Al Jaffee's MAD Life: how a traumatized kid from the shtetl became an American satire icon

Originally published at:


Even more formative than the Simpsons for me, MAD and the crew of guys like Jaffee, Elder, and Kurtzman (whose stuff would be recycled into current issues and appeared in collections I’d come across as kid) and those who were contemporary to my childhood like Aragones, Prohias, Don Martin and again Jaffee (what year did he actually stop getting new stuff into the magazine?) prepped me for disillusionment as they beautifully torched each and every holy cow and societal bedrock.

As much as I loved Snappy Answers as a little kid (I can’t remember how many of the paperback collections I bought), I think I got tired of it sooner than a lot of the stuff by the other creators. But I never tired of the backpage fold, and I never stopped appreciating Al. I wish him so much good.

From reading the original article, it seems a pity that this book didn’t cover Jaffee’s life and interaction with the gang at MAD more. Do you have any recommendations for books covering that period?


His inventions were my favorites. I wonder sometimes how many of them eventually were manufactured by someone.


“The Mad World Of William M. Gaines” by Frank Jacobs is fun.


There’s a great interview with Jaffe and Gilbert Gottfried.

Edit: Podcast only on Stitcher Premium, sorry :unamused:


He didn’t. He’s still putting out new material every issue like Sergio Aragones. I would upload a photo of the latest, but can’t find it in my son’s room at the moment.


Wow, what a legend.


Thanks for the recommendation.


Why is the page address RIP-MAD-MAGAZINE? Sure, the mag’s almost gone, but Jaffee ain’t dead yet. Or so says Wikipedia.

TIL that the iconic kid on the MAD mags covers is not only a real person, he’s the wildly talented artist responsible for some of my favorite parody comics.


Loved Mad when it was 12¢ (cheap!). Yet I hate its cousin, Jerry Lewis. JL would make grotesque faces (ostensibly “funny” faces) like those seen in Mad, but Mad was funny and JL was not. Maybe because of JL’s self-congratulation and sentimentality (see Chaplin, Charles). What do you think?

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The interesting thing about Jerry Lewis was that when he applied himself to more than wacky slapstick and madcap humor (which doesn’t really appeal to me either), he could be damn good. I just look at him in Scorsese’s King of Comedy in a semi-serious performance and it’s great.


Re: " the manic source of Jaffee and MAD‘s perpetual adolescent brio"–

See the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, the Ritz Brothers, Olson & Johnson, Max and Dave Fleischer . . . .

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No, there’s a large internet rabbit hole you can descend with various people tracking the images that evolved into Alfred E. Neuman, going back to ads in 1914, and some earlier play where the prototype illustration seems to originate.


I still remember his invention for easily getting the last olive from a tall, skinny jar.

I will always love and admire the whole gang of idiots, especially from the 70s.


I think that only the French love Lewis; and they do so ironically.

A Mad Life was a thoroughly enjoyable read. For me Al Jaffee remains one of the great Yiddish humorists.

A Mad Life is a great short read. Jaffee has had a fascinating life.

And Adam Sandler was likewise tolerable in “Punch Drunk Love”. It is sad that both men didn’t focus on their serious acting rather than their “comedy”.


In the director’s commentary for Serenity, Joss Whedon notes that he likes to cast comedians for dramatic roles that require perfect timing.

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