Sunday Mailbag

October 24th, 2010 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I am a longtime fan of MAD Magazine and my favorite parts of each issue are the movie and TV parodies. I hope you’ll forgive me but I have several questions about that. I know you have been doing both types for a long time… which is your favorite to work on, a movie or a TV show, and why? Do you like doing parodies more of shows you love or hate? Finally, are we ever going to see MAD return to having at least one parody in every issue? They used to always have one movie and one TV show spoof in each issue, but in the last several years they have often had none. Why?

A: Great questions. I also loved the movie and TV parodies in MAD and that was always the thing I most wanted to do for them. When I first started drawing for them it seemed like ages before I got assigned one by the editors but actually I had only done three print jobs before I got my first parody, which was “Malcontent in the Muddle” (Malcolm in the Middle) in MAD #403. Since then I have done a total of 24 TV show parodies and 18 movie parodies. I am only counting actual parodies of films or shows, not mash-ups like “The Wizard of O” or “America’s Next Top Mobster” and a few others that really don’t fit the bill as a classic MAD parody.

Which is your favorite to work on, a movie or a TV show, and why?

I love doing them both and it’s close but I like doing movie parodies a little better than TV parodies. The main reason is the time involved in the research end of things. A movie is at the longest about 3 hours and self contained. You have seen and know all there is to know about a movie in that time. TV shows are different. They are often an ongoing storyline with continually evolving characters, and in order to get familiar enough with the source material I usually have to watch many hours of a show and sometimes consult friends who are fans of the program for insider info that only someone who has watched the majority of the episodes would get. It’s those kinds of details that make a TV show parody really effective for those who are fans of the shows… making fun of the little things. Plus if I really dislike the show I am stuck watching hours of something I don’t want to watch. If I don’t like a particular movie the pain is over in only a few hours… plus there is popcorn.

Do you like doing parodies more of shows you love or hate?

This might be the most asked question I get from MAD fans other than “Do you think Bill Gaines is spinning in his grave now that MAD takes advertising?” (BTW, the answer to that question is “No… Gaines was cremated.”) The answer is yes. Having some strong reaction to the source material gives me an interest in the work that fuels everything. If I love the show or film, making light of it is fun… if I hate it then I take evil delight in skewering it into oblivion. It’s indifference that is the hardest to get motivated by.

Are we ever going to see MAD return to having at least one parody in every issue? They used to always have one movie and one TV show spoof in each issue, but in the last several years they have often had none. Why?

I’m afraid that is a question for MAD‘s editorial staff. They decide what is in the magazine. Certainly in the last 5 years parodies have become not only less frequent but shorter… It used to be rare to see one that was less than 5 pages but now they are often only 4. I think in the case of movies it’s a timing and logistics issue… you can read this past post I wrote on the subject, but in a nutshell today’s films come and go from theaters so fast that they are half way to DVD before MAD can get a parody written, edited, drawn and in print. In the 60s, 70s, 80s and some of the 90’s movies would play for 9 months in theaters as they opened in big cities first and then gradually trickled down into small town America. Now they open simultaneously in New York City, NY and Pork Rind, Texas on 3,500 screens and even the most popular blockbusters are done in 6 weeks. Most don’t last a month. They are yesterday’s news by the time a MAD parody hits the stands. TV shows are less timely, and can run almost anytime of the year… why there are not as many as their used to be is a mystery to me. I doubt we will ever see a return to the opening and closing of an issue with a movie and TV parody.

The good news is I am right now working on a 6 page movie parody for MAD #507!

Thanks to Grant Jonen for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar,¬¨‚Će-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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