Mad is an American humor magazine founded by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines in 1952. Launched as a comic book before it became a magazine, it was widely imitated and influential, impacting not only satirical media but the entire cultural landscape of the 20th century.
Its fictional mascot is Alfred E. Neuman, a gap-toothed, freckled kid who never worries, and has appeared on almost every MAD cover. Every issue has a "thought provoking" quote attributed fictionally to him.
- What, Me Worry? (#24 – 07/1955)
- A born executive is a guy whose father owns the business. (#236 – 01/1983)
- The trouble with learning from experience is that you get the test before the lesson. (#290 – 10/1989)
- The distance between many people's ears is a block. (#314 – 10/1992)
- Politicians are people who get sworn in and then cursed out. (#315 – 12/1992)
- The problem with the ladder of success is that by the time you've climbed it, you're considered over the hill. (#316 – 01/1993)
- The suburbs are where they cut down all the trees and then name the streets after them. (#317 – 03/1993)
- If banks are so good with numbers, why are there always eight windows an three tellers? (#318 – 04/1993)
- April 15th is a day that tests a person's power of deduction. (#319 – 06/1993)
- It's a good idea to save your money. One day, it might be worth something again. (#320 – 07/1993)
- How is it that people looking for a helping hand tend to overlook the one at the end of their own arm? (#321 – 09/1993)
- English is a language where double negatives are a no-no. (#322 – 10/1993)
- The reason most doctors don't believe in acupuncture is because they'd rather stick us with the bill. (#323 – 12/1993)
- Most people don't act stupid; it's the real thing. (#324 – 01/1994)
- These days, the problem with many neighborhoods is that there are more hoods than neighbors. (#325 – 02/1994)
- The reason many people are lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory. (#326 – 02-03/1994)
- Too often, people who want to offer sound advice give us more sound than advice. (#327 – 05/1994)
- Ever notice how many government officials make their raises effective long before they ever are? (#328 – 06/1994)
- Nowadays, an after-dinner mint is what you need to pay the restaurant check. (#329 – 07-08/1994)
- Ever notice how random chance always picks you for Jury Duty, but never to win the Lottery? (#330 – 09/1994)
- America is still a land of promise, especially during a political campaign. (#331 – 10-11/1994)
- A business executive is someone who talks golf in the office and business on the golf course. (#332 – 12/1994)
- Parents supporting their kids in college get poorer by degrees. (#333 – 01-02/1995)
- Nowadays, the perfect crime is getting caught and then selling your story on TV. (#334 – 03-04/1995)
- A plastic surgeon's office is the only place where no one gets offended when you pick your nose. (#335 – 05/1995)
- The U.N. is a place where governments opposed to free speech demand to be heard. (#336 – 06/1995)
- Blood is thicker than water... but it makes lousy lemonade. (#337 – 07/1995)
- You can be on the right track and still get hit by a train. (#338 – 08/1995)
- Who says nothing is impossible? Some people do it every day! (#339 – 09/1995)
- How come we choose from just two people for President, and fifty for Miss America? (#340 – 10-11/1995)
- A teacher is someone who talks in our sleep. (#341 – 12/1995)
- Teenagers are people who act like babies if they're not treated like adults. (#342 – 01-02/1996)
- Nowadays, a balanced diet is when every Ma Nugget weighs the same. (#343 – 03/1996)
- It takes one to know one — and vice versa. (#344 – 04/1996)
- How come stealing from one book is plagiarism, but stealing from many is research? (#345 – 05/1996)
- The only advantage to living in the past is that the rents were much cheaper. (#347 – 07/1996)
- A college jock is someone who minds his build instead of vice versa. (#348 – 08/1996)
- If opera is entertainment, then falling off a roof is transportation. (#349 – 09/1996)
- Most people are so lazy, they don't even exercise good judgement. (#350 – 10/1996)
- In retrospect it becomes clear that hindsight is definitely overrated. (#351 – 11/1996)
- Thanks to the new welfare bill, the question "Paper or plastic?" now refers to many Americans' sleeping arrangements. (#352 – 12/1996)
- Prison inmates are treated to cable TV, hot meals and a college education, while on the outside some people can only afford these things through a life of crime. (#353 – 01/1997)
- Medical insurance is what allows people to be ill at ease. (#354 – 02/1997)
- Today, if you ask a car dealer to let you see something for 10 grand, he'll show you the door. (#355 – 03/1997)
- Smoking helps you lose weight — one lung at a time. (#356 – 04/1997)
- A call girl is a lady who isn't free for the night. (#357 – 05/1997)
- A psychiatrist is someone who hopefully finds out what makes a person tick before they explode. (#358 – 06/1997)
- A bore is somebody who interrupts your fifth story with one of his own. (#359 – 07/1997)
- Most people who ask for a minute of your time have trouble timing a minute. (#360 – 08/1997)
- In Hollywood these days, what's coming out isn't as interesting as who's coming out. (#361 – 09/1997)
- Most doctors' gains are ill-gotten. (#362 – 10/1997)
- The problem with our economy is that our budget is supposed to be balanced by people who aren't. (#363 – 11/1997)
- The clearest digital signal is still flipping someone the bird. (#364 – 12/1997)
- In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. There are also very few archery contests. (#365 – 01/1998)
- If medicine isn't an exact science, how come they always know how much to charge you? (#366 – 02/1998)
- Remember — The Post Office will not deliver mail without postage. And sometimes, even with. (#367 – 03/1998)
- A couch potato follows the path of least existence. (#369 – 05/1998)
- Too many movies today have a beginning, a muddle and an end. (#370 – 06/1998)
- There's more than one way to skin a cat, though you probably won't even need the one. (#372 – 08/1998)
- Every dog has its day, but in dog years that's like a whole week. (#373 – 09/1998)
- At one time or another, everybody plays the fool. But some people are typecast for life. (#374 – 10/1998)
- The psychiatrist's office is where you say what you think and be told what you mean. (#375 – 11/1998)
- Anyone who says the truth shall set you free has never been to Traffic Court. (#376 – 12/1998)
- You can't hurry love — but you can move up the wedding to accommodate the baby's arrival. (#377 – 01/1999)
- Any dentist who says "This won't hurt a bit" is lying through your teeth. (#379 – 03/1999)
- Telephone psychics are better at making fortunes than reading them. (#380 – 04/1999)
- When it comes to personal conduct, always set the bar high — it makes it much easier to sneak underneath. (#382 – 06/1999)
- Most people don't mind a hard day's work — just as long as they're not in that day. (#383 – 07/1999)
- On their deathbed, no one ever wished they had spent more time at the office — or on their deathbed, for that matter. (#384 – 08/1999)
- Put 1,000 writers in a room for 1,000 days and one will come up with a story about monkeys writing Hamlet. (#385 – 09/1999)
- Nepotism is when the corporate ladder is built from the lumber of your family tree. (#386 – 10/1999)
- Parents treat their kids like teeth — they only try bonding once irreparable damage has been done. (#387 – 11/1999)
- If people wanted your unsolicited advice, they'd ask for it. (#388 – 12/1999)
- The reason most people talk to themselves is because they're often the only ones who will listen. (#389 – 01/2000) 
- Whoever said "Talk is cheap" never dialed a 1-900 number. (#390 – 02/2000)
- People who live in glass houses should look like Sharon Stone. (#391 – 03/2000)
- All lawyers are cut from the same cloth — fleece. (#392 – 04/2000)
- Too many people think the best way to get a leg up on their finances is to look for a hand out. (#393 – 05/2000)
- Americans are the only people looking for a short cut to the quick fix. (#394 – 06/2000)
- The problem with our economy is that our budget is balanced by people who aren't. (#395 – 07/2000) 
- If we really learned from our past mistakes, most of us would never get out of bed in the morning. (#396 – 08/2000)
- Many a good egg ends up getting beaten. (#397 – 09/2000)
- Most wives are like ventriloquists — they stand there nodding while the dummy does all the talking. (#398 – 10/2000)
- With current divorce rates, it seems that often times the honeymoon is over before the honeymoon is over. (#399 – 11/2000)
- Experience is what makes you pause briefly before going ahead and making the same mistake. (#400 – 12/2000)
- A shepherd with no flock falls asleep counting creditors. (#401 – 01/2001)
- Men who will eat their mother's cooking have an edible complex. (#402 – 02/2001)
- Be wary of anyone who gives you advice beginning with "Be wary of". (#403 – 03/2001)
- Success is achieved only by those who are more or less confident, kind of specific and take a relatively firm stand. (#404 – 04/2001)
- A judge is nothing more than a lawyer who's been benched. (#405 – 05/2001)
- Parents work so they can give their children a better life than they had — and then complain about how easy they've got it. (#406 – 06/2001)
- You can't go home again. At least that's what your parents will tell you on Graduation Day. (#407 – 07/2001)
- Understatement is a zillion times more effective than exaggeration. (#408 – 08/2001)
- Every dog has its day — but that day still consists largely of sniffing butts. (#410 – 10/2001)
- The most troublesome side effect of many prescription drugs is that they make you feel well enough to go back to work. (#411 – 11/2001)
- It's not the work that keeps most people from doing volunteer work — it's the pay. (#412 – 12/2001)
- People who live in glass houses are a Reality TV producer's dream come true. (#413 – 01/2002)
- Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And the same is true for all your other classes. (#414 – 02/2002)
- If you lend someone your ear, don't expect to be repaid with interest. (#415 – 03/2002)
- The problem with instant gratification is that it often takes too long. (#416 – 04/2002)
- Why is it that when someone's fighting to get in the last word, it's never "Sorry"? (#417 – 05/2002)
- For some, following in their parents' footsteps is more like a forced march. (#418 – 06/2002)
- Most people are so concerned about getting in the last word, they ignore all the previous ones. (#420 – 08/2002)
- Most bosses never lift a finger at work — unless it's to point out something you did wrong. (#421 – 09/2002)
- Many an election is won by the candidate who can fake sincerity better. (#422 – 10/2002)
- You can avoid many a close shave by not working yourself up into a lather. (#423 – 11/2002)
- Just because you put your foot down doesn't mean it won't end up in your mouth. (#424 – 12/2002)
- Parents are the ones who are there when you want to be alone with a date and nowhere to be found when you need five bucks. (#425 – 01/2003)
- It used to be that after years of service, your company would give you a gold watch. Now you're lucky if they give you the time of day. (#426 – 02/2003)
- Money can't buy happiness — but it can rent it repeatedly. (#427 – 03/2003)
- Before you buy a new mattress, you should probably sleep on it. (#428 – 04/2003)
- Plenty of people believe in energy conservation — mainly their own. (#429 – 05/2003)
- More people would think for themselves if someone just told them to. (#430 – 06/2003)
- To avoid repeating the mistakes of your father, start by not marrying your mother. (#431 – 07/2003)
- A monkey dressed like a man is still a monkey. But a man dressed like a monkey is a horse's ass. (#432 – 08/2003)
- If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, it must be a very short walk. (#433 – 09/2003)
- A gambler who thinks he has a "can't lose" system for winning at blackjack isn't playing with a full deck. (#434 – 10/2003)
- Starting a war in the name of peace is like poking a hole in a balloon to get more air into it. (#435 – 11/2003)
- Youth is like money — it's only after it's gone that you finally realize how you should have spent it. (#436 – 12/2003)
- Sometimes it seems like only masochists do unto others as they would have done unto themselves. (#437 – 01/2004)
- Family reunions are when relatives gather from all over to be reminded why they scattered in the first place. (#438 – 02/2004)
- The only time most people are modest is in describing their own faults. (#439 – 03/2004)
- Most parents' idea of "sound advice" is suggesting that you shut up. (#440 – 04/2004)
- Most people still believe in a hard day's work, but they also believe it should be spread out over the course of a week or two. (#441 – 05/2004)
- Whoever said "fighting never solves anything" obviously never won a fight. (#442 – 06/2004)
- More Americans would speak out on the obesity problem — but it's impolite to talk with your mouth full. (#443 – 07/2004)
- If ignorance is bliss, you'd think people would be happier when you pointed out what morons they are. (#444 – 08/2004)
- It's true that school prepares you for a job — in both, you sit behind a desk being bored all day. (#445 – 09/2004)
- When you put someone on a pedestal, it just makes it easier for them to look down on you. (#446 – 10/2004)
- Quitting smoking is easy... compared to a former smoker talk about quitting. (#447 – 11/2004)
- Whoever said "Charity begins at home" obviously never asked for a raise in allowance. (#448 – 12/2004)
- Your parents are right when they say they won't always be there to fight your battles for you — that's because they'll be the ones you're fighting against. (#450 – 02/2005)
- Parents who complain that you're not going anywhere in life are the same ones who refuse to give you a lift to the mall. (#451 – 03/2005)
- Nowadays, it seems like the biggest difference between a man's wife and his boss is that when the government comes looking for a handout, the honeymoon is really over. (#452 – 04/2005)
- People who swear they'll stick to their diet usually end up eating their words. (#453 – 05/2005)
- Whoever said "absence makes the heart grow fonder" obviously never cut class. (#454 – 06/2005)
- Parents are the ones who never listen to a word you say — until you mutter something under your breath. (#455 – 07/2005)
- The problem with being smart is that most people are too stupid to notice. (#456 – 08/2005)
- Politicians only display creative thinking when making excuses after they get caught doing something illegal. (#457 – 09/2005)
- Politicians are always trying to convince you that they can solve the unemployment problem if you'll just give them a job. (#458 – 10/2005)
- If you repeat the same grade once, you're a dummy — if you do it 20 times, you're a teacher. (#459 – 11/2005)
- Talk is cheap — but say the wrong thing to your parents and it'll cost you. (#460 – 12/2005)
- Most siblings won't share anything — except embarrassing stories about you. (#461 – 01/2006)
- It's funny how no one is ever so busy that they can't find the time to complain about how busy they are. (#462 – 02/2006)
- Many long-time smokers end up having a coffin fit. (#463 – 03/2006)
- Too many people consider themselves open-minded when they're really just empty-headed. (#464 – 04/2006)
- How come the same parents who assure you that "it's what's inside that counts" whine endlessly about the way you dress? (#465 – 05/2006)
- It's funny how whenever your parents tell you to "think about what you did wrong", your answer is always the same — you got caught. (#466 – 06/2006)
- Every day is a gift — but good luck exchanging it if you don't like it. (#467 – 07/2006)
- Vegetarians who go back to meat have to start by eating crow. (#468 – 08/2006)
- The problem with parents putting in their two cents is that they expect change. (#470 – 10/2006)
- How is it that a well-rounded diet consists of three square meals? (#471 – 11/2006)
- To be a member of the upper crust you need a lot of dough. (#472 – 12/2006)
- Why is it that when it comes to doing something about global warming, most politicians get cold feet? (#473 – 01/2007)
- Why doesn't time ever fly when you're stuck in an airplane? (#474 – 02/2007)
- An arrested drunk is someone who got nailed for getting hammered. (#475 – 03/2007)
- If we don't do something to stop global warming, pretty soon we'll all be in hot water. (#476 – 04/2007)
- In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Also, there's lots of competition for handicapped parking. (#477 – 05/2007)
- Nowadays, at many airlines, the only thing "up in the air" is whether the plane will ever take off. (#478 – 06/2007)
- Most people's definition of a dumb person is someone who doesn't recognize their brilliance. (#479 – 07/2007)
- The stupid person says, "It's impossible". The smart person says, "It's possible, if we can get enough stupid people to do it." (#480 – 08/2007)
- Haste makes waste, but at least it does so quickly. (#481 – 09/2007)
- It's said a picture is worth a thousand words, but try telling that to a teacher who assigned you a thousand-word essay. (#482 – 10/2007)
- Just because you wear the pants in your family doesn't mean it'll be your hands in the pockets. (#483 – 11/2007)
- Parents say that anything worth doing is worth doing right. Luckily, whatever they ask you to do is never worth doing. (#484 – 12/2007)
- A watch without hands tells no time, but neither does a digital watch with no batteries. (#485 – 01/2008)
- Whoever said nothing is gained by cheating never cheated on a diet. (#486 – 02/2008)
- Getting homework after a full day of school is like being forced to take home a doggy bag from a lousy restaurant. (#487 – 03/2008)
- When it comes to the lack of cleanliness at public urinals, it's amazing what some guys will stand for. (#489 – 05/2008)
- Presidents are like diapers — just because you've changed the old one doesn't mean the new one's not going to end up being full of crap, too. (#490 – 06/2008)
- The problem with talking in circles is that it's impossible to find a point. (#491 – 07/2008)
- Once you've learned to ride a bike, you'll never forget — too bad the same's not true about the combination lock you chained it up with. (#492 – 08/2008)
- It's funny how the dumbest son and shrillest daughter-in-law never fail to produce the smartest, sweetest grandchildren on the planet. (#493 – 09/2008)
- People who don't vote are electing to stay out of it. (#495 – 11/2008)
- When most people think about their problems, the only thing they figure out is that they're too dumb to fix them. (#496 – 12/2008)
- Many students believe originality means being the first to plagiarize an author's work. (#497 – 01/2009)
- There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people and those who don't. (#498 – 02/2009)
- Hybrid SUV's are like adult diapers — they don't really solve anything, but they make people feel better about the mess they're making. (#499 – 04/2009)
- Having a smoking section in a restaurant makes about as much sense as having a peeing section in a swimming pool. (#500 – 06/2009)
- Trying to enjoy the last few days of summer, knowing school is about to start, is like trying to enjoy the last few minutes of an in-flight movie, knowing your plane is about to crash. (#501 – 10/2009)
- There's a lot to be said for brevity. (#502 – 01/2010)
- Everyone wants politicians that are just like them — then they're upset when they are. (#503 – 05/2010)
- People who favor racial profiling should be sent back to where they came from. (#504 – 08/2010)
- Ask not what your country can do for you — you're just going to be disappointed with the answer. (#505 – 10/2010)
- Naysayers have it all wrong. (#506 – 12/2010)
- Too often, the helping hand you're being offered ends up in your pocket. (#507 – 02/2011)
- Nowadays, a loner is someone who only has 400 friends on Facebook. (#508 – 04/2011)
- Why is it that people who want government to be small always have the biggest mouths? (#509 – 06/2011)
- The only thing more depressing than another presidential election is what's likely to result from it. (#510 – 08/2011)
- If you always see your glass as half empty, try getting a smaller glass. (#512 – 12/2011)
- America is still the greatest country in the world... but only because all the other countries are collapsing even faster than we are. (#513 – 02/2012)
- No one's doing anything about the growing apathy in this country. (#514 – 04/2012)
- "Don't ask, don't tell" was a terrible policy for the military, but a great one for Internet search histories. (#515 – 06/2012)
- Yoga is great practice for marriage — all you do is bend over backwards when someone tells you to. (#516 – 08/2012)
- You can't judge a book by its cover — and the user reviews on Amazon are usually just as worthless. (#517 – 10/2012)
- For most people, being reflective means spending hours in front of a mirror. (#518 – 12/2012)
- We can fix America's plummeting test scores in math if we all just give 110 percent. (#519 – 02/2013)
- Yoga is great practice for marriage — all you do is bend over backwards when someone tells you to. (#520 – 04/2013) 
- No matter how sensible gun legislation is, it always seems to get shotdown. (#521 – 06/2013)
- The sooner you figure out that looks can only get you so far in life, the uglier you probably are. (#522 – 09/2013)
- If you're not a part of the solution, then you're part of the vast majority. (#523 – 10/2013)
- Most people simply repeat whatever they hear. You can quote me on that. (#524 – 12/2013)
- Constantly looking at your smartphone can really make you look stupid. (#525 – 01/2014)
- Whoever said times heals all wounds was probably never beheaded. (#526 – 04/2014)
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away — but only if you throw it really hard. (#527 – 06/2014)
- Skinny jeans should only be worn by people with skinny genes. (#528 – 08/2014)
- These days, you'd have to be crazy to run for political office — and that pretty much explains everything. (#529 – 10/2014)
- People try to throw money at all of their problems — except their debts. (#530 – 12/2014)
- Nowadays, "junk" mail refers to when some guy sends you an unwanted sext. (#531 – 02/2015)
- Flattery can get you far in life — but you're so smart, you probably already knew that. (#532 – 04/2015)
- Lawyers spend three years trying to pass the bar — and the rest of their careers lowering it. (#533 – 06/2015)
- Cheating on your diet is a piece of cake — and vice versa. (#534 – 08/2015)
- Even though America has a two-party system, it's still nothing to celebrate. (#535 – 10/2015)
- Our country's colleges are making sure that jobs stay in America — one loan officer at a time. (#536 – 12/2015)
- When people get a taste of their own medicine, it usually makes them sick. (#537 – 02/2016)
- Too many skinny dippers concentrate only on the dipping, and not enough on the skinny. (#538 – 04/2016)
- Most of the talk around the water cooler is about how it's the only water that's safe to drink. (#539 – 06/2016)
- Just because someone has a trophy wife doesn't mean they're not a loser. (#540 – 08/2016)
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away — especially if you nail him in the solar plexus. (#541 – 10/2016)
- Throwing in your two cents may end up costing you. (#542 – 12/2016)
- There's no "I" in "team" — but how many athletes these days can even spell? (#543 – 02/2017)
- Most people who say "it's always darker before the dawn" never explain what they're doing up that early. (#544 – 04/2017)
- Nothing beats the satisfaction of a job well done — especially if you weren't the one who had to do it. (#545 – 06/2017)
- Whoever said "it's lonely at the top" was probably talking to himself. (#546 – 08/2017)
- "Watch out for your fellowman" is good advice, no matter how you interpret it. (#547 – 10/2017)
- On their deathbed, no one wishes they'd spent more time at work... but plenty of people at work wish they were on their deathbed instead. (#548 – 12/2017)
- One good thing about World War 3: at least there won't be any more sequels. (#549 – 02/2018)
- Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life... because you'll be unemployed. (#550 – 04/2018)
- A first issue of a magazine is like a first flower in spring. Except we actually had to murder plants to make this. (#1 – 06/2018) 
- You can't teach an old man to fish, but you can teach him to microwave some tuna and make everyone else at the retirement home really angry. (#3 – 10/2018)
- Disney sets painfully unrealistic expectations. No dogs will eat my spaghetti. (#4 – 12/2018)
- I have a face that only a mother could love, which is why I'm dating your mom. (#5 – 02/2019)
- Nothing is certain except for death and taxes, unless you're rich, then just death. (#6 – 04/2019)
- The end of a vacation is like a thirsty stick: it sucks. Unless the vacation was full of ticks. (#7 – 06/2019 p. 5)
mysticalspoken with a lisp. (#7 – p. 6)
- Baby changing stations should be outlawed. Babies are fine just the way they are! (#7 – p. 35)
- The word
boobsis so scary until you get to the second
b. (#7 – p. 44)
- Make your life a little sillier by assuming
glockis short for
glockenspielin rap songs. (#8 – 08/2019)
- Mercury retrograde negatively impacts conversation. For example, when you say
Mercury retrograde,people stop talking to you. (#9 – 10/2019 p. 4)
Don't let the bed bugs biteis victim blaming. (#9 – p. 5)
- They say young people are impressionable, but really their skin doesn't retain an imprint like an old person's. (#9 – p. 6)
- It's okay to cut corners—especially with this magazine. FREE confetti!!! (#9 – p. 52)
- (Sorry, folks, no dumb quote in #10; Happy Scary Halloween!)
About Mad (magazine)
- The first issue of the magazine hit the newsstands in 1952, with sharp-eyed sendups of movies, advertising, celebrities and comic strips: Mickey Mouse became "Mickey Rodent" and Superman "Superduperman." To the delight of its largely teen-age audience, it brought satire into the mainstream, along with up-to-the-moment New York humor sprinkled with Yiddish, nonsense and non sequiturs.
- Barron, James. "William Gaines, Publisher of Mad Magazine Since '52, Is Dead at 70". The New York Times. (June 4, 1992).
- "It's got to have been an influence on almost every comedy writer I know," said Steve O'Donnell, the head writer for "Late Night With David Letterman." "It's rare that you would meet a comedy writer who doesn't know who Arthur the Potted Plant is, or the kinds of esoterica in the margins that we ardently absorbed because we were scanning every page for most of our childhoods."
Presiding over those margins was a 240-pound publisher who filled the office water cooler with wine and celebrated hitting the million mark in circulation by packing his staff off to Haiti, where Mad had exactly one subscriber. Few readers ever receive the kind of personal attention that Mr. Gaines lavished on him: Mr. Gaines drove to his house and handed him a subscription-renewal card.
At Mad's office (on MADison Avenue, it says beneath the table of contents) Mr. Gaines was a sounding board for jokes, but left the writing and drawing to others. "My staff and contributors create the magazine," he said. "What I create is the atmosphere."
- Barron, James. "William Gaines, Publisher of Mad Magazine Since '52, Is Dead at 70". The New York Times. (June 4, 1992).
- The magazine had begun when Harvey Kurtzman, a cartoonist who had been interviewing Korean War veterans for combat comic books, came down with jaundice and decided to create something that he could write from his sickbed. Mr. Gaines gave him the go-ahead.
But to children of the air-raid shelter generation, the first primary-school group taught to "duck and cover" -- hide under school desks and shield their faces in case of the white-hot flash of an atomic bomb -- Mad quickly became an essential part of growing up. Month after month, in its relentlessly good-natured way, Mad told them that everything was askew.
"It's no accident that it came along when it did, in the 50's," said Tony Hiss, a staff writer at The New Yorker. "That's when TV was beginning to take hold, and one of its unexpected side effects was a new kind of bunkum-detector. All those commercials gave you an awareness that you were being conned and allowed you to see through the hype."
- Barron, James."William Gaines, Publisher of Mad Magazine Since '52, Is Dead at 70". The New York Times. (June 4, 1992).
- Saturday Night Live would be unthinkable without Mad; so would Home Alone and Tim Burton. Even such diverse and serious types as Gloria Steinem and Art Spiegelman acknowledge the stunning impact of Mad on their life and work. Gaines’ little comic book has quite possibly been the most subversive magazine of modern times, simply because it taught readers-kid readers-to giggle at the pomposities and contradictions of mainstream culture. Mad exposed the lighter side of everything young people were taught was heavy. Starting out in a decade fanatically devoted to the status quo and worshipful of grown-ups, Gaines dared to muse, ”I think that 13 just may be the age of reason.” From today’s vantage point, in an age awash with irony, it’s hard to grasp how astounding the first Mads must have seemed when America was liking Ike and loving Lucy. Yet the most popular modern pastimes-the twisted celebration of the distasteful, the obsessive satirical reshuffling of the pop-culture deck- derive from that willfully juvenile revolution.
- EW staff, “Remembering William M. Gaines”, Entertainment Weekly, (June 19, 1992)
- For generations of readers, the names of the Mad Men now “exist as gods on Olympus,” says art director Viviano.
Gaines also brooked no interference from his corporate bosses. He wanted the magazine to tackle the world on its own terms.
And it did. Nothing was sacred to Mad.
“It was magical, objective proof to kids that they weren’t alone, that in New York City on Lafayette Street, if nowhere else, there were people who knew that there was something wrong, phony and funny about a world of bomb shelters, brinkmanship and toothpaste smiles,” The New York Times wrote in 1977.
- Todd Leopold, "The Mad, mad world of Al Jaffee". CNN. December 14, 2011.
- The Mad trips ended just after Gaines’ death in 1992, and some of the legends – Dave Berg, Antonio Prohias, Don Martin, George Woodbridge – have passed on. Age and distance have made it harder to connect. But Jaffee relaxes with Jack Davis and Sergio Aragones as if he’d seen them yesterday, sharing stories, signing books and observing the passing crowd, as cartoonists will.
At this gathering in Savannah, Mad is the center of the world. But outside SCAD’s Poetter Hall, times have changed. The magazine’s circulation, which topped 2 million in the 1970s, was down to just below 200,000 as of 2010. The magazine, once printed on pulp, now uses better-quality paper, prints words it once shunned, and even takes advertising. It’s the kind of stuff that gives complainers material for potshots at the magazine even though – given Mad’s influence – you might say we’re living in a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad world.
But the magazine remains a rite of passage, points out Viviano, a way for preteens and preteens at heart to negotiate the adult world.
“It’s still a magazine for skeptics,” he says. “That hasn’t changed.”
- Todd Leopold quoting Al Jaffe in "The Mad, mad world of Al Jaffee". CNN. December 14, 2011.
- Begun as a comic book spoofing other comic books, Mad set the tone for the modern satire popularized on television’s “Saturday Night Live” and in films such as Airplane and Naked Gun.
Free of advertising, Mad faithfully adhered to Gaines’ irreverent edict: “Don’t believe in ads. Don’t believe in government. Watch yourself--everybody is trying to screw you!”
- Myrna Oliver,, “William Gaines; Founded Mad Magazine”, Los Angeles Times, (June 4, 1992)
- Gaines enabled Mad to turn down all advertising partially by maintaining a very low overhead. The magazine’s crowded, toy-strewn Manhattan office included such decor as a year-round Christmas tree. His regular staff rarely numbered more than nine or 10, and he relied on free-lance cartoonists and writers accepting small pay in order to be showcased in Mad.
- Myrna Oliver,, “William Gaines; Founded Mad Magazine”, Los Angeles Times, (June 4, 1992)
- Once upon a time, in the Age of Innocence, children really believed that all adults were good, that all Presidents were as honest as Abe Lincoln, that the adult world was in every way bigger and better than their own world, one which children knew well was full of savagery and danger. Children were expected to give up their seats in public conveyances to adults, to reserve strong language for the company of their peers and in every way to treat adults with respect. No single cultural force of the past 25 years better illustrates the changes that have occurred since those old days than Mad Magazine.
Mad began as an offshoot of comic books. But while the comics of earlier years ran the gamut from cute Disney to the gruesomely violent Tales from the Crypt that aroused parental ire and even Congressional investigations, they all nevertheless fell into the category of fantasy, long an accepted adjunct of childhood. Mad was the first satirical magazine for children, a sort of an easy-to-read Junior Swift, the first to deal with children's reality -their parents, schools and the general adult culture around them - in a mocking way. As Al Feldstein, editor of Mad for the past 25 years, says, What we did was to take the absurdities of the adult world that youngsters were facing and show kids that the adult world is not omnipotent, that their parents were telling the kids to be honest, not to lie, and yet they were cheating on their income tax. We told them there's a lot of garbage out in the world and you've got to be aware of it. Everything you read in the papers is not necessarily true. What you see on television is mostly lies. You're going to have to learn to think for yourself.
- Winn, Marie (January 25, 1981). "What Became of Childhood Innocence?", The New York Times, January 25, 1981".
- While the early issues of Mad chose child-centered material to satirize, the focus turned in the 1960's to more and more difficult concerns - adult hypocrisy, sexuality, women's liberation, divorce, the drug and alcohol scene. One feature, entitled If Babies Could Take Parent Pictures, contained illustrations with this caption: Here's my idiot father trying to drive and take pictures at the same time. I was lucky to get home alive. The phrase my idiot father does not have a jarring sound in 1981; children today are cheerfully irreverent toward their elders. But the words were shocking then, coming from a child. A convention was coming to an end - one that compelled children to repress their natural (Freud would say Oedipal) hostilities, forced them to mutter under their breaths perhaps, but rarely to be openly abusive. Mad Magazine was clearly influential in the move toward free expression among children; its relentless exposure of parental hypocricies during the 1960's caused shock waves of admiration and reaction among its young readers, who were not unaware of their older siblings' angry accusations of hypocrisy against The Great Society's war in Vietnam.
- Winn, Marie (January 25, 1981). "What Became of Childhood Innocence?", The New York Times, January 25, 1981".
- Much of the material Mad satirized in its pages was first available to children in other media, especially television and the films. As these began to show increasingly adult material, Mad's pages also began to become more sophisticated. The magazine grew racier, but its readership grew younger. In the late 50's our readers seemed to be about 15, l6, late high school, early college. Today the mean age is probably about 13, Al Feldstein says. He attributes the change unequivocally to increased television viewing.
“Publisher Bill Gaines says MAD still going strong after 32 years” (January 20, 1985)
Bill Craig, Bill Gaines says MAD still going strong after 32 years”, “Stars and Stripes”, (January 20, 1985)
- MAD publisher Bill Gaines says he got the magazine's credo from an old New Yorker cartoon showing a man on a soapbox shouting, "I hate everybody regardless of race, creed or color."
"It really has become our motto," says Gaines. "We attack anyone no matter who or what they are. Since we don't have a point of view, we don't have to leave anyone out and that gives us a lot more material to work on."
- Some of the people MAD has "worked on" over the years have taken offense at the magazine's irreverence. Gaines smiled as he recalled some of the magazine's more notable lawsuits.
"One of the first was Ava Gardner who had just finished filming `The Barefoot Contessa.' She was upset because we ran a parody called `The Barefoot No-Contessa.' Then Dentyne got after us when we ran ads for Cavetyne Chewing Gum. There have been so many threats that after all this time they sort of blend together.
"Especially when we were younger, it seemed like people got offended by these things. There were a lot of lawsuits but over the years we've always been able to jolly everybody out of it who took offense. We'd say, 'Aw, come on, this is only MAD Magazine. We're only fooling around.' We really haven't had any serious court cases in years."
- He recalled the time when MAD was banned from Oklahoma for being communistic. The magazine had to go to court after being placed on what was called the state "smutmobile" by the state's attorney general.
Gaines said the attorney general was said to be a friend of an Army general in Europe who "got up in front of a group of people and told them we were tainted with Communism." The state government put MAD in the same category as all of the dirty magazines of the day. Gaines had to sue to get back on the newstands.
- Another more serious lawsuit involved the magazine's parodies of songs. New lyrics are written to familiar songs and printed with the instructions, "Sing to the tune of ...." When Irving Berlin and a group of songwriters sued Gaines, the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
"We made law on that one," Gaines recalled, noting that he had probably helped to pave the way for Weird Al Yankovic's parodies. "Now anyone is free to parody anything that way. You just can't publish the music."
- Gaines founded MAD as a 10-cent comic book. Neither he nor editor Al Feldstein expected it to sell at all well. After publishing horror stories, science fiction, war and suspense comics with his father's company, he and Feldstein "just decided one day" to create a comic spoofing all the others.
"We never expected it to achieve anything. I guess we basically just did it for our own amusement," Gaines said. "Of course, it took off and now everything else is long since gone."
- Gaines said it usually surprises people to hear that MAD has a full-time staff of only nine. All of the writing and art work is done by part-timers. He says the organization started tiny and grew into something very big without any major changes in staff.
"All of our freelancers work for other people, too," he said. "We can't support any of them. A lot of them are into record covers, Time and Newsweek covers, TV Guide covers. Some of our writers have won Emmys in Hollywood. In their spare time they knock out a MAD article now and then."
He says most of the freelancers, too, have been with the magazine from the beginning, doing it now out of a sense of loyalty or as an alter-ego exercise. He says it takes a particular kind of crazy mind to write for MAD and new talent has not been easy to find.
"These guys are getting old now but they still think young, Gaines said. "Still, though, I guess it might be our biggest problem — that we're losing touch with our audience because of the age thing. We just can't seem to find young ones to take over."
"WILLIAM M. GAINES INTERVIEW II" (June, 1991)
William Gaines in “WILLIAM M. GAINES INTERVIEW II”, by Steve Ringgenberg, Gauntlet Magazine, (June, 1991)
- RINGGENBERG: Did you change Mad from a comics format to a magazine format to escape the censors?
- GAINES: No. No, I did not. I changed it because Harvey Kurtzman, my then editor, got a very lucrative offer from, I believe, pagent magazine, and he had, prior to that time, evinced an interest in changing Mad into a magazine. At the time I didn't think I wanted to because I didn't know anything about publishing magazines. I was a comics publisher. But, remembering this interest, when he got this offer, I countered his offer by saying I would allow him to change Mad into a magazine, which proved to be a very lucky step for me. But that's why it was changed. It was not changed to avoid the Code. Now, as a result of this, it did avoid the Code, but that's not why I did it. If Harvey had not gotten that offer from pagent, Mad probably never would have changed format.
“A day in the life of MAD Magazine” (April 6, 2018)
- Q: Describe a typical day at MAD.
- A: Well, without coffee there is no particular day. But what happens is we generally get together, John Ficarra and myself, for a quick “let’s go over what insanity today is scheduled to bring.” We can never predict the unscheduled insanity that happens, as it happens, as it unfolds; very often we don’t know when an artist is passing by, coming in, showing up. But we always try to make every freelancer feel like this is a home away from home, in a way, so that they are free to drop by even if they are just in the neighborhood running errands. And those are the unscheduled stops. But the scheduled stops you try and organize as best we can in some kind of structure. But John Ficarra is really terrific at doing that–he’s much more structured than I am–and we try and get some semblance of order. But it doesn’t always work, as you can guess.
Then we go through the mail and stack scripts that are coming in. Ninety-nine percent of the stuff has to do with people’s individual sense of humor, what they think is funny and what they think we do. But it’s really not what we do and they have no understanding of that. But we put them aside because everything gets read, because we have never had a staff writer in our history, or a staff artist. Everyone is freelance, no commitment, no arrangement, no contracts, just total freelancers. We’ve bought great ideas from a 14-year-old boy who’s sold us about 10-12 ideas through the years and never could write them, flesh them out, and make it a professional piece for MAD because he wasn’t a professional, not experienced or sophisticated enough to carry it to that level. But we paid him for the idea and gave him an idea by credit, and he sold us about 10-12 through the years…total stranger…kid in Pennsylvania…grew up…in college…still sending us ideas…maybe 20 ideas between his 14th and 22nd birthday. And then we’ve had six-figure writers from the west coast who make a fortune doing sitcoms–why they’d even want to write for MAD is beyond me–but they’re sending us the wrong stuff and getting aggravated because we’re rejecting it. They’re like “Hey, don’t you know who I am? Don’t you realize what an important writer I am and how successful I am and you’re telling me my work isn’t good enough for MAD?” It’s not that at all, it’s just not right for MAD; a 14-year-old kid knows what’s right for MAD and you don’t. So, with that in mind, that’s the way it goes.
- It’s really a look at life, a look at the absurdity from a graphically visual point of view. If you illustrate some one-liners, it destroys them because that one-liner works better in the mind’s eye–you hear it and form a picture in your mind of what’s happening. But then when you actually see somebody draw that and make it graphic, then it doesn’t work anymore. For instance, Woody Allen in one of his early stand-up act lines said, “And I came home and there was my mother in a corner knitting a chicken.” Now everyone has always broken up at that line–there’s an insanity, an absurdity, that’s wonderful. It just sounds right. But if we did a drawing of a woman sitting on a couch knitting a chicken, it destroys it. Because once you graphically see it, once it’s in print, it’s no more a mind’s-eye absurdity; it becomes a graphic reality. And not every graphic reality is funny. So a MAD idea really translates well into a graphic reality–it’s not a mind’s-eye image.
- There is a MAD philosophy–not that we adhere to a policy, we have no policy. But the philosophy is really is that to be funny, it has to work on one of three levels. It has to be completely satiric, which means it really has to be like a funhouse mirror reflection; it’s not enough to do somebody as they exist because that’s already done. You have to distort the image so that everyone knows who it is, yet the distortion has to do with the humor we derive out of that image.
- Q: Do you ever worry about pitching the material at a certain age group?
- A: No. And that’s the absolute truth. We get letters from brilliant people who subscribe and have never missed an issue, just as we also get letters written on loose-leaf paper from kids in junior high school, sometimes very profound in their thoughts and feelings. We don’t have demographics, we don’t accept advertising. We never did. We don’t want to be beholden to any outside force like an advertiser. With that in mind, there’s no reason to take surveys or polls as to who our target readership is–we don’t have any. We just hope everybody reads it.
For instance, we did a Rocky take-off, of Rocky 4 or 5, the one where he fights the Russian. Now we began it as Rocky is in the ring fighting away, and there are people at ringside and one person is saying to the other, “In this story, Rocky fights someone who hates his country and everything about it.” and the other person says, “Who’s he fighting? Louie Farrakhan?” Now when we wrote that, one of our junior editors said, “You know, a lot of people aren’t going to know who Farrakhan is, maybe we shouldn’t do it.” But you see, that’s their problem, not ours–we’re not going to keep taking out a funny idea or a good point because we’re afraid someone’s not going to get it.
- Q: Has anyone accused you of having a political agenda?
- A: Always. Both sides. I think we’re conceived by most, I would say 60-70 percent, of being more on the liberal, progressive, Democratic left than the conservative, radical Right–just because a lot of the things we’ll make fun of are issues that are supported by the Right. Of course, being someone in the press, we want to maintain freedom of the press, maintain anything that will fight any sort of censorship. We don’t believe that there’s any morality out there that can decide what this country should be reading, or seeing on television or on film. So that would make us liberal, but in many ways… I mean, our anti-drug, alcohol and cigarette ad campaigns–we’ve run satires on famous ads for all of them… We were killing Joe Camel long before it became the rage, saying that this was an insidious, horrible thing. Of course, we did it funny, but we pointed out that a great way to start new young smokers was to get one of their animated cartoon characters to smoke. And we did that about seven years ago; as soon as Joe Camel came out we blasted the hell out of it.
- Q: Is there any subject MAD won’t touch?
- A: Yes, we don’t touch victims, we don’t hit sickness. We’ll go after doctors and their abuse with the bills or whatever, but we don’t do doctor jokes where somebody comes in and says, “I’ve got leukemia.”
We also don’t take off on religion, per se–we don’t go after somebody’s religion. We went after Bakker, Swaggert, and the so-called TV-evangelists who abused their power and abused their patrons.
- On the cover ; January 1900 on page 1.
- Cf. #363 – 11/1997.
- Same as #516 – 08/2012
- New series.