This article is an interesting read about MAD magazine.
I haven't read MAD regularly for many years now - but I'm still a big fan. Reading MAD as a kid led me to watching SNL, which in turn allowed me to appreciate the subtle and sophisticated humor of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I suspect this is true for more than a few nerds out there, but MAD, SNL and Monty Python are the bedrock upon which my sense of humor is built.
A neighbor across the street gave my brother and I some old MAD paperback books, full of shit that amused me enough to seek out more, but also kind of confused me as a lot of the humor was topical to the late '60s and early '70s, when the material was new. Still, instead of using my entire allowance on comic books the next time I went to the grocery store with my Mom, I also sought out and purchased the latest issue of MAD. I remember it so clearly that it took me only a minute or two to find the cover (as pictured above) on this site. Looking over the covers from the late '80s in the archive is like a little trip down memory lane.
Some things, I never really got. I didn't think much of Spy vs. Spy when I was ten, though looking back on it now, I see how great it really was. I've developed a bit more of an appreciation for Don Martin's work, though it still doesn't really do much for me. And even if I convened a panel of experts to figure it out, I still don't think I'll ever understand why they kept publishing Dave Berg's "The Lighter Side of..." for as long as they did. It was never funny to me at the time, and unlike Spy vs. Spy, in retrospect, it's still as awful as ever.
But the movie and TV parodies were always funny. Mort Drucker's spot-on charicatures of pretty much any celebrity you can name still astound me. Al Jaffee's "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" never let me down. And of course, MAD introduced me to the work of Sergio Aragones, who is in my opinion one of the all-time great cartoonists. Of course, presenting the work of all-time great cartoonists has been a specialty of MAD's right from the beginning - Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood are absolute legends in the comics world, based in no small part on the work they did for MAD, way back in the days when it was an acutal comic book, long before the advent of Alfred E. Neuman.
I would pick up the "Super Specials" and the paperback compilations of old material. If I was really desperate for a fix, I would even pick up an issue of "Cracked" now and then, though it was sort of like getting carob when you're really jonesing for some chocolate.
There's not much, now that I'm a decrepit old man, that gives me the same sheer, unadulterated joy as MAD. Nothing else that I loved as a kid still holds the same appeal. Star Wars is tainted by crappy prequels. Star Trek got spun off into oblivion. Even my beloved comic books give me fits, full as they are of super-hero garbage that mostly drives me nuts these days. But I can pick up MAD, even the new, glossy, ad-filled MAD, and be nine years old again for an hour or so. And even though these days it costs more than twice what it did when I was wee, for that kind of return on investment, I'd say their long-time assertion holds true: $3.99 - Cheap!