Here’s another image and story from the Wall of Shame. For infrequent visitors, the Wall of Shame is an area just outside my studio where I have framed prints of some of my artwork signed by some of the subjects I have caricatured in them. Every once and a while someone connected with a show or movie sees the parody in MAD and wants to buy the originals. Part of the purchase price is a promise to get some signatures on an oversized print of the splash page. It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes it does and I’ve got a few of these prints on the Wall of Shame. Each one has a little story.
MAD #450 contained a 5 page parody I did of a CBS TV show called “Two and a Half Men”, starring Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer, among others. It’s about a wild bachelor musician (he writes TV commercial jingles) who takes in his uptight divorced brother and son and hilarity ensues. It’s like the Odd Couple with a kid. The show is very popular and gets great ratings, but since I never watch TV I had not seen it. I TIVOed several episodes and found it was a consistently amusing show. Anyway, I did the art and had fun with it. Even before the issue came out, the show’s producer, Chuck Lorre, got wind of it’s impending skewering in MAD and contacted the offices about getting the original artwork. MAD referred him to me. Here’s the splash page, you can see a bigger version of it in the MAD Art section.
I actually spoke with Chuck (as opposed to his “people”, as they say in show business), and he was very excited about “Two and a Half Men” being in MAD. Another show he had produced, Dharma and Greg, had gotten the MAD treatment a few years back, with Angelo Torres doing the art, and he raved about how cool it was to be in MAD. I believe he bought those originals as well. He has been a big fan of the magazine for a long time. I doubt he knew my work at all, being fairly new to MAD and also being no comparison to Mort Drucker or most of the longtime Usual Gang of Idiots, but regardless he was anxious to own the originals. I had MAD send me a digital file of the text so I could print it out on my archival inkjet and paste it up for him… the art looks so much more like a real MAD piece when it doesn’t have gaping holes and empty word balloons. So I sent him the originals, along with one of the oversized prints of the splash to get some signatures. I think both he and some of the art department folks at MAD mentioned that they thought I really went after Cryer with the art, giving him enormous lips, no chin and in general ripping him up in the caricatures. They all thought that was great, but it was pointed out nonetheless. I confess I may have been extra hard on him as a result of my being occasionally called “Duckie” in college thanks to an alleged resemblance to Cryer in the 1986 film “Pretty in Pink”. Revenge is sweet!
Usually when I ask for something like a signed print, I’m lucky to get two or three signatures from the cast. TV shows don’t often feature every character every episode, and these producers and production people are busy. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to get the print back with the signatures of every cast member featured on it. That had never happened before.
I wanted Chuck to sign it too, but he thought it was better to just have the cast. It’s a great addition to the Wall of Shame, but the story doesn’t stop there. Chuck was so enthusiastic about things that, after the issue came out, he had the entire cast take a picture on the set reading the issue and looking appropriately sick to their stomachs, with one of the writers (I think) in an Alfred E. Neuman mask behind them. That appeared in the letters page of a later issue… I don’t recall the number off the top of my head. Finally, in an episode later that season the kid, Jake, is shown reading a copy of MAD while sitting on the couch.
I thought all of that was telling of the impact MAD has had on the today’s generation of comedy writers and producers for TV and other forms of entertainment. To have a big time producer of a hit TV show get that excited about an appearance in MAD demonstrates that it’s influence on current humor creators cannot be overstated. Recent references to MAD in cutting edge comedy shows like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” further underscore that point. I’m proud to be a small part of that tradition, even if it has ruined my reputation.
One further note on “Two and a Half Men”. Longtime MAD and E.C. historian, author of several books on MAD and E.C. Comics and brilliant musician Grant Geissman wrote the theme for that show. I drew him into the parody as well, as a beach bum strumming on a guitar.