Humor Mags #1: Beware of MAD, Cracked and Crazy

I recently dug up all my old MAD, Cracked, and Crazy magazines from my childhood and spent a few wonderful hours in nostalgic 1970s bliss. The artwork was better than I remembered, and the gags weren't too shabby either. But what really struck me was that my innocent childhood magazines WERE NOT FOR KIDS!

Or at least these magazine publishers were terribly confused at who their target readers were. For instance, their covers often appealed to a young audience (example: a Star Wars or Mork & Mindy cover); however, the pages on the inside often targeted a very different age group...

The panel above is from MAD in a segment called "Clean Ads for Dirty Movies" - the gag basically is about how to disguise porno movies to appear like respectable films to avoid censorship. Click on the image above to enlarge and read the small print. It actually mentions porn actress Linda Lovelace, there's a direct mention of Deep Throat, and this wonderful quote: "You'll see tricks that will make your eyes pop... among other things!"

Are you kidding me? I read this when I was seven! I think I was too young to get a single joke on this page.

And how about Dave Berg's "Lighter Side of.."? Berg's comic strip unashamedly featured adult themes on a regular basis with gags about drinking, drugs and, most commonly, sex.

The "Lighter Side of..." strip above centers around birth control. I point this out not in judgement, but rather in surprise at how adult MAD was back in the '70s and how incredibly clueless I was to this fact. I had absolutely no idea there was anything remotely "naughty" going on in the pages of MAD.

Okay, I take that back - MOST of the time I was oblivious to the adult content. Sometimes, like in the Dave Berg strip above, it was just too overt for even a dim witted kid like me to miss.

Granted, of the big three magazines (MAD, Cracked, and Crazy), MAD targeted the oldest readership. Their movie parodies were on films children would never have gone to see: Shampoo, The Sting, The China Syndrome, etc. One of my favorite MAD movie parodies as a child was their hilarious take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers - a movie I didn't see until I was in college. Not surprisingly, it too is littered with blatantly adult material (yet funny as hell).

Okay, MAD was a bit more adult natured in the 1970s than I remember, big deal? It's surprising that I gobbled these mags up like candy, yet somehow maintained a continual ignorance of their adult content. I guess this should serve as a lesson to parents to not get too concerned if your kid sees something inappropriate - chances are, your kid won't even know the difference. Think about it - how many of us gen xers listened to The Village People sing about the Navy, macho men, and the YMCA and actually made a connection to the gay lifestyle? Precious few.

Anyway, before I put this post to rest, let me also mention that Cracked and Crazy were no innocent G rated mags either. Crazy could get quite racy (especially the earliest issues), and Cracked.... well, I'm sure we all remember Nanny Dickering.

You remember. At the back of nearly every issue was a 4-5 page Nanny Dickering comic that I'm sure pushed many a young lad straight into puberty. Great Scott!


  1. I read MAD back when I was growing up. I was totally oblivious to the adult content. I think there were many things back then in the 70's that I didn't realize were so adult in their nature. My mind didn't grasp it. The Village People is a perfect example. As a kid, I never really knew their songs were about living the gay lifestyle. I just thought they were catchy tunes.

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  3. Keith - How about "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band? Possibly the dirtiest song ever, and I don't think any kids had a clue.

    Moviezzz- I actually had no idea the whole shebang was on DVD - sounds like another fivolous expenditure is in my near future.

  4. Nancy Dickering was drawn by one of the great erotic cartoonist Bill Ward and I have a post on him in an old draft folder that is complete really but i have just not got around to putting it up.

    You also gave some samples from MAD of one of my favorite artists as a kid, Mort Drucker, who usually did the movie parodies.

    I recall as a boy realizing MAD was more than it seemed when they did a poem parody of Casey at Bat and did it to the mood and meter of The Raven.

    Movezzz mentions National Lampoon and that was certainly adult themed. While the Mad and cracked we now know were not so sublte really either.

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  6. Bill- Put up that Bill Ward post - sounds very intriguing. I love Drucker's work too - and I also have great respect for Cracked's John Severin. Both artists could really capture the likeness of the actors and the panels were so dynamic.

    Moviezzz - As I said in the post, Cracked definitely targetted a younger readership (as evidence, half of my Cracked magazines are colored in with crayon), and it was a big imitator of MAD; however, it was pretty damn good nonetheless. Crazy was hit or miss (more often miss), and the rest of the imitators were simply not worth the 65 cents (ex. Sicko, Wacko).

    Thirty bucks for the all those back issues sounds like a steal, but I've never been one to read books, comics, or magazines on the monitor. I'm a dying breed, I know.

  7. The kiddie satire mags were quite dirty sometimes but also pretty limited in their knowledge. There were references to Linda Lovelace and 'Deep Throat' because that's all the average person in the street knew about pornography. They probably didn't even see most of the things they made reference to. They were pretty clueless about some taboo things like their

  8. The kiddie satire mags were quite dirty sometimes but also pretty limited in their knowledge. There were references to Linda Lovelace and 'Deep Throat' because that's all the average person in the street knew about pornography. They probably didn't even see most of the things they made reference to. They were pretty clueless about some taboo things like their
    references to banana-smoking and devil worship. Then there was the MAD middle finger cover they defended by claiming they didn't realize it was an obscene gesture.

    Nanny Dickering wasn't slutty-looking until Bill Ward drew har and the only reason he worked for CRACKED was because their parent company published a lot of nudie magazines.

    The worst offender in the kids'-magazines-not-really-for-kids department was SICK, which for some reason had an Annie Fanny-type feature called Cher.

  9. Sam - Interesting about Bill Ward; his Nanny Dickering comics always seemed out of place amid the relatively tame Cracked content. Now I know why.

  10. So much of late 60s/70s stuff was double-entendre laced. Do you remember the TV show "Love American-Style?" My mom is a total prude, yet we watched that show all the time as kids, because so much of the stuff on TV was like that. And hell, maybe my mom was such a prude that she didn't get it either, come to think of it....

  11. dguzman- Yes, Love, American Style could get kind of racy. So could Three's Company, Soap, Bosom Buddies, Benny Hill, Starsky & Hutch, The Mod Squad, etc., etc,... and my parents were either oblivious or just didn't care.

  12. My exprience was that TV only showed dirty things when my parents walked in the room

  13. The only draw backed to 70s Cracked was it seemed they had an exclusive license on the Fonz, from Happy Days. For a while it seemed every issue was full of nothing but Fonz and that got old fast.

  14. I loved MAD and Cracked, and still do! It's too bad that with the economic drouthers were in, MAD had to quarterly issues instead of monthly.

  15. I really liked Cracked,for two reasons...one,like MAD prior to the mid-90's,they had some really good artists...Severin,Ward,Orehek and so on.
    Two..MAD's omni-cycism,their view that absolutely everything in the world is rotten,sometimes got a little tiresome.Cracked's humor may not have been as hip,but they were often a welcome alternative.

  16. I've got both magazines....The original John Severin Nanny Dickering (sigh...swoon) of the 1970s with her Marcia Brady 70s do had equal good looks status with Bill Ward's ultimate bouffant style of later which John, Rurik Tyler (formerly with Mad) and others would copy..and I remember the original, Nancy Dickeroson...sigh...BTW In case ANYBODY thinks my name is porno it is the 1950s-60s GUMBY PONY name..