Interview: Al Jaffee [unabridged]

By DAN MAZUR  |  November 18, 2010

Help came later. Kurtzman was now without an income, just as we all were when Humbug folded. This guy, Jim Warren, who had a group of horror magazines, offered to finance a Mad-like magazine called Help. So Harvey took it on and it was in Help that Harvey created Goodman Beaver, and Goodman Beaver was done by Will Elder, who was really one of the stars of the early Mad magazine things. His so-called "chicken fat" is what he called all the little jokes going on all around. Willy, who I've known since he was 12 years old, that's what he loved to do. He loved it. His little irrelevant jokes. Although in Mad he made them relevant, because Harvey would ride herd on him. He'd say, Willy I love these little jokes and all that, but what doe this one have to do with what's going on here? And either Willy would explain it and Harvey'd say okay or he'd say, well I think it's funny and Harvey would say okay. And finally everyone started enjoying them whether they were relevant or not, so Willy went on doing them. So Willy did Goodman Beaver, which is really Candide, this innocent who travels through life being assaulted by everyone and not knowing why, but in the end triumphing. And that gave Harvey the idea of creating Little Annie Fannie for Hefner. So instead of Goodman Beaver, it turned into Little Annie Fannie.

And that was a good living for both of them for decades? Hefner was very good to them. He personally liked the feature. I think there were people at Playboy who weren't crazy about it, but Hefner who himself was a cartoonist and actually went to work for Esquire when he was young, hoping to become a cartoonists at Esquire, and it didn't happen, so he went and created Playboy. I don't think he ever showed any of his cartoons in it, maybe he did but he loved cartooning and he loved cartoonists. So Will Elder and Harvey made a fairly good living out of it for the rest of their days.

I think it's a shame that that's all they did. It is a shame that it ended Harvey's, in my view, creative career, because up to that point, and including Annie Fannie, he did nothing but create new things, and once he settled with Annie Fannie it took up so much of his time he stopped creating new things. There might have been things I didn't know about that he did.

He did some illustration jobs, little features for magazines, I don't know when they came out, I've seen examples of them. They looked like one-shots. I did some one-shots for him, for Esquire, when the editor Harold Hayes, who admired Harvey greatly, they were good friends hired Harvey, I think, on a freelance basis to bring material in to Esquire, and I did a two-page color —

Ad spoofs and that kind of thing? No, I did a two-page story that Harvey suggested to me and I did it. And I also did an illustration, something that illustrated a story about Elaine's restaurant. I did a couple things like that. But I think Harvey was kind of not being used to his ultimate usefulness. I mean, Harvey is a guy who should be creating things, inventing new magazines, inventing new ways to do magazines, inventing new comic strips.

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