Staff Reviews

Grade-School Humor


The subtitle of Totally MAD (Time Home Entertainment), a new coffee table book about the magazine I eagerly devoured in grade school, is "60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity, and Stupidity." One more stupidity might have been appropriate, since the jokes, especially in the movie parodies, are much lamer than I recall.

Still, there are items of genuine interest to people smarter than a fifth grader, including accounts of copyright battles over song parodies and Mad mascot Alfred E. Neuman. Mad nostalgics may even find material that's both clever and new to them.

In retrospect, Mad was surprisingly square, as illustrated by ad parodies mocking unisex Mod clothing and the Beatles' unkempt hair. Yet it managed to amuse 10-year-olds while instilling an appropriate skepticism of authority, earning it a warm place in the hearts of many, even if they no longer find a Don Martin cartoon of a hippie squeezing a meal out of his beard quite as hilarious as they once did. —Jacob Sullum