Behind the scenes of Weird Al Yankovic's 'Mad Magazine' takeover
The last year has been pretty good to Weird Al Yankovic—his last album, Mandatory Fun, was his first No. 1 album in the U.S., and it was preceded by a string of music videos that were viral hits. But that was last year. This year, Weird Al is making a splash at a place that gave birth to plenty of weird over the years—as Mad magazine’s first-ever Guest Editor.
“I’m the first guest editor in Mad‘s 63-year history,” says Yankovic, “and if this goes well, they’re gonna have another guest editor in another 63 years. I’m hoping it’s me again!”
As Mad’s first Guest Editor, Yankovic has contributed an introduction about how he got the gig, a six-page feature called “Pages from Weird Al’s Notebook,” picked one of his favorite articles from the Mad vault, and convinced a number of friends to contribute as well—including Patton Oswalt, Kristen Schaal, Chris Hardwick, and Seth Green.
Of course, that’s in addition to all the other contributions from the regular Mad staff of writers and cartoonists, who are squeezing in as many Weird Al caricatures as they can (11) and prepping their own Weird Al-themed features.
“Al Jaffee did a special Weird Al edition of ‘Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,’ which blows my mind,” Yankovic says. “The issue is pretty lousy with Weird Al.”
Yankovic also says Mad helped set him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today.”
“It was the first time I had ever seen that kind of bizarre, irreverent comedy,” Al says. “It was just something that took over my life at that point—I knew I needed more of it, I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff. Even today, I feel like I owe a big chunk of my sense of humor to that early exposure to Mad.”
As singular as Weird Al is, his fondness for Mad is far from unusual—”Idiot in Chief” John Ficarra, who’s been in charge of the magazine since 1984, says that just knowing that a publication was out there where people could goof off for a living did a lot to inspire generations of readers.
“Because when you’re a boy, you love to make fun of stuff and you can’t believe ‘Wow, people get paid to do this! Where do I sign up?'” says Ficarra. “It’s one of the great attractions of Mad.”
Of course, the idea of a child wanting to work for Mad magazine isn’t always one that will thrill adults.
“I tell this story all the time, but when I was 12, I told a guidance counselor I wanted to be a writer for Mad magazine,” says Yankovic. “He said ‘No, that’s no job for a grown man! Why don’t you be an architect?’ And I said ‘Okay, I’ll be an architect.'”