Al Jaffee, Iconic Mad Magazine Cartoonist, Retires at Age 99 and Leaves Behind Advice About Living the Creative Life

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Jun 9, 2020, 12:15:06 PM6/9/20
Apart from Alfred E. Neuman, there is no Al more closely identified
with Mad magazine than Al Jaffee. Born in 1921, he was around for more
than 30 years before the launch of that satirical magazine turned
American cultural phenomenon - and now, at age 99, he's on track to
outlive it. Just this week, the longest-working cartoonist in history
and inventor of the Fold-In announced his retirement, and "to mark his
farewell," writes the Washington Post's Michael Cavna, "Mad's 'Usual
Gang of Idiots' will salute Jaffee with a tribute issue next week. It
will be the magazine's final regular issue to offer new material,
including Jaffee's final Fold-In, 65 years after he made his Mad

Over these past six and a half decades, Jaffee has drawn praise for his
wit and versatility. But all throughout his career, he's also managed
to combine those qualities with seemingly unstoppable productivity. "I
am essentially a commercial artist," Jaffee says in this brief two-part
interview from OnCreativity. "I will not try to save time, ever, on my
work by going through it quickly and just getting it done. I have to be
as satisfied with it as the person who's going to buy it from me."

When an assignment comes in, he continues, "I will not deliver it until
I am satisfied that I would buy it." This requires a clear
understanding of the client's needs - "you are there to solve their
problems," he emphasizes - as well as the willingness to turn down
not-quite-suitable jobs.

Of course Jaffee said all this in his younger days, back when he was
only 96. Perhaps it isn't surprising that a man in his hundredth year
would decide to step back from his workaday schedule (his Fold-Ins
alone number nearly 500) and focus on the projects from which
commercial exigencies might have distracted him. "I do fine art for my
own amusement," he say in this interview. "We should all feel free to
amuse ourselves that way and just hang everything we do up on the
refrigerator." But he also expresses the wish to "create a couple more
things before I kick the bucket." This after, as he puts it to Cavna,
"living the life I wanted all along, which was to make people think and
laugh." Now Jaffee's younger readers have the chance to think hard and
laugh harder as they catch up on era upon era of his past work - not
that, strictly speaking, he has any older readers.

Related Content:

Al Jaffee, the Longest Working Cartoonist in History, Shows How He
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A Gallery of Mad Magazine's Rollicking Fake Advertisements from the

When Mad Magazine Ruffled the Feathers of the FBI, Not Once But Three

Watch Mad Magazine's Edgy, Never-Aired TV Special (1974)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities,
language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless
City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video
series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall,
on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Al Jaffee, Iconic Mad Magazine Cartoonist, Retires at Age 99 … and
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