MAD “Fold-In” artist Al Jaffee has been a professional cartoonist for 73 years. Guinness World Records has certified him as the oldest working cartoonist. Sam Thielman of The Guardian recently interviewed Jaffee about his brilliant career.
Was there a particular kind of baloney you were attracted to satirizing?
Well, yes. The world is full of bloviators. And you find them in politics, and even religion, if I may say so, where somebody appoints themselves the spokesman for God. And this kind of stuff, when there’s someone on the public scene who’s really going beyond his duties as a politician or a religious leader or a sportsman, he’s fair game. The main thing about Mad is that it’s not a preachy magazine. It’s not selling one kind of politics or one kind of religion or sports team or anything like that.
The main thing is to keep your eyes and ears open and when you hear something that’s clearly baloney, such as “eight out of 10 doctors smoke Chesterfield cigarettes” – these are ads that actually ran! One of the tobacco companies had the nerve to claim that doctors prefer their cigarettes. So it’s easy to shoot down that kind of bull.
But you do it with a gentle hand, you don’t preach and say “tobacco kills! How can these doctors do that?!” No, you just go them one step further and say, “In addition to eight out of 10 doctors smoking this brand of cigarette, in their time off, they each drink a gallon of bourbon, which also has health benefits.”
You can can let the air out of individual bloviators but they keep cropping back up.
Oh, they do.
They’re very inventive, too, and we have to be inventive to expose them, not to insult them, but simply to take what they say and expand on it to the point of ridicule. It’s enjoyable, and in a way we think it’s kind of a public service. We don’t favor one particular politician over another, we’re just looking for the politician that’s trying to pull the wool over our eyes and just exaggerate what they’re saying and then it speaks for itself.
In 2011, Ruben Bolling and I interviewed Al Jaffee for the Gweek podcast. I was so excited.