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Al Jaffee, king of the Mad Magazine fold-in, has died (nytimes.com)
383 points by coloneltcb 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 63 comments

Since the article has no examples that show how this worked, here's a CSS simulation of two fold-ins for anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of folding the back page of their Mad Magazine: https://thomaspark.co/2020/06/the-mad-magazine-fold-in-effec...

(Note the bottom copy before/after as well.)

The best part of the fold-in was the comically cynical idea behind it that collectors of Mad Magazine had to ruin their issue to do the fold-in thus forcing them to buy another issue to keep in “mint condition”. Was a meta-satire on the collecting hobby that required collectors to not actually use and enjoy the collectible.

Not really- my friends and I would just sort of bend the pages gently and you could see the combined picture just fine, and always flattened back out no problem if stored in a plastic insert with cardboard backing.

Most people I knew didn't fold them completely ever, and we were just kids.

I'd have to imagine it was the same for the collectors.

Boy, I sure did. I found getting the fold absolutely perfect a bit of an obsessive compulsive experience that ultimately paid off big time once I nailed it.

The drawings and supporting copy were almost always jaw-dropping genius that blew my mind. The kind of thing I'd always want to share with someone else in the house once I'd done the fold.

I think that’s exactly the type of culture it was poking fun at. Valuing the material object over the art and experience.

You can estimate the fold-in but you’ll never truly experience the artists intent unless you make a perfect fold.

I remember ordering a few paperbacks from MAD Magazine when I was a kid. I just checked and it appears to have been Jaffe's "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" series. From some strange reason, I can half-remember at least one cartoon; it was pure adolescent humour.

Some have used the title to refer to the OpenBSD FAQ. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tmux


I don’t understand the first one. Can someone help?

Oh! Is it supposed to be a fold-in? Hah. All work and no play.

"What does Al Jeffee get to do on his birthday?"

"Another damn fold-in."

(Hover over the image to see the effect.)

This kind of reminds me of the 'player' I built for https://www.wrap.co/, all in CSS. Getting the page turn correct was a fun battle.

not MAD magazine, but a fold-in from the same time period, and with the same sense of humor. not entirely safe for work but I'd be surprised if anybody's offended:

1. https://i0.wp.com/cheapskatecafe.com/wp-content/uploads/2011...

2. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EVzZqXNX0AEaF0h.jpg

unfortunately, Land O Lakes has recently changed their packaging after 50+ years

I'd have a hard time exaggerating Mad Magazine's influence on my young mind. In particular, their cynical take on advertising pretty much is my view of it. For instance, if I see something like "'Hot New Game' is 'a thrill ride'", I assume they lopped off "...for kindergartners who scare too easily".

I love ya, Mad gang. Thank you for sneakily teaching this kid some critical thinking.

I think it falls in that category of stuff meant for kids but not dumbed down for kids.

This tends to be the absolute best content for young readers, because we all feel like we're hanging with the adults. Even better, with the funny and/or smart adults. It tends to elevate young people because that's when we're most desperate to be older/cooler/smarter/funnier.

Despite this being a huge part of a lot of people's lives, it always felt like you were in a club. You could get away with stealing jokes and delivering them at school without anyone catching on. You could copy the style of art from an issue and nobody was the wiser (I won an art contest in 6th grade with something very close to a MAD artist I no longer recall).

I don't know what the modern equivalent is. What's the barely-above-ground cultural lynchpin that sneaks a few kids into the late night comedy club now?

> I don't know what the modern equivalent is

Sponge Bob in its first season. I thought it was a dumb kids cartoon, until I inadvertently watched an episode. The humor in it worked on many levels, there was the kid's humor, with a wicked overlay of adult humor on top.

I recall one where SB and friends were out on a fishing boat. The name of the boat was painted on the prow. The framing of the shot cut off the first couple of letters, and adults would assume the missing letters formed a very rude remark. A later full frame shot with the missing letters spelled something innocuous. Sponge Bob is full of jokes like that.

The later seasons, however, are about as clever as a brick.

An older cartoon with the same idea is Rocky & Bullwinkle. They had the slapstick for the kids, and sly satire for the adults.

For example, one plot centered around a pond named Veronica Lake. (Veronica Lake was a film star renowned for being sultry.) Someone asked where the boys were at some point, and the reply was "they are playing in Veronica Lake." I always wondered how that got past the censors.

"Rocky and Bullwinkle" was an incredibly smart cartoon, at least on the level of Looney Tunes, with a sophisticated level of satire that the Warner Brothers cartoons generally didn't do.

The new R&B shows on Amazon do a pretty good job of capturing the spirit of the original, which was a pleasant surprise for something coming out in the late 2010s.

Another more modern cartoon that does similar stuff is "Animaniacs", which was also a kiddie show that was surprisingly smart and often sophisticated, something that can be appreciated by adults as well as kids

On the live-action front, there was Laugh-In, which runs in syndication now, and seeing an episode 50+ years after originally seeing it aired (when I was under 10 years old) gives me a whole new perspective on the show. I realize now how much of it flew right over my little head. While today some of the jokes have aged like milk, it's surprising how much of it is spot-on even today.

Saturday Night Live with the OG cast was also a groundbreaker. To this day, I find myself imagining a Dan Aykroyd voiceover for a wide variety of current commercials.

I love how perfectly you described that. Yes, I was a kid, but I was in on the joke. The cool grownups were giving me a knowing wink as they made fun of, well, everything.

If I knew of something like that today, I’d leave it laying around for my kids to find.

My son watches The Simpsons and I put that in the same boat.

It wasn't when I was a kid and watching it fresh, because everyone watched it, but I've asked my son if any of his friends watch it and apparently it doesn't register at all with kids today.

I'm sure he only got into it because I must have put it on at one point or he stumbled into it on Disney+

I’m not sure something like that is even possible anymore. Everything needs to be heavily advertised everywhere all at once, and there are too many channels for that where people are constantly connected to. It’s all too competitive and if it doesn’t have a global reach, it’s a failure. Also, everything is constantly scrutinized; what you described would nowadays be quickly considered as being snobby and/or stuck up and insensitive to those who didn’t get the joke, or who couldn’t access it for whatever reason, or with limited brain power, or anything like that. I bet there would also be at least a couple of people who would say it’s not appropriate for children and would try to (in one way or another) bring down those who let the children have it. In other words, the world today has too much entropy for that to happen.

About 1980, I bought a Mad Digest called "Madvertising, or Up Madison Ave." Here's a link: https://archive.org/details/madvertisingorup0000deba

I know that it helped shape the cynic that I am.

Those guys were great.

Thanks for this link - I used to have a huge collection of the Mad books, unfortunately my parents sold most of them when we moved. "MADvertising" was my favorite, fortunately I still have "History Gone MAD" which was my second favorite (most of which has been floating around the internet uncredited for years, e.g.: https://blowjoke.com/time.html )

I remember being younger and reading highlights magazine, which had cool stuff like hidden pictures.

But then I "graduated" to mad magazine and couldn't go back. I also vaguely recall a magazine called cracked, but it was a poor knockoff in comparison.

Apart from the fold-in, I also remember Spy vs. Spy when I was younger and couldn't get all the in-jokes when they made fun of a current movie.

Reading Mad always felt so subversive!

And this was before I had any idea what the word "subversive" even meant.

The funny thing about Mad is that it was incredibly literate, especially in the 50s and 60s. Those were some smart guys writing "Snappy Comebacks to Stupid Questions", etc.

In fact Al Jaffee just passed away at the amazing age of 102. Hacker News had a link to a piece about him in the NYT.

It permanently warped millions of American youths.


Yep—once a month when an issue came in the mail, it was like a bomb went off

I could never talk my parents into a subscription, but the grocery story had the magazine a glorious rack full of their books.

Wow. Respect for the guy with the longest career ever as a comics artist, think over 70 years in the game. He began his career in the comic book industry in the 1940s, working for publishers such as Timely Comics (which later became Marvel Comics) and DC Comics. Jaffee began working for Mad magazine in 1955, and over the years, he became one of the most influential contributors to the magazine. He created the famous "fold-in" feature for Mad magazine in 1964. The fold-in was a back cover feature that presented a seemingly innocuous image, which, when the page was folded, revealed a hidden message or image. RIP to a legend…

"You fold it, you bought it!" -Jeff Albertson

"Those magazines create a dangerous amount of laughter." -Marge Simpson


"Wow. I'll never wash these eyes again." -Bart Simpson


"Not Mad! That's our nation's largest mental illness themed humor magazine!" -Homer Simpson


"So, we meet again, Mad Magazine." -Seymour Skinner


Oh, this is a recently unearthed gem:

The Mad Magazine TV Special | 1974 | 16mm | 2K Scan

6,763 views Premiered Sep 9, 2022 #Animation #MAD #MADMagazine

Mark Kausler animated the ‘Spy vs Spy’ segment on this special. He managed to get a copy of the special on 16mm which is what we used to scan.

Film scanning done by Blackhawk Films: https://www.fpa-blackhawk.com

An animated adaptation of the notorious satire comic magazine. The skits include a look at a modern American car factory, the inner workings of a hospital, a spoof of The Godfather (1972), Mad Magazine's X-Ray vision and Spy vs. Spy.


Just watched the whole thing. Holds up surprisingly well! Mysterious charges on hospital bills are just as relevant today as in 1974.

TIL Comic Book Guy has a canonical name.

“What kind of slime would I marry?”


“(/usr/ucb/mail -s ‘Pizza Order’ ‘pizza-server@poit.eng.sun.com’)”

I had just paged that most useless piece of trivia in, but “poit” was from a Don Martin cartoon in Mad, not Al Jaffee.

Nevertheless, Excelsior!

His signature was all over the magazine (not just the fold-in) when I was a reader in the 70s and early 80s, when he was in his 50s. To think that he was learning from comics published when he was a kid in the 1920s and 1930s, drawn by artists born in the 1800s is amazing!

I loved Mad and Jaffee’s work when I was a kid. I was going through my grandmas attic once and I came across a stash of Mad Magazines from the 60’s which must have been my fathers or uncles.

Needless to say they had a ton of Jaffee work in them and I never felt so lucky as to come across that stash.

Just looking some Mad Magazine covers [1], some amazing drawings right there, those more realistic remembered me when the Ren & Stimpy cartoon put those freeze frames with detailed and often shocking images [2], Bob Esponja also did those. Wondering if those cartoons pick some of this style from Mad Magazine.

[1] https://duckduckgo.com/?va=w&t=hk&q=mad+magazine+covers&iax=...

[2] https://renandstimpy.fandom.com/wiki/Gruesome_close-ups

Never noticed this at the bottom of the obits before:

> How The Times decides who gets an obituary. If you made news in life, chances are your death is news, too. There is no formula, scoring system or checklist. We investigate, research and ask around before settling on our subjects.

> “Some 155,000 people die between each day’s print version of The New York Times and the next — enough to fill Yankee Stadium three times over. On average, we publish obituaries on about three of them.” -- William McDonald, obituary editor

There are few things that will whoosh me back to my childhood critic-in-Ratatouille style faster than looking at a page of his artwork. Cheers, Al Jaffee.

I moved to the other side of the world 8,000miles / 13,000km away.

So I go into the public library and pick up a MAD Magazine one morning, and there in the letters section is my old GP from back home, writing in that he's been reading MAD since he was a kid.

Small world.

Donald Knuth’s first published work was published in Mad Magazine - https://silezukuk.tumblr.com/post/616657913

He lists it as his first published paper: https://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/vita.pdf

So the arguably most reknown computer scientist of all time got his start in Mad Magazine.

Here's a fun fact: There's a typo in his article [0].

I only learned about the typo when I asked him to sign my copy at a Christmas Tree lecture years ago. Instead of signing it, he corrected the typo. He had a mnemonic he used to remember the digits in a Potrzebie. He had the mnemonic stored on a file on his home machine. I watched him ssh to the machine, then fire up Emacs to look up the mnemonic.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potrzebie

Wasn't "gzorp" a Mad-ism too ? And no doubt forgetting many others...

That could be Don Martin - he was the sound effects king. sklork

I grew up in Germany (this was the 80s) and one way my dad encouraged us to learn English was subscriptions to various US magazines, one of them was Mad Magazine. We loved it even though we missed a few cultural references.

The fold in was great but I have to admit, every issue the "Fold back so A meets B" instructions somehow created the wrong image in my head and I'd go, "wait, fold which one where?". Over and over.

Him, Don Martin, and Sergio Aragones gave me plenty of laughs and an appreciation for a cartoonist's style as a youth.

Used to take family vacations to a little cottage where the only entertainment was the Mad Magazine Board Game. Great material, loved the tone, just really fine work.

collect $1,329,063

I used to love Mad writers, each so different and brilliant in their own way...Al Jaffee was no exception.

Saw his work also in Mad Brazil, which was a magazine mixing American and Brazilian artists. I grew up with Mad and still have a huge vintage collection.

I wonder if Mad also existed in other countries with local artists and language.

RIP Al Jaffee

Edit: found this https://madtrash.com/brazilian-mad/

Yes, there were local versions! Sverre Helmer Christensen was a notorious Danish underground comic artist who I know got published in Norwegian MAD. My parents were friends of his parents, and I remember they bought that issue. I remember his parents as a mild-mannered couple, and I wonder how their oldest son turned out to be such an outrageous shock artist. Not that it appeared to phase them at all, they were very proud of him.

Sadly Sverre died of leukaemia at the age of 30, but I recently learned he was the main inspiration for my favourite current Norwegian underground comics artist, Jens K. Styve.

I think that of the different comics traditions that came out of the USA, MAD was one of the greatest and most influential outside it. It was also itself a lot more internationally inclined than the others. They knew and loved the Latin American newspaper comic tradition, and the French comic traditions, at a time when those weren't on many Americans' radars.

I think Australian Mad Magazine was lot of the American content with some local stuff mixed in (not sure who did the art for the local stuff - locals I assume but it seemed to match the style well enough from what I remember).

Gothamist did a great interview with him 6 years ago. it’s 5 minutes and he talks about the origin of the foldin.


(5 minutes)

From the article:


When I was a kid I always loved when I could get a hold of a mad magazine.

What a well lived life. The best. RIP.

Yes, may you rest in peace without any worries

That man shaped a major chunk of my mindset, alongside George Carlin. I used to have MAD magazines strewn across my room. I loved the schticks where they mocked various movies, the criticism was almost wholly on-point

RIP Al. I had just bought the latest MAD "The Best of The Worst" a week or so ago, and am now compelled to read it.

We should train LLaMA and DALL-E on the Mad Magazine archives and create AI-Jaffe.

Talk about leaving a mark on the world! But that goes for the entirety of Mad Magazine.

Always loved the stories Dick Debartolo would dig up on 'The Giz Wiz' regarding William Gaines and occasionally Jaffee.

He’s a legend to me. So many good times and laughs reading this magazine as a child. Thank you Al. What, me worry?

But, one could argue that it was truly Jake Tapper who perfected the art.


Alfred E. Neuman will live forever.

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