Page 10 ENTERTAINMENT Saturday, October 26,2002 What me 50? Mad magazine still printing but long in the gap tooth By PHIL KLOER Cox News Service His circulation has plummeted and his influence is a flickering shadow of what it once was, but Alfred E. Neuman is still grinning like an idiot. "Every pop-culture subject that took place in the last 50 years was covered in Mad," says Dr. Samir Husni, head of the magazine-service journalism program at the University of Mississippi (who happens to have a small statue of Neuman in his office). Yes, Mad magazine first came to life in October 1952 and has just published its Golden Anniversary Edition, created by "the usual gang of idiots," as the writers and artists traditionally call themselves. Maybe Neuman is grinning because everywhere the gap-toothed Mad mascot looks on the pop cultural landscape, he sees his children and grandchildren molding a world where attacking the status quo is the status quo, where sarcasm is the coin of the realm. He scans the skewering of commercialism on "The Simpsons," the send-ups on "Saturday Night live," the pith of David Letterman's top-10 list, the wackiness of regular folks on the popular Web site The Onion, and on and on, from the Austin Powers movies to Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. Even the .comics convention of using symbols such as "&$!!" to indicate obscenity was popularized by Mad. "All of them had their breeding ground in Mad magazine," says Husni. Its circulation peaked in 1974 at 2.8 million and is now averaging about 250,000 each month. As has nearly • always been the case, Mad is a maga- zine mainly for youngsters and adolescents getting their first taste of the joys of seeing sacred cows turned into hamburger — its readership is 80 percent male, and their median age is 17. And yet the magazine retains a grip on the imagination and nostalgia of grown-ups. "I still have a pile of Mad magazines from when I was a kid here in the office in a drawer," says Mike Luckovich, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I think most editorial cartoonists can relate their stuff in some way to Mad magazine's influence." Steve McGarry, president of the National Cartoonists Society, agrees. "I can't think of anyone of a certain age who doesn't cite Mad as a career influence," he says. "It pioneered a vein of humor." For kids who accept a world full of "South Park" and "Simpsons" reruns as a given, it's hard to imagine how parody-free the 1950s were. Occasionally an adult like Lenny Bruce or Robert Benchley would comment on the emperor's lack of clothes, but only for other adults. "In the '50s, you didn't have a lot of opportunity to criticize the Norman Rockwell way of life," says Doug Guilford, a Mad collector in Gresham, Ore., who owns alt 423 issues and runs a Mad fan Web site. In October 1952, William M. Gaines and E.G. Publishing brought out a new comic book, priced at 10 cents ("Cheap!") —"Tales Calculated to Drive You Mad," which at first just made fun of other comic books. Soon other pop-cultural landmarks were targeted — the TV show "Dragnet" became "Dragged Net." When Congress pressured the comics in- dustry' to clean up its act in the mid- '50s (violent comic books and rock 'n' roll went hand in hand as despoilers of youth), Gaines converted Mad to a magazine in 1956. "It was a little anti-everything, kind of like the Beat philosophy, but not so dangerous that it couldn't be marketable," says Guilford. In the '50s, Mad was considered subversive enough that the FBI kept a running file on its content and some of its editors. Gaines, the pub- Judge added to next Idol' By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER Associated Press Writer DETROIT—No need to worry. All of the ingredients that made "American Idol" this summer's television sensation appear to be in place for next year's second installment. Acid-tongued British record producer Simon Cowell is back as a judge, as are singer-dancer Paula Abdul and industry veteran Randy Jackson. Los Angeles-based radio disc jockey Ryan Seacrest will return as host. However, a few tweaks became known Friday as the three judges and Seacrest took time out from judging talent in Detroit. Auditions started Monday. Detroit was the first of seven cities where auditions are being held. Original co-host Brian Dunkleman won't be back, Seacrest said. And the show's producers have added a fourth judge, rapper and radio personality Angie Martinez. Cowell didn't appear lo have missed a step from the first season. When Abdul said, "I fear Simon is rubbing off on me," Cowell cocked his head to the side, stared at her and asked, "You're becoming intelligent?" Cowell also didn't mince words when asked about the auditions he'd seen in Detroit. "Some of the stuff I heard out there simply can't he described as singing. I mean it was terrible," he said. "It < Halloween Dance t .* ^ 4 Homer City American Legion r • Saturday, Oct. 26 \ 10pm ? t "Rebound" > never ceases to amaze me. It's like they're deaf, because what I'm hearing is something very different from what they're hearing." Jackson also wasn't very kind about Detroit's offerings. "We're really just trying to see if there's any 'Mo' left in this town," Jackson said. Texas cocktail waitress Kelly Clarkson was the survivor among 10,000 entrants who thought they had what TONIGHT 10 TO 1 AM Looking Back - oldies - it takes to be pop stars the first time around. Along the way, the Fox series became a summer hit, particularly among young viewers. Clarkson earned a recording contract, and her first single, "A Moment Like This," went to the top of the charts. (On the Net: "American Idol," idol onfox.insn.com) Downtown Indiana Theater 637 Philadelphia St. 724-464-0116 SIGNS: THIS WEEK ONLY FOR HALLOWEEN! Mad's Alfred E. Neuman, still grinning offer all these years. lisher, even wrote a letter of apology to J. Edgar Hoover after Mad published a 1958 game called "Draft Dodger," in which readers were supposed to write Hoover to request "full-fledged draft dodger" identification cards. Mad parodied movies ("The Sound of Music" became "The Sound of Money"), national leaders ("Goodnight Moon" set in the Clinton White House included "Goodnight, stained dress"), TV; the education system, pop music, sex, sports. ! HALLOWEEN PARTY & MAGIC I Mclntyre Inn SATURDAY, OCT. 26 9:00 - 2:OO DJ and ILLUSIONIST ID Required Christ Our Savior Orthodox Church 6221 Tunoma Road, Indiana TURKEY and HOLUPKI DINNER Sunday, October 27 Noon - 2 p.m. Adults $7, Child 5-12 yr. !$3 Chi id 4 & Under FREE FAST TAKE-OUT LINE PUBLIC WELCOME Fri.. Oct. 25, 9:15 pm; SaL, Oct. 26 & Sun., Oct. 27, 1. 5 8, 9:75 p.m. Won. Oct. 28-Wed. Oct. JO, 9:75 TTiur. 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Co-editor John Ficarra says ad sales were necessary to keep up with the times, to print the magazine in full color on better paper stock. "Mad looked like it was printed in a Third World country in 1959" before the switch, he says. "It's not a black- and-white anymore. "A lot of people thought, oh, mere goes Mad's integrity," he adds. "But we even take on our parent company, AOL Time Warner." He points with pride to an AOL spoof in the current issue, which says the new version of AOL will feature an "anti-pedophile" feature: Users have to click an "I am not a pedophile" button to enter the chat rooms. Ficarra must compete for readers' attention and affection in a far different world from the one in which Gaines launched Mad. "We really don't have any competition in print; we're competing for people's time. Life has been sped up for everyone, and we compete more with a David Letterman." And Mad can't win: If some celebrity does something stupid today, Letterman will joke about it tonight but Mad can't refer to it until its December issue. It's an utterly different world from the one Mad was born into, but it's a world mat was made, in part, by Mad's attitude. "1 could argue that Mad had a lot to do with how advertising has changed," says Ficarra. "There's a lot more humor and irony." Mad's waning influence — a product of its own success — can even he seen in the paltry media coverage of the milestone of its 50th anniversary. And Ficarra even has a typically Mad self-deprecating take on that. "Mad has always thrived on neglect," he notes. Sci Fi film gross, not scary By STEVE MURRAY Cox News Service A time machine figures in "Saint Sinner," a Sci Fi Channel movie based on a story by Clive Barker, airing tonight at 9. No wonder. After one look at Brother Tomas (Greg Serano) and his sculpted torso, you may suspect this monk has been sneaking out of his 19th-centu- ry monastery for some regular 21st-century workouts at Crunch. Actually, the reason Tomas takes a spin on the'Wheel of Time is to travel from the Pacific Northwest of 1815 into modern-day Seattle in pursuit of man-eating she-demons Nun- kar (Mary Mara) and Nakir (Rebecca Harrell). That's his duty because he accidentally unleashed the sisterly succubi from a box in which St. Nicodemus confined them eons ago. Guided hy the holy man's dagger, a sort of spiritual demon- detector, Tomas lands in the custody of police detective Rachel (GinaRavera). Naturally, he manages to gain her trust, and the two hunt for the demonic duo. "Saint Sinner" distinguishes itself not with plot twists but with general ickiness. Case in point: Those succubi are vile. 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