“Mad” is one of the greatest contributors, for better or worse, to my sense of humor today.Like many children of our generation, I grew up reading the magazine, starting even before I understood half of the jokes it made. My father was also a long-time reader, so we had issues dating back 30 years out in the garage that I was able to look back to. My best guess is that I have read every issue we own – at least five times.So, like every fan of “Mad,” I started to get the feeling that the magazine was headed downhill. This started when I was pretty young, and it wasn’t long before I realized that the magazine had descended into a collection of needlessly crude humor, without the edge that it had possessed before.Also, around the time I was getting old enough to understand it, a lot of the “usual gang of idiots” was being replaced, and readers had to settle for a quickly diminishing quality. Great artists like Don Martin and Mort Drucker were replaced by merely good artists like Duck Edwing and Sam Viviano. Publisher Bill Gaines died and all in all the magazine was on a dead-end course. My father even cancelled our subscription when I was in the fifth or sixth grade.But the call of “Mad” was strong, and we couldn’t resist the temptation of picking up the occasional issue. Every couple of trips to Barnes & Noble or Fred Meyer would end up with a copy being placed in our basket, in the hope that things would get better. It was, unfortunately, fruitless.At least, until about two years ago. After those disappointing years, a new batch of artists and writers appeared, “Mad” cut its ties with movies and TV and brought in some fresh minds to the editorial ranks.And behold, “Mad” was funny again. The last two or three years have seen the return of humor, and while a changed style reflects the different generation of “Mad” readers – who have always been either adolescent or been attempting to stay that way. Nonetheless, those who turned away and have not rediscovered the magazine will be surprised to see that, despite its new tone, the magazine is nearly as funny as in its heyday. Sarcasm and irony are indeed not dead.Mad About the Oscars”Mad” recently released a new book in its line of rehashing old material, as it has done, and made fun of itself for doing, since it was in its infancy. “Mad About the Oscars” looks back at 50 years of movie parodies, the satiric device that has been the cornerstone of the magazine since the early 60s. As the magazine solidifies its return to the top of comic literature, it’s a particularly good look back at what made the publication famous.All 38 of the movies parodied in this collection were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and many of them won. The satires have done a good job of pointing out is that even the best films don’t make sense half of the time, and that much of our enjoyment comes from noting the gaps in logic, the contrasts between characters and the stars who play them and so on.The collection was well chosen, and it does a good job of picking not only the best movies, but the best parodies on them. Among the highlights are Mad’s treatments of “The Godfather,” “The Sting” and “M*A*S*H.”It’s also fun to look back and read some of the treatments that came out before movies became such huge phenomena. “Star Wars,” for example, is treated as the forgettable science fiction that so many early viewers and critics thought it was, and not with any of the legend or mythos that has followed its release.The collection is a little dense for non-readers of the magazine. For fans of any level, however, from life-long readers to occasional newsstand browsers familiar with “Mad’s” style, it makes for a great collection that will certainly be read over and over every time a good but simple laugh is needed.The book is available widely, and is a great bargain at $12.95 for 256 oversized, illustrated pages.Brown can be reached atcbrown@campustimes.org.

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