Book Review: MAD's Greatest Writers: Frank Jacobs

Five decades of smart-aleck satire from a leader of "the usual gang of idiots"

<i>MAD's Greatest Writers: Frank Jacobs</i>

MAD's Greatest Writers: Frank Jacobs

Running Press, 272 pp., $30 Cheap!

A comic book before it became a magazine in 1952, MAD rode eyebrows and earlobes over the competition – action, horror, caped – by rocketing over the heads of 10-year-olds everywhere like quantum physics. If Frank Jacobs' five decades with the satirical rag made him to parody what Stanley Donen was to Hollywood musicals, then that's exactly the problem. What fifth-grader (besides yours, okay, okay) knows Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? In fact, Jacobs rewriting Irving Berlin (who?) in the Mitch Miller (who?) parody "Sing Along With MAD" got the funny guys sued to the tune of millions in a case that went all the way to the New York State Court of Appeals. Did it force us pint-sized reprobates to become more culturally and even politically astute? You betcha, and we're still smarting decades later. Like, for instance, "On a Clear Day You Can See a Funny Girl Sing 'Hello Dolly' Forever" lampoons Barbra Streisand movies (gross), while "Antenna on the Roof" schticks up Zero Mostel (who?) fiddling topside. Snort, cough, hack, sputter. (Mort Drucker the illustrator: genius.) "The Force and I – The 'Star Wars' Musical," that's more like it, except what are these directions for the singing panels? "Sung to the tune of 'My Way,'" "Sung to the tune of 'Maria.'" What, who? The "East Side Story" film send-up stars (Nikita) Khrushchev, (Jawaharlal) Nehru, and (Gamal Abdel) Nasser. Go ahead, Google away – we had to, too. Instead, keep those IQs in check by flipping to "Alfred's Poor Almanac." ("Marco Polo fleeced in Khan game, 1281.") As late as 1996, Jacobs is still at it, his cover story "Meet the Clinstones" riding Hanna-Barbera yuks from the Stone Age. ("From the town of Lil' Rock, and the one in charge is Hil-la-ry.") "Babar's Final Adventure"? An environmental spanking, while "Obituaries for Comic Strip Characters" just plain crosses the line: "[Charlie] Brown, 14, fell on his head while attempting to kick a football." Jacobs, you and your self-described "usual gang of idiots" at MAD can still lead a jackass to water, but by God, you can't make me think!

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Summer reading, Summer Fun 2015, MAD Magazine, satire, Frank Jacobs, Mort Drucker

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