's Busytown books! And I was reading those when I was five!

 

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