Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Usual Gang of Idiots - A Review

I don't know where or how I saw my first Mad Magazine, but I have a pretty good guess:

My fraternal cousins were several years my senior (actually, they were my, like, grand-cousins or something, since they are my dad's cousins; there was like a 13-year difference between my grandmother and my great aunt) and they used to spend their summers at their grandmother's, who was my great-grandmother. I am pretty sure the collection of Mad Magazines from the '60s and '70s were their hand-me-downs.

However it happened, I was addicted to Mad from a very early age - probably around 6-7. One of my most vivid memories is when my 7th-grade homeroom teacher took a new copy of it from me. Later that year, she paddled me for not being where I was supposed to be or something, but mentioned that I had been reading Mad and it was "a dirty, stupid thing."

While I'm sure the usual gang of idiots would be pleased with that country bitch's assessment, I'm the one who took the beating, so yesterday was the first Mad Magazine I've picked-up since then. (Actually, I hate to credit a redneck mow-ron for such an influence in my life; the truth was that I'd moved-on to Dragon, Uncanny X-Men, and more "serious" fare.)

I had to be an hour away for an MRI yesterday and it caught me by surprise. I always bring something with me to read and I just got caught-short. So, when my mom had to stop by Kroger, I looked and looked for a Wizard or... something, but found none - nothing! - and then I saw Alfred E. Neuman's face and thought, "What, me worry?"

At $4.99, Mad Magazine is no longer "cheap." But what could I do? So I thumbed it a bit, saw the 30 Rock satire and started not to bother with it. Then I saw the Dexter satire and decided to grab it. In case you weren't with us back when the blog was split, I reviewed Drecch-ster when it premiered and have never watched it since.

I spent the rest of the trip reading through it and I hate to say, I was less than impressed.

The usual gang of idiots are still in top-form when it comes to the artwork, but the writing is nowhere near what it used to be. Even past that, many of the old columns have been taken over by newer talent and they aren't as good. In particular, Spy vs. Spy is now painted and isn't very clever. The painting really takes away from the effect, so even if it was as good as it used to be, it would be hard to tell.

The newer features have the slight smell of Onion, though nowhere near as clever. Well, maybe "clever" is not the right word, because The Onion is seldom truly clever; maybe not as satirical or biting is the best way to put it? While Mad Magazine is nowhere near as edgy as it used to be, I don't think comparing it to The Onion is necessarily fair. While the latter obviously takes a lot of cues from the usual gang of idiots, the two actually lay at opposite ends of the spectrum.

But while Mad's quality has definitely suffered, the Mad sense of humor is still there and it shines through often enough that it's still a valid comedic outlet for the younger set. It's generally hard to critique satirical works because it's difficult to separate them from the source material, but when you talk satire, Mad Magazine has to be included. While the satires are still good enough to warrant a $3.99 cover price, $4.99 is not "cheap."

And if you're over about 15, it isn't worth it.

©Copyright 2008, C Harris Lynn

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