I've always been a sucker for MAD Magazine's anthologies; those fat, floppy-covered book that collected together thematically linked comics from the magazine's history. They were the perfect blend of humor and mystery (when I was nine years old, I was convinced "Spiro Agnew" was some kind of TV clown).
MAD anthologies have grown up with their audience. The latest one, Inside MAD: The "Usual Gang of Idiots" Pick Their Favorite MAD Spoofs, is a gorgeous hardcover that's definitely aimed at adults who fondly remember those old paperbacks.
As the title implies, this is a "best of" survey of the magazine's entire run, and each piece was personally chosen by a MAD staffer or prominent friend of the magazine, who then wrote a brief introduction to the piece and what it means to them. Some of these essays are a little thin, but at their best, they shed light on the way that MAD influenced generations of artists, writers and other creators.
The book has a guest intro from Judd Apatow, and also features pieces by Roseanne Barr (introducing "Grossanne"), Whoopi Goldberg, Todd McFarlane, Mort Drucker, John Stamos, Tony Hawk, Penn Jillette, David Lynch, and many others. There's also a three-page-long "fold out" with an Alfred E Neumann poster on one side and spectacular Sergio Argones mural on the other.
After a lifetime of puzzling over the topical context of MAD anthologies, here, finally, is a MAD book that is all about context. And jokes.
Inside MAD: The "Usual Gang of Idiots" Pick Their Favorite MAD Spoofs
The first time Merle Rasmussen played Dungeons & Dragons, he thought it was a Halloween game.
“It was October 1975, and I was an 18-year-old freshman at Iowa State University. My roommate got this game filled with skeletons and undead monsters. I had no idea.” The role-playing bug had bitten him, but fantasy wasn’t his genre. So that same year, he started writing a game set in a modern world, the spy game that would become Top Secret.
Janelle Shane trained a recurrent neural network with a data-set of more than 2000 ancient proverbs and asked it to think up its own: “A fox smells it better than a fool’s for a day.”
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