Interview: Al Jaffee [unabridged]

By DAN MAZUR  |  November 18, 2010

Was he from New York? When I knew him he lived in Queens, he had a lovely wife, she was very serious and very nice and they were a very lovely host and hostess on several occasions my wife and I were there. I just liked him, and he must have favored me, because he was president of the National Cartoonists Society and he was constantly trying to get me to illustrate the newsletter or he'd nominate me for some post, so we had a mutual friendship.

Back to Inferior Man for one second. When DC did "Inferior 5" in the '60s, did anyone say we're taking off from something Al Jaffee did 25 years ago. I think it was a coincidence, no one made the connection. A lot of people — some people, not a lot of people — have made the observation that my "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" was not my invention because Rube Goldberg in 1910 when he did his comic strip Boob McNutt, had a little panel in the right hand corner that was titled "Foolish Questions," but it didn't have any snappy answers in it and I don't even remember it. So if it went into my subconscious so be it. I feel that I created it because of something that happened in my family that gave me the idea and I brought it to Mad.

What was the incident? Well, specifically — and it's in the book — I lived in Long Island and every time there was a heavy storm my antenna would go over and I would have to borrow the extension ladder. And I have a great fear of heights, but I just couldn't afford on my freelance income at the time to hire somebody to take care of it, so you have to do it yourself. So I went up on this ladder, tremulously holding on to every rung, and finally grabbing on to the chimney, wondering if I'm ever going to be able get down, like the cat that goes up and firemen have to be called. So I'm hanging on for dear life and trying to tighten the screws on the belt that holds the antenna up, and I hear footsteps on the ladder behind me coming up, and finally when they stop, my son who I think must have been 10 at the time, says "Where's mom?" And I'm distraught up there and I said, "I have killed her and I'm stuffing her down the chimney," and the steps went back down the ladder, and the kid wouldn't talk to me for quite a while, he was really pissed off. But I thought about it, y'know, and I toyed with it and I know exactly the next one that came to my mind, which was a guy — it must have been that I noticed a dent in my car or something that triggered it — but the picture I had in my head was a guy has crashed into a tree with his automobile — the front is stove in, and he's just standing there, you know, a frozen moment, and some guy walking by, I think with a dog, says, "Have an accident?" and he says, "No thank you — I've already had one." And that's the only one I did. I mean I had one answer. And then I said, y'know, I'd like to submit this as an article but I've got to come up with a few more. And I did come up with four or five more.

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