Afred E. NeumanWhen The Baby Boomer World Was Mad

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it became the most flattered publication of the 1950s with wannabes like Crack, Sick, and Crazy – just the tip of the parody iceberg.

Beginning as a comic book and then converting to magazine form in 1955, Mad fed the underground discontent of rebellious youth, leftists, beatniks, artists and intellectuals, which set the stage for the tumultuous 1960s.

Everything and everyone was grist for the mill, even itself. Mad Magazine coverFew television shows, movies, politicians, advertising, or pop culture trends escaped Mad’s guillotine.The more mainstream, the sharper the cut.

Just how important was it? A prominent comics historian anointed the magazine as the medium’s top series ever: “At the height of its influence Mad was The Simpsons, The Daily Show and The Onion combined.”

Baby boomers cut their critical teeth on its pages.

Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam said “Mad became the Bible for me and my whole generation.”

Roger Ebert “learned Mad Magazine coverto be a movie critic” by reading it.

Activist Tom Hayden believed that his “own radical journey began” with the magazine.

No less a literati than Joyce Carol Oates called it “wonderfully inventive, irresistibly irreverent and intermittently ingenious American.”

Rocker Patti Smith was more to the point: “After Mad, drugs were nothing.”

Mad became less relevant as the 1960s progressed and rebellion became commonplace. For its first ten years, the pop culture iconoclast had the world virtually to itself.

Until 2001, when it accepted advertising to stay competitive, Mad was the most successful American magazine to publish ad-free. It still survives today, lambasting with the same non-partisan vigor.

Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.

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