Tag Archives: Mad Magazine

A Biography Calculated to Drive You MAD – An Interview with Bill Schelly

In 2015 Bill Schelly completed HARVEY KURTZMAN: The Man Who Created MAD And Revolutionized Humor In America a book which he spent four years writing. Harvey Kurtzman may not be a household name, but his creations certainly are, and Schelly outlines their importance as such:

[MAD created] satire of popular culture figures, political figures, products, the consumerism that was rampant after [WWII]. Everybody had to have their new toasters or cars with fins or whatever. Satires of consumerism is one of the major things that MAD did, of course this was picked up by Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons and everything else. Harvey Kurtzman’s influence in humor is incredibly important… Think about it like this, here you are, some kid in a little town in the south. Yet, a magazine that’s really subversive can reach you at your little corner store, and every kid can get this for ten cents. It slipped completely under the radar and was available for purchase to a million people, every issue. It’s quite an interesting way of getting underneath the repressive forces of society.

We recently spoke to Bill Schelly about the journey of chronicling Harvey Kurtzman’s life and massive catalogue of work.

Kurtzman and Bill

What in your personal life brought to you Harvey Kurtzman prior to writing the biography?

I’m a baby boomer that grew up in 60s, so I’m an old guy that was exposed to MAD coming after Harvey Kurtzman had left. But in the early 60s they were reprinting a lot of his issues in the MAD paperbacks. A lot of those paperbacks were brought home by my brother and then by me, so I was reading comics created by Kurtzman and his collaborators when I was a kid. As I got older, I started reading Little Annie Fanny in Playboy; when you’re going through puberty it’s particularly… interesting. As I got older, and seriously interested in comics, I started reading some of his actual issues of MAD that I got my hands on, and his more serious work in war comics.

As you note in the book, they took Harvey Kurtzman’s name out of the reprints in the paperbacks. Did you seek out his work specifically, or did you notice a theme in what you enjoyed through life and in his work?

I got involved in the early stages of Comics fandom in the 60s and people were researching who did the old comics; many of them weren’t signed. I found out that Kurtzman had done those MAD paperbacks that I so enjoyed. I started connecting the dots between that and Little Annie Fanny and his other works. Suddenly, I realized this guy had done tremendous work that I really loved and was superior to others around him, so I realized this was a pretty remarkable person and started seeking out more of his work.

Continue reading A Biography Calculated to Drive You MAD – An Interview with Bill Schelly

Crowdfunded Comedy: Reviving Print Humor with The American Bystander

The Annual wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for crowdfunding, so we aim to boost up other comedic projects whenever possible.

 The American Bystander is a new humor magazine that came to publication following a successful Kickstarter campaign last November. They’re just about finished with the second issue and need your help to bring it to print. Last week we spoke to Michael Gerber, a founder and publisher of The American Bystander.

In your publisher’s letter from Issue 1 of The American Bystander you wrote “It isn’t even really a magazine. This is willfully re-launching the Titanic, knowing full well it will sink…” Do you still feel this way going into issue two?

Well, it’s funny because people have asked about that. I was partly trying to play against type because those letters are like the statement of principles in Citizen Kane. A guy sits down and scrawls the way that they’re going to change the world, and I really felt like that was not the right mindset to be going into this with. The first thing that you should know about me is that I’ve been trying to do a magazine like this since I was 22 years old and I’m 46 now. I’ve seen them come and go and I know a lot about how The [National] Lampoon worked.

Maybe five years ago, I heard from a friend of a friend that Rob Hoffman, one of the three people who founded The National Lampoon, was very ill and was probably going to die. So I called him up out of the blue, he didn’t know me from anybody, and I called him up and said “Mr. Hoffman, I just want to thank you because nobody knows that you were the person who put together the money, put together the deal, worked with Matty [Simmons] to get it all set up so Henry [Beard] and Doug [Kenney] could do their work. Nobody knows how important you were” The difference between The Lampoon and every other humor magazine before and since has been someone like Rob Hoffman at the front.

I’m no Rob Hoffman but I guess I wanted to say in that letter that we want this to turn into whatever our readers want it to turn into. If that means that it’s a grand success and has a lot of money to spend and heralds in a new golden age of this material, great! If it turns out to be just one issue or two issues, that’s okay, too. Because we’re really just following what the audience seems to want.

Issue #1 of The American Bystander
Issue #1 of The American Bystander

The typical way that people do this is they come up with a business plan and a way of repeating what the Lampoon guys did, which is pump it up into something huge and sell out after five years or whatever, and walk away never having to work again. That’s a very contemporary way of looking at things; “I’m going to start a humor magazine so I can get rich.” That’s not how Punch was started; that’s not how Mad Magazine was started. For anything that lasts over a decade you have to have a different kind of attitude. So I was poking fun at that vain, glorious situation. But I was also trying to check myself to sort of say “the point of this isn’t in five years to have The American Bystander’s version of Animal House. The point is to follow our staffers and say what do you want to do? What’s interesting and challenging? What does the world need? Not what can we sell for a big pay day.” We know what that is and we know it’s what already exists out there. It’s the lowest common-denominator stuff. By saying that, I want to say to us on a managing side and to the contributors: Look, we don’t expect to walk away millionaires from this. We expect to make beautiful stuff and that’s what we expect from you. And that’s what we expect from our readers too. We want them to enjoy it on that level, not be perceived as something we’re selling to advertisers. Their attention and their eyeballs. That’s very different than a corporate magazine or a corporate website, and I want to start out with that idea.

Continue reading Crowdfunded Comedy: Reviving Print Humor with The American Bystander

Look who’s reading The Annual now…

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UN delegates, Camille from France, Victor and Greg from Australia, Phil and Nick from England, and Kathleen from Canada enjoy The Annual on the floor of the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization building in Geneva, Switzerland. It’s reported than an unnamed member of the group started reading it at one especially boring part of the day’s meetings and caught himself almost laughing out loud so he had to put it down.

Whether you’re a UN delegate or normal citizen of any country you can order your copy of The Annual on the other side of this link!

We’d also like to instate what is being called the Mad Magazine Challenge (named as such because Mad did it first): Send us a picture of yourself, and a celebrity (of any level) enjoying The Annual and we’ll give you a free subscription and print it in an upcoming issue.

Send your submissions to theannualcontact@gmail.com