“My name is ‘Dawn’. You see, I changed my name. I got rid of some letters and switched some other letters around. So now it’s spelled D-A-W-N.”
“But that is how you spell ‘Dawn’.
“But my name was originally ‘Wanda’”.
That, from the spoof of the 1976 remake of “King Kong” in “Mad” magazine, and I can still remember it as clearly as if it were two or three years ago.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that “Mad” was one of my most powerful childhood influences. Years later, now that I have put aside childhood things and embraced the things of a man, I can still recall whole sections of certain issues, can recite them from memory – more or less. Especially the songs. I still can make myself grin by mentally singing snatches of songs from the “Mad ‘Star Trek’ Musical”, even though when I first read it as a kid, I didn’t know all the songs the numbers was based on. Reading the “Mad” musical spoofs was my introduction to the titles of many popular songs. Long before someone decided to bring “The Lord Of The Rings” to Broadway, long before the Peter Jackson movies, there was the “Mad ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Musical” (“The Ring & I”), featuring the Hobbits singing a song “*sung to the tune of ‘Scarborough Fair’”.
The only copy of “Mad” I still own is the issue featuring the “Mad ‘Star Wars’ Musical” (with a song by Darth Vader”*sung to the tune of ‘My Way’” – “…I have a meal of molten lead on shredded granite / And if depressed I feel, I wipe out a passing planet…”). But I must confess “Star Wars” made me hold on to it, not “Mad”-love. The spoof movie musicals were an occasional treat, but every issue featured a satire of a recently released film, and I always was over the moon about these, whether I’d seen the movie or not.
A dirty secret: I wonder – and fantasize – and worry – what might be the title of the “Mad” magazine spoof of one of my own screenplays. I earnestly believe that a spoof by “Mad” magazine is one of the greatest honors a filmmaker can receive.
It’s safe to say that “Mad” had as much influence on my music taste as it did my other aesthetic sensibilities. I remember, with delight, the occasional insert record that was included in a few of the special issues. These squares of flimsy black vinyl feature comedy songs like “Making Out” (1978) or…the other ones…erm…”Super Spectacular Day”, yes, that was another title. I remember the “Making Out” song particularly because as a little tyke I took pleasure in what seemed to be its hints of naughtiness. I enjoy writing comic songs (see “O Rambunctious Kitty!”) and reading month after month of giggle-inducing songs in “Mad” laid a good groundwork.
And the stickers! I’d almost forgotten the stickers! In the “Mad Special” issues. Stamps for all occasions – I think there might have been lawsuits if those graffitti-mongerers had issued such stickers today (“Remember, yo. Taggin’ is a crime. Taggin’ ain’t cool. Taggin’ ain’t real.” – from an abominable Public Service Announcement I just made up). The Don Martin sound effects stickers, each featuring a different sound effect with suitable illustration by master illustrator Don Martin were my favorite. And I am still searching for opportunities to spruce up my conversation with “sizzafitz!”, “foin-sap!”, and “poit!”.
As “The Onion” has been one of my principal sources for news in adulthood, so was “Mad” my source for political and world news from ages 7 to 12. When someone today mentions Spiro Agnew or Mayor Koch, I remember them not as real life figures, but as recurring characters in “Mad”.
It’s strange how these childhood pleasures have such great influence on our lives. I really do think “Mad” magazine – because it gave me pleasure, and because I had enthusiasm and excitement for each monthly issue – affected me as much as several years of courses in the schools I attended as a kid (and my schools were pretty good).
And so, in conclusion: If any of my work makes you laugh, all credit goes to “Mad”. If not, then you know who to blame.
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