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Bee-otch of the Day honors are awarded Monday through Thursday; Bee-otch of the Week is awarded Sunday morning on Chuck69.com.

 

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A SPECIAL HERO OF THE DAY!




Name: Al Jaffee
Age: 99
Occupation: longtime Mad Magazine cartoonist
Last Seen: New York, NY
Awarded For: giving the world nearly 80 years of laughter


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In this tough year, the world needed more laughter. 

It's too bad that somebody who graced us with his wonderful humor and art decided to hang up his pen for the final time... at age 99.

For nearly 80 years, Al Jaffee was one of the true masters of making our days brighter and, well, snappier. Sixty-five of those years were with Mad Magazine, where he was its longest-serving contributor. 

Abraham Jaffee was born in Savannah, GA to Lithuanian parents. However, his parents were in a feud over where to raise their four sons with Al being the oldest. Throughout his childhood, Al would sometimes live with his father, a department store manager in Savannah and sometimes with his mother in Lithuania. Finally in the 1930s, Al's father would take his sons to Queens, NY while his mother ended up dying in the Holocaust. 

In the late 1930s, Al and his brother Harry (1922-1985) - also an occasional Mad cartoonist - studied at the High School of Music and Art. There, he met future Mad vets Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, John Severin and Al Feldstein. In 1942, Al's career officially began at Timely Comics, which later became Marvel Comics. He created the comical Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal and Inferior Man. From 1957 to 1963, he drew a pantomime strip, Tall Tales. A collection of the strips with a forward by Stephen Colbert was published in 2008.

In 1955, Jaffee started drawing and writing for Mad, but left only after three issues when Harvey Kurtzman left. He joined Kurtzman in two comics: the Hugh Hefner-owned Trump in 1957 - which only lasted two issues - and Kurtzman-owned Humbug, which folded after 11 issues. Jaffee returned to Mad in 1958 and stayed there until his retirement.

In its heyday, Mad sold two million copies per month. One huge reason was because of Jaffee's Mad Fold-in, which debuted in 1964. His first Fold-in lampooned Elizabeth Taylor and her many husbands. After his first Fold-in, publisher William M. Gaines threatened to fire him if he couldn't do one each month. According to Gaines, the Fold-ins were creating creases in the back cover, causing readers to rush to the store to get a fresh copy for their collections. 

Jaffee also created Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions and other various articles for the magazine. In Mad's first 550 issues, his work appeared in 500. Between 1964 and 2013, Jaffee's work did not appear in just one issue.

Of course, like other magazines, Mad has seen better days from a circulation standpoint. In 50 years, they've gone from two million issues sold per month to only 150,000 issues monthly. The magazine was rebooted in 2018 when it moved its offices from New York to Burbank, CA as part of restructuring at parent DC Comics. However, later that year, DC's owner, TimeWarner was sold to AT&T. Starting with issue #10, Mad would now be a hybrid of 75% reprinted material and 25% new content from new and legendary artists. Each magazine would be a theme issue as opposed to talking about current and recent events. Not only that, Mad is no longer sold at newsstands, but rather just comic book shops. 

(And BTW, a MAJOR shout-out to Tardy's Collector's Corner here in Grand Rapids for ordering the last two issues of Mad for me! You guys rock!)

Thanks to COVID-19, I was scared that I would miss the last two issues because of stay-at-home orders (I don't subscribe because I don't trust USPS to jam and destroy a magazine to get it into my mailbox). Thankfully, DC changed distributors and was able to get them to comic sellers. Well, their latest issue is a tribute to Al, complete with his final Fold-in ever. Al even helped to design the front cover, which is a self-image of him as a doctor examining Alfred E. Neuman. Sergio Aragones even drew "A Mad Look At Al Jaffee"; one of the strips shows Sergio visiting Al, but he needs to use the restroom. While taking a dump, Sergio notices that Al's toilet paper is folded like a fold-in. The magazine was also loaded with reprints of Al's work, including a parody of the 1969 film "Bullitt" as "Bullbit" (obviously, this was 1969 and "Bullshit" wasn't, well, allowed). The parody was drawn by Mort Drucker, who died earlier this year. The magazine republished the piece as a tribute to the beloved caricaturist. 

Now with Al's retirement, Mad will either reprint his old Fold-ins or new ones will be drawn by 46-year-old Johnny Sampson. Jaffee himself gave Sampson the blessing of continuing with the Fold-ins; Sampson himself drew a picture of Jaffee on his first edition with him saying, "This Sampson kid ain't half bad! He ain't half good, either!" Sampson's first Fold-in was published for the magazine's annual "20 Dumbest Things" issue late last year.

Upon his retirement, Al started a website and social media accounts (his Twitter handle was "og_aljaffee"), which have all shuttered. In January, his wife of 43 years, Joyce passed away. But, the laughter from the reprints of his work and old magazines will live on. If he makes to 100 - and God I hope he does - he'll be proof positive that having good humor is the true meaning of a long, fruitful life. 

And that would be a snappy answer to a good question.



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Got a Bee-otch to nominate? E-mail us @ chuck69dotcom@gmail.com. All suggestions (except for me) are welcome!

Bee-otch of the Day Archives can be seen on http://beeotchoftheday.blogspot.com

Bee-otch of the Day is a production of Chuck69.com, Grand Rapids' site for Stern, politics and more!

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