Sunday Mailbag

August 26th, 2007 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: When you do those MAD crowd scenes adding the extra’s with the celebrities- have you used people you meet (your mailman, barber, your kids sport coaches, neighbor etc.) as those extra’s in the crowd? I would think it would be fun to tell/hint to those people “hey check out the new MAD I added you in a scene.”

A: Yes, I often add people I know into the parodies I do.

One of the first and most valuable lessons I learned from the folks at MAD, from Sam Viviano and Nick Meglin in particular, was that I needed to create cohesion in my “art world”. It was very obvious which people I had drawn were ‘real’, meaning caricatures of real people, and which were ‘cartoons’ meaning drawn out of my head and not from a real person as a reference. I needed to get these two extremes closer together. The solution was to base even my background people on real people, or at least use some reference to get away from the generic cartoon face that was appearing in my supporting cast of characters.

So, I started using real people as the basis for my background characters. Usually I just page through a number of head shot model books and take a hairstyle here, a nose there… etc. Every once and a while I will use my family, my neighbors, my friends or other acquaintances for characters. I only do ‘full caricatures’ if they are prominent or have speaking parts, other wise I just draw them in quickly loosely using some references. Here are a few of the more noticeable examples:

Splash from “Trading Places” Parody in MAD #435 Featured:

Neighbors Kim and Craig Gerkin

Neighbors Julie and Don McNeil

Parody of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” from MAD #443 featured:

Friend and illustrator James Hungaski

“Pimp My Ride” parody from MAD #456 featured:

Caricaturist extraordinaire Joe Bluhm

Parody of “Everybody Hates Chris” from MAD #463 featured:

Caricaturist Elgin Bolling and neighbor Allen Glenn. Cosby is neither.

There are many, many more examples. Sometimes I surprise people but usually I tell them it’s coming. I used to sneak people I knew in but if they didn’t notice (which usually was the case) I’d be disappointed. Now I only do it when the mood seizes me, just for fun, and if anyone notices so much the merrier.

Thanks to Chip O’Brien for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. Then of course there’s your own kids in the splash page for Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets’ parody.

  2. Tom says:

    Yes, there are lot’s of other examples.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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