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THE 500TH ISSUE OF MAD

Mad500printid By mid-May, the 500th issue of Mad, the last monthly issue after 57 continuous years of monthly publication, was on the stands. Understandably perhaps, the 500th issue is more impressed with its being the 500th issue than with its being the last monthly issue: various of its content celebrates 500ths — four pages tightly packed with Sergio Aragones’ favorite 500 minuscule Mad marginals, f’instance; he’s been doing this every month since the early sixties, a record of continual presence in the pages of the manic magazine — but no mention is made of the magazine’s going quarterly with No. 501. It probably happened too fast for the Madmen to know what was happening to them. Virginia Linn at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “the usual gang of suspects” is at fault for the change: bad economy, drop in advertising, changing demographics. “Mad’s circulation peaked at 2 million a year in the early 1970s,” she said, “but the numbers have slipped to about 200,000.”

Mad shifted its sense of humor in the last decade or so, approaching a vulgarity never dreamed of during its birth pangs. “People's taste in humor always changes and we hope Mad has reflected that," says John Ficarra, 53, who has been editor-in-chief since 1984 (he was co-editor with Nick Meglin for much of that time). "We have a lot more political humor, the language has been ramped up," he said. "We always mirror society. There's been a coarsening of society, and things that wouldn't have been printed years ago are in there now." What's really changed, he told Linn, is how people get their humor today: "It's now on the Web, where people are creating humor, 'The Daily Show,' Letterman's Top 10. There's an immediacy in humor that wasn't there when Mad first started." And the Madmaniacs are joining the webworks, working on a new website to update their acerbic satire 24/7.

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