We could use a little “What, me worry?” right now, don’t you think?
That cheeky motto, attributed to freckled, gap-toothed mascot Alfred E. Neuman, has guided MAD magazine through more than six decades of popular satire and goofball humor. Launched as a comic book in 1952, converted to a magazine format three years later, it has skewered everybody and everything from presidents to pop culture and influenced generations of comedy writers and performers. It’s still around today, though scaled back.
In an online discussion of their new book Seeing MAD: Essays on MAD Magazine’s Humor and Legacy, co-editors Judith Yaross Lee and John Bird give the iconic publication its historic due. Drawing from tributes in the book by experts on humor, comics, and popular culture, they examine MAD’s social and political significance and enduring legacy.
Lee is the Distinguished Professor Emerita of Communication Studies, Rhetoric, and Public Culture at Ohio University and the author of three books, including Twain’s Brand: Humor in Contemporary American Culture. Bird, an emeritus professor of English at Winthrop University, is the author of two books on Mark Twain and a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America. He discovered MAD, he says, when he was 10.