The Pixie-ish Al Jaffee
Al Jaffee is a wonder.
If you are lucky enough to meet the man, you’ll see that at 87 he is as sharp as a razor, still has a mischievous twinkle in his eyes and is ever the consummate gentleman.
I met Al only once, at MAD holiday party a few years ago when he was still a little wet behind the ears at only 84. I had the fairly newly published book MAD ART under my arm and intended to accost any and all MAD artists at the party and beg them to sign my book on their particular entries. I approached Al a little timidly as he was deep in conversation with Paul Peter Porges, and anyone who has every been in “deep conversation” with Porges knows it is no small matter. I introduced myself during a lull in the exchange (I think Porges might have fallen off his chair or was similarly distracted), expecting an accommodating smile, a scribbled signature and perhaps a little small talk to be polite to a fellow MAD freelancer about 1,000 rungs farther down the later than he was.
To my surprise he instantly recognized my name, rattled off the names of a few of the jobs I’d done in the last year or two for MAD and told me he loved my work and thought I was a great addition to the magazine! I was thunderstruck, to be honest. He signed my book “To Tom, with Admiration, Al Jaffee”. Wow, that sort of made my decade.
The NY Times ran a big article on Al yesterday, which I heartily recommend reading. Although he’s know for his “Fold In” feature, he has been of far more importance than that for MAD for over forty years. People sometimes forget that he also wrote and illustrated some many hundreds of other articles including “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions”, product parody stuff, Rube Goldberg-esque imaginary inventions and other contributions too numerous to mention and of surprising diversity. Sergio refers to Al as “The guy who can do anything”.
Al Jaffee is nominated for the National Cartoonists Society‘s Reuben award for “Cartoonist of the Year”, and as worthy as the competition is I hope he takes home the gold. He’s been a marvel for a long time, and hope fully for a long time to come.
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