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NEUMAN

Mad Magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman shows off the debut cover of the publication's new look April 1, 1997, at a New York news conference. The magazine will be leaving newsstands after its August issue.

From an editorial in the current issue of The Kibbitzer, the monthly newsletter of the Society of Humorists, Authors, Columnists and Kibbitzers (HACK).

The news has reached us that Mad Magazine, owned by DC Comics, which is owned by Time-Warner, Inc. is ceasing publication. Let us qualify that — they are ceasing publication of any new content. Like Friends reruns, they will reissue material from 67 years of publishing humor.

What will become of our colleagues, the cartoonists and writers and illustrators who have managed to eek out a living publishing their work in the magazine? It’s bad enough we’ve got more and more editorial cartoonists tapping the pension plan, but now these idiots, too?

What has become of our industry? You can’t make fun of anybody, anymore. It’s like we’re depriving ourselves of the ability to laugh at ourselves. Are we so sensitive now that we can’t take a little ribbing? It’s like we’re all caricaturists at the county fair and we get punched in the nose if our sketches highlight a distinctive facial feature — a forehead, a nose, a third nostril.

It used to be, you tell a joke and, if you’re lucky, you offend everybody in the room. Now, if you tell a joke and offend anybody in the room, or anybody in the vicinity of the room, you’re out of work.

As one of our more erudite members puts it: “At present, we have a surfeit of umbrage.”

Of course, we all know that magazine publishing, in particular, is an iffy enterprise anymore. Magazines come and go or they change formats or publish bi-monthly with “more content.”

Content, schmontent, everyone wants it for free. Nobody wants to pay; if they do pay for content, they sure as heck don’t want to be the butt of the jokes comprising said content.

And that’s the rub. A little seltzer in the pants can carry society only so far. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, then we’re depriving ourselves of the opportunity to self-assess, re-evaluate, to look in the mirror and glimpse what just might be a little bit absurd about ourselves. Then, maybe, make an adjustment. Or not. Depending.

Maybe it’s a generational issue. Maybe the medium remains the message and a print magazine no longer attracts the audience for which the content is aimed. We at HACK find this difficult to accept. We struggle to resist the temptation to go door to door distributing print humor like it was a copy of The Watchtower. If only you would just read our message, then you would understand.

Alas, the marketplace remains a lover “who will walk on you when you’re down.” Thus, we are faced with another situation where our pension plan is inadequate to meet its obligations. More and more “content providers” of HACK are being released from their employments and are left to mill about our reception area drinking our free coffee and making rim shot sounds when some jokester starts yapping: “Three immigrants from the Commonwealth of Poland walk into a tea emporium...”

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