All I Need to Know I Learned From Mad Magazine
Back 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.