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Why, I Worry There Isn't a Mad Movie

Mad magazine was a pop culture staple, a publication that has parodied everything with a special focus on America, which released its final issue in April 2018 - not an April Fool's Joke! It's not quite as edgy as National Lampoon's was but found a place in the hearts and minds of its readers who not only enjoyed the comedy but took pride in its satirical bite and wit. Saying things without spelling them out and lampooning everyday scenarios as well as popular culture of the day, Mad and Alfred E. Neuman cultivated a subculture of self-confessed reprobates.

The Mad franchise was established enough to release a popular board game where the object of the game was to lose your money. Using classic imagery and comic styling from the magazine, this board game served as a sort of anti-Monopoly employing some similar elements but integrating some suitably Mad reversals. Behaving like a chicken, discriminating against players, sending them to Anywhere or landing them the one note to rule them all - it was an absolute gas. While the board game had its place, the magazine's regular publication and obscured reflection of society Made it a highlight of the month.

Mad Magazine Movie?

This author discovered the loathsome joys of this pulpy magazine in his early teens. Visiting the local CNA or news agent, this magazine was cleverly positioned in the comic book section alongside other favourites such as Archie, Superman and Batman. While it was always fun to find out what Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead were up to in the world of Riverdale, conjuring up a retro Friends atmosphere where Archie's adventures were always at the behest of his crew, Mad magazine presented a different kind of escape.

Poking fun at the very fabric of society in its counter-cultural fashion represented a stick-it-to-the-man attitude that would obviously be attractive to a teenage rebel without a cause. Flipping the bird to authority or kowtowing to the powers that be, it was a proper send up that while newsstand friendly was subversive enough to cause a stir. From "The Light Side of..." to "Spy vs Spy" and that unfolding back page, there were obviously classic comic strips that formed the meat for each magazine with a thematic Mort Drucker tie-in to skewer the pop culture talk of the town.

This ribald sense of humour could get pretty gross but somehow managed to skate a thin line between what's deemed clever without becoming overtly offensive. This comic was intended to provoke but not lose readers in taking a stand or risk making the news for all the wrong reasons. Snide, grotesque and even sexually aware, Mad magazine stopped short of tipping into National Lampoon's terrain making it kinda family-friendly enough to allow mom and pops to let junior keeping buying the filth.

It wasn't limited to dirtbags, but it was generally appreciated as the kind of "contraband" that spoke with a disdain appreciated by those trying to bottle their teenage spirit. In response to the publication's retirement at 67 years, Weird Al Yankovic revealed the mag's influence in this tweet saying "I can’t begin to describe the impact it had on me as a young kid – it’s pretty much the reason I turned out weird.". Being in South Africa, a country that only got television in 1976 and was ruled quite stringently by censorship laws, Mad magazine's counter-cultural fun Made it pure popcorn entertainment with a secret weapon.

Testament to the rag's enduring appeal is Jerry Seinfeld, who achieved all kinds of household name fame thanks to the runaway success of the show, Seinfeld. One of the world's most successful and wealthiest entertainers, Seinfeld who is regarded as a comedy heavyweight with his clean observational style comedy, also happens to be one of the magazine's biggest fans. Why else would he attribute so much pride to being lampooned and making the cover of a Mad magazine?

All of this is to proffer the question why isn't there a Mad movie? There was an attempt to recreate the same success National Lampoon's had with Animal House with a movie called Up the Academy, which didn't really have anything to do with the magazine. However, as Mad publisher Bill Gaines says they actually paid $30,000 to have Mad magazine disassociated with the movie when it was released to television - it was that much of a clanger.

Directed by Robert Downey Sr. who later referred to it as "one of the worst f**king things in history" it did develop a cult following, even starring The Karate Kid himself in Ralph Macchio. Up the Academy was a classic case of no one wanting to take full ownership with several drafts of the script never meeting expectations and many promising scenes hitting the cutting room floor.

"I thought, 'Well, in addition to a Mad movie, there's nothing wrong with having something like Lampoon did with Animal House. Animal House was "Lampoon Presents" and really had nothing to do with the magazine, it was just using their name, and it was a good movie, and it was very successful, and it Made Lampoon a lot of money. I guess. So we were going to do the same thing." The magazine's long-running fan base obviously means it will draw an audience, the pure existence of A Futile and Stupid Gesture (the closest thing to a National Lampoon's magazine film) suggests they could come up a a story... so why the heck not? The biographical angle could warrant it, taking a page from Mort Drucker's life could even serve as a gateway. Now that the magazine has ceased, it just seems like it needs some kind of tribute to continue its legacy, awaken new fans and just poke fun with some self-deprecation in whatever form.