Interview: Al Jaffee [unabridged]

By DAN MAZUR  |  November 18, 2010

I loved his drawings in Two-Fisted Tales and — I did too. His "Hey Look" feature was wonderful. There's a book of "Hey Look," I think Denis Kitchen put it out. Harvey was a giant — he died too young, and I miss him.

Once you went back to Mad, was there a time that you realized it was really a big deal, the humor magazine, and was reaching — how long did it take to sort of get that feeling that it was really clicking, going beyond what it was? Well as I said about Al Feldstein, he was an artist and he was a writer. He was top-notch writer for the EC line of comic books, regardless of what it was, he could write anything. He wasn't strong on humor but he was very good on, whether it was westerns or fantasy, or EC crime or whatever. The greatest success of course was the horror comics, which almost sank the comic book industry. But Feldstein was an excellent writer when he took over Mad. He could recognize good writing. He himself probably couldn't write satirical humorous pieces —

But he got it. He got the humor, he knew what to buy. And he hired good people. And he produced a successful magazine. The circulation that he took over from Harvey, I think, was in the several hundred thousands, and Feldstein brought it up to two and a half million, which is quite an accomplishment. He was adept also at business meetings, making suggestions about distribution and things like that. So Al Feldstein was there during the very lucrative period of the magazine's life. The magazine is different now. Because circulation is down — because circulation is down in everything's that printed on paper. The New Yorker is down, everything is down. You've got the Internet and you've got to deal with it. You've also got things like e-books. The Internet is a powerhouse.

Well when I was a kid in the '60s, it was the counterculture for preteens. It was an iconic magazine. Playboy had its audience and National Geographic, and Mad was really it, for irreverent humor for kids. And older, teens, colleges. I'll tell you an anecdote that fits in exactly with what you're saying. One of my neighbors was a professor at a very prestigious college. I don't know of it was Yale or Harvard, it was so long ago. He awed me because I just felt he was such a brain, I was not in his league. But I loved talking to him and I loved telling him things, and he would ask questions. We'd meet on the lawn or sometimes at his house. And so when I got with Mad, I was very excited about it. I went to him and he said, I'm glad that you're with them, because I think that you'll fit in. And I felt very good about that.

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    Al Jaffee has been a Mad man for 55 years, practically since the beginning.
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