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All I Need to Know I Learned From Mad Magazine

mad2.jpgBack in my day, kids honed their reading skills on Archie comics or Encyclopedia Brown books. Not me. I was in my room, door locked, stealthily reading Mad Magazine as if it were pornography. I actually hid the mags under my mattress at night.

I was nine or ten when I first started reading Mad. I didn't get a lot of the humor, but what I did get was funny. In a way, Mad Magazine taught me my first lessons in the politics of America. It's where I got my information on Watergate and gas shortages and nuclear power, which probably explains why I didn't fair so well in current events in school.

What I remember most about Mad is how it got me through our vacations to Roscoe, NY. Our aunt and uncle had a house up there, right on a lake. Beautiful woods and trails and streams; lots of fishing and outdoor activities. Unfortunately, my cousins were all there too, and the fishing turned into a game of who could keep away from the boys' out of control fish lines, and the outdoor activities included running away from cousins with bb guns.

One summer I found a stack of Mad magazines in the corner of the upstate house. While all the other kids were outside being healthy and productive, in the words of my mother, I was curled up in a corner of a tiny room, reading The Lighter Side Of... and laughing even though sometimes I had no idea what I was laughing at.

I spent hours folding the back pages just right so I could see the punchline to a joke that always poked fun at our society. I studied the movie parodies, I played Spy v. Spy in my head and swore I would be Don Martin when I grew up.

I laughed out lead at the "we'd like to see" pieces. Spray Cans We'd Like to See....Movie Ads We'd Like to See... My parents thought I was nuts. My cousins thought I was weird. Eventually, everyone began to ignore me and they stopped trying to force me outdoors. They left me alone with Alfred E. Nueman.

Mad taught me many things besides world affairs and the ills of society. It's where I learned satire and sarcasm, skills I think I have employed rather admirably in my life.

I stopped reading Mad at some point, probably when I got to junior high and became a stupid teenage girl. But hey, I had my sarcasm intact.

Mad also lead me on the trail to comics, something that is still an obession in my life.

Hey...wait a minute. Let's take stock here. What exactly did Mad Magazine do for me?

It give me verbal skills that get me into trouble. It gave me writing skills that my teachers couldn't understand. It kept me from becoming physically active, therefore ensuring that I would never have the desire to try out for a team sport in high school, causing me to become an outcast. It turned me onto comic books, a hobby that has kept me from saving any real amount of money because all my free cash goes towards pricey graphic novels and accompanying action figures. And honestly, satirical skills only come in handy if you are a writer.

On the other hand, I only got shot with a bb gun once, I never got a fish hook stuck in my head like one of my cousins did, and I totally avoided the jocks in high school. And I still know more about Watergate than my parents do.


Heh. Mad was pretty cool. When I was 12, I did yard work for some family friends as my summer job. Their son was about 10 years older and in Vietnam at the time, but he had left behind a giant stack of Mads and Marvel comics (vintage about 1962-6). Margie let me take whatever I wanted, just had to bring them back. I saw Marvel in its heyday (and a few later when it had declined), as well as an enormous number of Mads.

Oh, and he had also left a pretty cool stack of Playboys, many of which made their way magically between the comic books I was taking home. Heh.

i wasn't allowed to buy mad magazine, so i had to read them all during the summer at my cousin's house, also in upstate new york. i stopped reading it easily twenty years ago, but i still get a weird nostalgic yearning whenever i see one. i loved those teeny-tiny comics in between the panels.

Tanya: Sergio Aragones has to be the best "silent" comic writer of all time. I have a book of his stuff, much like the Mad stuff but I think these were original to the book.

[Hi. I am an idiot who posted an unsolicited ad for my website in the comments. In fact, I am such an idiot that I posted an ad for a website that talks about how Bush stole the election, even though this very website I posted the comment on is run by a person who has wished death on Ted Rall the next time he mentions "stolen election" again. Oops}

I also loved Mad Magazine.The little comics in the border , Spy vs Spy and the little fat French Canadian kid were hilarious. I was home on leave when I was in the navy after having eaten beans when for no reason I remembered the strip about the fat kid farting too close to the campfire,so I leaned over,stuck a lighter between my legs and lit a fart that caused the flame to go up to my head.I thought my mom and sister were going to have a heart attack from laughing so hard. Mad Magazine,both humorous and educational.Thanx little fat Canadian kid.