Opinion: How I eventually became a columnist who made fun of things


While cleaning out Mom’s house in preparation for the Big Move into town, I ran across a December, 1979 copy of MAD magazine.

Naturally, I saved this from the trash pile. It’s MAD, after all – the publication which, along with Green Lantern comic books, made adolescence tolerable. Until I got a little older and started reading Playboy, that is.

(Yes, I said “reading” Playboy, although I’m not sure why. As far as my friends and I were concerned, we never “read” Playboy, although we looked at it plenty. The appearance of articles among the photos was nothing but a rumor to us.)

Anyway, back to MAD.

This particular copy – dog-eared, a little musty – must have belonged to my brother, P.D. By December 1979 I was long gone from both the house and from the roster of dedicated MAD readers (see above under: Moved on to Playboy, or Va-va-voom.) But it has all the features I remember from my own years of MAD readership: A brilliant movie parody drawn by Mort Drucker, goofy panels drawn by Don Martin, outstanding little cartoons in the margins drawn by Sergio Aragones – the pencil-wielding heroes of my misspent youth. This one comes a little late in the run for other MAD-isms I remember so fondly – the words “Potrzebie” and “Axolotl,” for example, appearing here and there in the magazine, or the rules for the greatest game ever, 43-Man Squamish. Some of it is wildly funny, some of it doesn’t stand the test of time, but all in all it’s a good example of late 1970’s nonsense.

It was my kidhood ambition to … well, I had a lot of ambitions. I wanted to be a lawyer, or so I thought. This was before I got a close-up look at how they had to make their livings. I also wanted to be a major league baseball player, a NASA scientist, a television star, a radio broadcaster and, in a stunning lack of imagination, a newspaperman, which is what my father did and where I eventually landed.

But mixed in with all that was a desire to somehow be a contributor to MAD. I imagined the magazine’s office as a place where people sat around all day saying funny things and drawing funny pictures, probably while wearing funny hats, and saw it was a perfect fit for me. After all, I liked jokes, and I was known far and wide, or at least throughout study hall, for my caricatures of our Brighton Junior High School science and ag teacher, Leonard Prisock.

Mostly, though, I wanted to be involved in an enterprise whose sole purpose, it seemed to me, was making fun of everything. It seemed a perfect fit with my own talents.

Alas, life intervened, and I embarked on that newspaper career I mentioned previously. I did so, however, with MAD in my memory banks and in my attitude, which is how I eventually became a columnist who made fun of things. Nice to know my misspent adolescent paid off.

Oh, and incidentally: I also found a couple of old Playboys among my brother’s college papers. Funny how MAD held onto its charm over the years — well, mostly — while the Playboy magazines did not. They went into the trash heap.

I must admit the articles looked interesting, though.

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