Interview: Al Jaffee [unabridged]

By DAN MAZUR  |  November 18, 2010

And then very early on, 1960, Bill Gaines decided to take us, as a bonus because Mad was kind of feeling like it's got a winner, he was going to take some money out of Mad and take us on a trip. And it was supposed to be a one-shot I believe, to a place that he loved called Haiti. And he took us on this five-day trip to Haiti, all expenses paid, and we all got to know each other. We got to know the good and the bad, but we became — like the overused phrase — we became like a family. I know it's a cliché, but we really became a family. Because there I was with Don Martin who I'd admired from afar but I didn't even know what he looked like, and Dave Berg and all the rest of them. And a year went by, and that was a one-time bonus, and Bill sensed and heard that we were really all very unhappy and uneasy that we can't do this anymore, so the following year he gave in and said we're going to have another one. And we had 30 after that.

Did you go to other places? After that Bill was locked into it, he couldn't get out. And he loved it too. He took us on an African safari, we went to Hong Kong, Thailand. Traveled up and down the river in Thailand, went to the place in South Africa next to Dutch Guiana — Surinam. And Bill and I and three other guys sailed in a dugout. We're taken in a dugout canoe up the Maroni River to a local village and had an overnight that was set up by the Dutch government with kitchen facilities and stuff like that. Cooks. I mean we had fabulous adventures, went to Paris, went to London, went to Monte Carlo.


Now you have a new collection of the fold-ins in the works. Yeah, fold-ins, there will be a four-volume box set of over 400 fold ins.

So when you started doing the fold-ins, the idea was to do a takeoff of thePlayboy fold-outs? To do a take-off of a number of popular — they called them fold-outs or gatefolds. Playboy did them every issue, but I saw one in Sports Illustrated, National Geographic had them from time to time, and Life magazine. They'd have a big story, y'know, it might be "How the Earth Was Formed," and it'd be a gatefold. They were always in brilliant, beautiful color, on slick paper — suitable for framing. And it occurred to me that the only way for cheap old Mad to go was to do a cheap, black-and-white fold-in.

And naturally, the next thought was that it would create a new picture within the picture? It's just the mechanics of the thing. They had no trickery in their fold-outs, it just folded out and had a big scene. And I thought to myself, well mine's a fold-in, so now it's folded in and I've got to have something on the left side here, and something right side here. And the only thing that popped into my head was that Elizabeth Taylor had just dumped Eddie Fisher and was carrying on with Richard Burton. So I had Elizabeth Taylor kissing Richard Burton, and a cop is holding the crowd back — and just for the fun of it I put Eddie Fisher being trampled by the crowd. What a cruel thing to do! And then, when you fold it in, she's moving on from Richard Burton and kissing the next guy in the crowd. It's so simplistic and silly and juvenile! And anyone could have done that!

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