Absolutely MAD

It seems that now is a time to regret being ORF. It seems that MAD magazine, the intellectual septic tank of Alfred E. Newman, is soon to pass from our keen.[Link]

As with many of my age cohort, I read MAD magazine as a youngling. Aside from the moronic antics of almost all television cartoon shows and the “Three Stooges”, MAD was my introduction and source of humor and disrespect for false authority. It polarized my thinking on many azimuths. I still refer to the constabulary as “Long John Law.” 

Even though the MAD I read was not the Anti-American, decadent, pseudo-Communist conspiracy of the McCarthy era, it, as with most of my readings, was only tolerated by my parents because of some tenuous connection to education, which institution was in chaotic turmoil in that period of Containment, competition, and technology. In fact, the only readings I can recall my parents approving of were the five sets of encyclopedias I ingested between age six and eleven. At which time I discovered my father’s old Navy correspondence course algebra and trigonometry textbooks. Even these were a bit of a family shame because, what normal boy would happily and eagerly read maths books? If they had known of how my fore-knowledge would embarrass the deficient educationalist instrumentality of the period, these books would have strangely disappear one night after curfew.

Sadly, encyclopedias, and Containment Era television (radio had long since become the third media, a waning laggard behind television and the press) were almost devoid of any humor, at least prior to my curfew when the tame, titillating mundanity graced adult television. No, not Lenny Bruce or Bill Cosby, Bob Hope and Jack Benny. So MAD taught me that much of civilization and all of society was a Potemkin facade of pretense and prevarication. That the only advantage of Amerikan Kapitalism over Sovietski Kommunism was availability of Japanese manufactured goods. 

Oh, there were chinks in the MAD facade. In places, its armor of righteous disrespect was vacuous and weak. Scientists and soldiers were belittled with scant enthusiasm, strictly equal opportunity minimums. And hence a lasting respect, proven well founded in adulthood, of the military and STEM NERDery. Neither is perfect, but compared to civil governance and human society, paragons of near perfection.

So, YES, MAD will be missed. It is already more of a childhood safe place, like Carnegie libraries and Saturday morning action movies, than an abiding comfort. But just as childhood erodes with the abrasiveness of adult fictions made real by social inadequacy, so too has MAD ceased to have effect. I cannot recall when last I read a MAD magazine. When I left for college, my collection strangely disappeared, the victim of long moldering parental hatred of asociality. Those who read MAD were scum and trash, a blot on the respectableness of Amerikan citizens. But even that betrayal is a boon from intransigent parents. Destroying something patently good informs all too well of the inadequacy of all parenting and the universal incompetence of humans. In such light even politicals have some quantum value, albeit unobservable except in its colligative effect. 

So yes, I shall miss MAD, not for its entertainment, but for its role as Bar Mitzvah. And weep that my grandchildren will be denied its help in transcending their parents’ – and my – demented misconceptions.