Reason First: Is It All over for 'Mad' Magazine?
The classic magazine that has inspired countless comics and entertainers may be shuttering. But will it make a return?
With the cessation of Mad Magazine, it is important to take stock of what brought the nearly 70-year-old publication to a halt. Unlike ballsy rags like CharlieHebdo, Mad lost its zest and verve. The 2015 shooting deaths of the staff at the aforementioned French publication should have emboldened Mad to be risky and edgy to the point of displaying images of the prophet Mohammad. Instead, they played it safe, casting soft balls at soft targets. It could’ve been an excoriating, humorous publication. Rather, it lost its bite and shunned challenging the status quo.
Like the original short lived sketch comedy show MadTV, the magazine will go to the wayside. While there will be year end editions, the regularity of a fresh issues will be no more. The freedom to speak, write, sing, film, sculpt, and draw is the hallmark of the constitutional republic that is the United States of America. That right, secured by the Founding Fathers extends to protect authors, illustrators, artists and businessmen from being prosecuted for expressing their minds. Throughout the history of America, the issue of freedom of speech has divided law enforcement and the courts against entertainers. Consider Lenny Bruce. He had been arrested on numerous occasions for just uttering words. If Mad had any spine, they would have possessed the spirit of Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney.
To express oneself is an old time action. Dating back to thousands of years, the way that humans communicated was how civilization came into being. It is a relatively new phenomenon that a government could protect or suppress the liberty of voicing one’s mind. As Mad has foregone any sharp criticism in favor of safe depictions of the president, the magazine must perish. In order to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of arts and entertainment, Mad should have taken more time in exposing crony socialists, corrupt politicians, and the professors who spout dry bromide, hollow platitudes, and empty rhetoric.
While Mad has paved the way for parody wizards like “Weird Al” Yankovic and Rucka Rucka Ali, the aftermath of its collapse may spell fewer artists to poke fun at and make burgers out of sacred cows. The thrust behind any joke should be, of course, a laugh, but also it should be meaty and substantive. How Mad came to this place is because they lost sight of the crux of freedom of speech. They forgot this right is for people not to agree but to disagree. They faltered and ultimately fell. Infused and with humor, the magazine could have been like orange juice. It should’ve had the sweet and tangy bits of funny stuff with the vitamin C of social satire that stimulates brains. Mad could’ve been on the cutting edge and permitted only curveballs and hardballs to permeate through its pages. They could’ve used their pens to address hard topics that convey a sense that knocking down evil can be done with equal measures of ferocity, gusto, and panache.
As Alfred E. Neuman may only grace covers at comic book stores and for online subscribers, with all of the reboots, revivals, and updates in television, (including MadTV) is it possible for the magazine to stage a comeback? Whatever the case may be, the magazine as most people know it enjoyed nearly a 70 year run. For folks to wax poetic about the halcyon days of the magazine, there's still a possibility for it to go back on supermarket shelves. Why it failed is because of poor editorial choices and the inability to tackle serious matters with wit. So for Mad, the only farewell is to say nice try but the last laugh is on them... for now.