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Book Giveaway: Totally MAD — 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity

First off, please forgive this tardy, hurricane-delayed post; here in Jersey there’s still no power, forcing me, appropriately enough, to type these words at our town library, which has become a kind of community shelter the last few days.

I really meant to run this giveaway back on October 30 because that was the pub date for this gorgeous, oversized collection of the best of MAD Magazine over the past six decades. As a fan/reader of MAD since I was about eight, I was already pretty excited about this book. Then, lo and behold, I realized it was quite possibly the media literacy title of the year. Hyperbole? Not at all. In fact, a strong case can be made that this volume is a unique teaching tool when it comes to teens and media literacy — the kind where learning occurs despite, or maybe because of, the fact that it is completely invisible. Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since that’s the role, of unofficial media mentor, that the magazine has been serving in terms of youth since the 1950’s.

So here, as I see them, are Totally MAD‘s chief merits as a MLE text:

1) It covers a wide array of media. Print media quasi-propaganda such as Army recruiting posters become targets of satire as do TV political ads (the screen shots from a 2004 Bush spot that goes negative on “Jesus of Nazareth” are priceless). And of course movies, comics, pop music, and other media products are skewered knowingly throughout.

2) Its approach is historical. Want to show teens what advertising looked like in the 1960’s, with its distinctive fonts and design sensibilities? Just turn to that section of this chronologically-ordered archive. In this way, the book becomes a visual literacy resource for anyone interested in the evolution of style.

3) The satirical content models and critiques. For example, an ad for the “KFC Triple By-Pass” perfectly emulates what such an ad would really look like, and can be used to model its typical features (central image, type size for emphasis, persuasive language, etc.)… but it also implicitly critiques those elements by showing how, say, a cheerful tone can be used to promote even patently unhealthy consumer items.

4) It’s engaging. That’s obvious, I guess. But if you’ve ever seen young people struggle to deconstruct media content that they’ve enjoyed on its face value, here’s an easy way to present similar content. Moreover, often the media products being spoofed are, by no accident, the same ones that appeal to the magazine’s target demo; that means there’s the opportunity to practice critical literacy since young people can discover how media producers use particular elements to grab and hold their attention.

Of course the content itself is often brilliant — everyone from Jack Davis and Peter Kuper to Evan Dorkin and E.A. Poe are contributors — but that almost goes without saying. So if you’re interested in owning a copy at this point, thanks to Time Home Entertainment CTP has a couple to give away…

Giveaway Rules

  1. You must have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address to which the book can be shipped.
  2. Leave a thoughtful comment on any post, including this one, that is tagged with “media literacy” (just click on the corresponding category link above for a full list). If leaving a comment here, just name one thing you learned by reading MAD Magazine.
  3. “@” me on Twitter with the hashtags #Mad and #ConnectThePop in the tweet to let me know you’ve done this, and the date of the post where you left the comment. (I’m @Peter_Gutierrez.)
  4. Everyone who does these two things between now and 12:01 am ET on November 6 will be entered into the drawing.
  5. If you don’t have a Twitter account, just have a friend or colleague tweet on your behalf, letting me know which date and comment is associated with the tweet—but of course since the book might be sent to him/her (see #6 below), you’ll have to work it out from there. (Or just start your own Twitter account in a couple of minutes, and close it when this giveaway is over.)
  6. I’ll notify you on Twitter, not here, if you’ve won, and if you don’t respond within 48 hours, I’ll just draw another name. If you’re a winner, you’ll simply DM me your mailing address, and we’ll be all set. Thanks!
About Peter Gutierrez


  1. When the madmen become the most sage, the insanity of the world is brought into focus. Before The Onion, Daily Show, and the modern renaissance of American satire, there was this funny little book being crafted in New York by a group of misfit philosophers and comedians.

  2. Oh man, one thing I learned from Mad Magazine… Only one thing? Geez, I have to narrow it down… Okay, I think the *best* thing I learned from Mad is that there are no sacred cows — anything can and should be taken down from its pedestal.

  3. I’d never really thought about Mad in terms of media literacy, but the argument there is more than ample. Upon reflection, Mad provided me not only a snapshot of what movies/shows/etc were popular (particularly useful when I didn’t see all that many movies) but it’s often acerbic commentary on them let me look at even my favorites with a more critical eye. I particularly recall the “Temple of Doom” parody where Spielberg and Lucas make an appearance noting how that if they added enough action sequences then audiences wouldn’t notice that there wasn’t much of a plot. And indeed, I hadn’t really considered the plot of the movie — or what passed for one — before then. By picking apart and highlighting the problems through their parodies, I was able to recognize similar flaws in other works once I knew to look for them.

    Fascinating notion. Thanks for recontextualizing the magazine for me!

  4. Joshua S. Fields says

    I used to think my dad had the worst sense of humor (so does everyone’s dad, I assume). I started reading Mad Magazine when I was 6 or 7 (!). As I got a little older, I finally realized why Mad was in the house for me to read, and where exactly that “terrible” humor came from. Thanks, Dad.

  5. John Cooper says

    I learned from reading MAD that you could transcend superficial cultural differences and be funny and interesting without using any words at all—thanks, Antonio Prohías of Spy vs. Spy!

  6. Benjamin Garcia says

    Hi, I buy my first Mad in 1964, I was 12 years old, I barely understand english and I live then in Guadalajara, Mexico and I was attracted first for the drawings, you know spy vs spy, sergio aragones, don martin, almost anything in the magazine, it forces me to learn the language in a different and irreverent mode. Since then, I enjoy every copy I can have. Help me big time in understand funny side of America, God bless Mad!

  7. mrx aka white spy says

    Every good cop needs a bad cop. And, via the foldouts: objects may be different than they appear. Also unrelated: my dad told me many stories about how this was the mag of his youth and several ways he procured it secretly, which made me want to read it.

  8. I grew up on Mad Magazine. I had 2 older brothers who had little time for their little sister, but devouring Mad every month with them was something we all had in common. Now I’m a high school librarian and Mad remains one of the most popular and well-read magazines we get. This book would be in such high demand we would have to keep it displayed at the desk for in-library use only for months.

  9. I agree with John Platt – no sacred cows! And that it was not only okay, but appropriate to question authority!

  10. Ashley Welling says

    I have actually never read Mad, but I have just had tons of ideas for using it in my classroom. This is awesome! I definitely have ideas churning for my Argument unit.

  11. Adrian Thompson says

    I read Mad magazine a lot as a child. What a great introduction to satire! I learned satire from Mad magazine, and I continue to enjoy and appreciate both to this day!