Interview: Al Jaffee [unabridged]

By DAN MAZUR  |  November 18, 2010

But not long after — I think that's when I did the Ben Hogan thing — then Harvey quit and I was no longer with Mad. And time went by and I'm now with Trump and so I brought the first issue of Trump over to show my neighbor. I said, look here's the magazine we're going to do now and it's going to compete with Mad. And he looked it over, and he had read Mad because it was very popular at his college. And he looked it over and he said, you want me to tell you my true feelings? And I said yes. And he said, I don't think you're going to compete with Mad. I don't know if this is going to make it or not, but Mad has the quality of irreverence — it feels irreverent, it looks irreverent. This looks like too much quality. It looks like it's in an upper range, but Mad's lower range is where it's at in my view.

And he turned out to be right on the money. As I said before, I don't know if it was the 50 cents or the slick color. Oh by the way, Hefner super-edited everything that went into Trump so it can't be called a Harvey Kurtzman magazine. So that might have also added to it. In any case, Mad succeeded afterwards beyond its wildest dreams and Trump disappeared. So somebody was right in saying it out-fancied itself. The appeal was its low-down, irreverent, in-the-gutter feeling, not some fancy.

Definitely for kids, that sort of humor always works for kids. That's why I loved the Warner Bros. cartoons, Bugs Bunny — much funnier than the Disney cartoons. I worry about Mad today, not so much for me, because in six months I'm going to be 90 years old so I've stopped worrying about working. But I worry about all my friends with Mad whom I really dearly love. I've worked with them for such a long time, and they're just a great bunch of people. Unfortunately, half of them had to be let go because of the recession and the austerity.

During the heyday of Mad was there a lot of camaraderie among that crew, were people working together and making each other laugh? That's a very interesting question, because it was asked of me in a telephone interview a couple of weeks ago, and I had to give this answer: everything in Mad, every creative piece, whether written or drawn, is done freelance. The only salaried staff there are the editors and the production. So none of us would ever have gotten to know each other. Sure we had a Christmas party once a year and shook hands and then went our way, but really didn't get to know each other.

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