Up the Establishment

When it launched in 1952, there had been nothing like MAD— a comics magazine dedicated to humor and satire aimed at a broad range of targets. Led by creators Harvey Kurtzman and William Gaines, MAD’s cartoonists peeled back familiar and beloved pop-cultural images to expose calculated manipulation of the American populace by newly powerful postwar corporations. MAD’s influence — on television shows such as Laugh-In, The Simpsons, and The Daily Show — is incalculable, but its direct promotion of skepticism across the culture is perhaps even more important. Today’s opening of the exhibition, “What, Me Worry? 60 Years of MAD,” traces the history of the magazine from its origin as a black-and-white comic to its present form as a full-color bi-monthly magazine. The show features work by “The Usual Gang of Idiots,” including the caricatures of Mort Drucker and Sam Viviano, the marginal cartoons of Sergio Aragones, classic early contributions from Will Elder and John Severin, the absurdly exaggerated characters of Don Martin, fold-ins by Al Jaffee, Spy vs. Spy strips by Antonio Prohias, and more recent work by Evan Dorkin and Ted Rall. Programming associated with the show has yet to be fully announced, but we’re told there will be stand-up comedy events and appearances by MADartists to come. Maybe we’ll find out what’s behind the enigmatic smile of the 20th century’s Mona Lisa, Alfred E. Neuman.
Tuesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m. Starts: April 21. Continues through Sept. 16, 2012

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