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Another Sunday, Another Sermonette: A Reading from The Usual Gang of Idiots - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
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Another Sunday, Another Sermonette: A Reading from The Usual Gang of Idiots
I took an hourish break from You Know What to serve as liturgist at 10 this morning. An otherwise ordinary hour took a turn for the inspirational when Rich called up the only kids in attendance for the childrens' message; they're kids of friends of ours. I could see, from my out-facing seat next to the lectern, what probably nobody else in the building could: the daughter putting down her reading material before coming forward.

It was an issue of MAD magazine.

After the service, I smiled and told her I saw it; she may have felt gotcha'd, because she said it was "horrible" and it was really her brother's.  I felt bad, because I had nothing but admiration for that free a spirit in her father's (and mother's) house.

I haven't read an issue cover-to-cover since college; I see few of their bits on the Internet (Cracked, a cheap MAD substitute growing up, seems to have a bigger online following); and few of the editors or other "gang of idiots" on the staff are still there. The longtime publisher Bill Gaines, and editor Al Feldstein, have both passed away; Feldstein's successor was a guy named Nick Meglin, who I will always remember for giving a favorable review to our high school's literary magazine the year I edited it.  He retired ten years ago.

Still. I find it perfectly appropriate to see that magazine in a pew, complementing the Gospel that really resides in that red leatherbound book I read from once a month.

----

MAD has always prided itself on being subversive, even stretching the bounds of offensiveness from time to time.  It skewers politicians and celebrities of all stripes- the bigger they are (or think they are), the more savage the treatment.  My godparents- a hideously Republican lot who thought Nixon walked on water- got me a gift subscription to it in junior high, one that lasted through my first year of college. Their sons (older than me, the oldest of college age when it started in 1973) thought it was funny; Uncle Gil and Aunt Grace either never read it or didn't "get" it.  But I did, and so did all the kids at school. It wasn't what would later be classed as Farrelly brothers T&A/grossout humor (although the parodies occasionally lowered themselves to that); way more often, we cheered it because it presented intelligent, multilayered attacks on the status quo, the powerful, the havens of the Establishment.

Recognize any alleged Saviors fitting THAT description? (Hint: they don't talk much about Him these days in many of the glorified St. Mansions bearing his name.)

There was a certain Order of Service to each issue: beginning and usually ending with a parody, of a recent film upfront and of a current television series at the back. In between, the Lessons of life, usually making fun of very ordinary things, where the prophets weren't Jeremiah or Ezekiel but Jaffee and Berg. (Dave Berg died in 2002, crossing over to the Lighter Side of Death; Al Jaffee is still on staff, 70 years after arriving at MAD's horror-comic predecessors,and still does the Fold-Ins that have been as Mysterious to readers of his book as the Trinity is to that other book.)

As for sacred music?  God bless them, MAD established the fair use right to make fun of established songs for purposes of parody. To this day, I can remember their 1970s musical knockoffs of everything from Star Trek to Fiddler on the Roof- and there's a legendary shot of the lead actors of the former giving their "what? me worry" approval to an earlier Trek parody effort-



Through it all, a consistent and downright Christian-if-not-labeled-that message: Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't sit quietly while anybody else tries to. Find the extraordinary in ordinary things. Call out hypocrisy whenever you see it. Resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever form they present themselves. (Wait, that's my denomination. Allegedly.)  And for God's sake, LAUGH.

Maybe those kids need a gift subscription. Personally, I'd prefer teaching that to some lame VBS curriculum.
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Comments
warriorsavant From: warriorsavant Date: June 8th, 2015 01:24 am (UTC) (Link)
I haven't read Mad in years, but I agree with everything you said about it. Even back in the "silent" 1950's, it was skewering the Established and Pompous. Unlike later outlets that did so, it did so intelligently, without toilet humour. I loved it.
yesididit From: yesididit Date: June 8th, 2015 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
i loved mad magazine when i was little! it was forbidden awesomeness! mainly because it was my older brothers. he was in his teens, and i was 5 years behind and a little sister at that, so about 25-30 years ago? he bought every mad magazine at the store as soon as it came out. he kept them in a careful pristine stack in his bedroom. and when he wasnt home and i wasnt in danger of getting caught, i'd sneak into his room and read them. knowing that i had to be very careful not to bend the back cover, but still trying to see the fold in message/picture. i was young enough not to know that vs. meant versus. i thought it was spy v s spy. like one was named v and one was named s. ah fond childhood memories. i loved the irreverent humor, still do.
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