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‘Mad Magazine’ editor Al Feldstein, RIP

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The comedy world just lost a big one: former Mad Magazine editor Al Feldtein, who died Tuesday (4/29) at his ranch in Paradise Valley, CA. He was 88. From the NY Times obit:

Mr. Feldstein had been a writer and illustrator of comic books when he became editor of Mad four years into its life and just a year after it had graduated from comic-book form to a full-fledged magazine.

The founding editor, Harvey Kurtzman, established its well-informed irreverence, but Mr. Feldstein gave Mad its identity as a smart-alecky, sniggering and indisputably clever spitball-shooter of a publication with a scattershot look, dominated by gifted cartoonists of wildly differing styles.

Sources disagree about Mad’s circulation when Mr. Feldstein took over; estimates range from 325,000 to 750,000. But by the early 1960s, he increased it to over a million, and a decade later it had doubled.

He hired many of the writers and artists whose work became Mad trademarks. Among them were Don Martin, whose cartoons featuring bizarre human figures and distinctive sound effects — Katoong! Sklortch! Zazik! — immortalized the eccentric and the screwy; Antonio Prohias, whose “Spy vs. Spy” was a sendup of the international politics of the Cold War; Dave Berg, whose “The Lighter Side of …” made gentle, arch fun of middlebrow behavior; and Mort Drucker, whose caricatures satirized movies like Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” (“Henna and Her Sickos” in Mad’s retelling).

Al Feldstein taught many of us the delights of snappy answers to stupid questions (among other things), even if our parents hated that we “wasted” our money on Mad. Rest in peace, Al.

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