Interview: Al Jaffee [unabridged]

By DAN MAZUR  |  November 18, 2010

That was one of the things that I remember about Mad, when I was about eight years old, and someone showed me a copy and I looked through it, and when I realized that even the ads in the magazine were part of the joke, I was in heaven. It was like, everything in this magazine is for me. That's good. That's good. It makes me feel good, because that's what we were trying to do. Not in a ham-fisted way. A lot of the copies of Mad that came out, and even today some of the things that are in Mad. I like it when it's subtle. For example, Harvey Kurtzman he did most of the ads in the early days. He did one called the Breck Girl. The series of ads for Breck shampoo were always beautiful blonde girls with hair cascading down and the glowing text about this wonderful beautiful thing. And Harvey took a character out of Al Capp's Li'l Abner, the bearded guy — he's covered with hair. Anyway, here's this guy with all this blonde hair, and the ad is straight all the way through, but instead of a beautiful girl it's this ugly sonfobitch guy with too much hair and too much beard. And it's a very simple statement , it doesn't say look how were making fun of the Breck Girl. Here's the Vreck guy, no it didn't do anything like that.

You don't have to do much to make fun of most ads. No, it took the tag line, whatever it was, "Beautiful hair," I think it said. But you can't do that today anymore, because what I think Harvey started, these visual things making fun of advertising and television commercials and everything else that was around at the time, caught on to such an extent that Saturday Night Live came into existence and started doing the same stuff.

National Lampoon. The Onion. Have you ever seen TheOnion? Yeah, I was interviewed by a guy from TheOnion the other day.

Jon Stewart? I got a call from the Daily Show, they asked me if I would contribute a fold-in to their book, America. I said I'd be happy to. When I finished the fold-in, I called up the producer who'd contacted me. And I said, "I've finished the fold-in, where shall I send it?", and he said, this really was a great compliment, "Oh please, Mr. Jaffee, could you deliver it in person? The whole crew wants to meet you." And that's where I meant Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart and all the writers. And they told me it was our work in Mad that inspired them, not me in particular, but us generally. They're your age and they said, "Without you guys we wouldn't be here." And I felt very good about that. Stephen Colbert even wrote an introduction for my Tall Tales book. What's happened now of course is that all of you people, the younger generation that grew up on Mad, have taken it a number of steps further. I mean what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are doing, what Saturday Night Live was doing, is far beyond what Mad was.

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