Monday, April 12, 2021

CITIZEN GAINES

CITIZEN KANE (1941)
dir: Orson Welles

CITIZEN GAINES
National Lampoon #16, October 1971
w: John Boni
a: Ernie Colon

From much longer parody National Lampoon did of MAD. They were the new humor magazine in town with slick paper and ads and when they did parodies they looked like the real thing.
The premise was that MAD had its heyday when it was a 4-color comic in the 50s and since then had used the same formula over again. They used Marvel and Richie Rich artist Ernie Colon to duplicate the style of Mort Drucker.

Everybody knows the plot of Citizen Kane, even those who never saw it. Briefly, a newspaper magnate dies, his last words are “Rosebud”, reporters ask associates what it means, his life is told through their stories, they never find out, and as his possessions are being burned, the people responsible don't notice 'Rosebud' was written on a sled he had in his childhood.

The movie was loosely based on William Hearst. You know the story. Here the stand-in is MAD publisher William Gaines.
Al Feldstein was a real person even though Sol Furd wasn't.

The MAD office has caricatures of assistant editors Jerry DeFuccio and Nick Meglin, and art director John Putnam. Max Brandel was one of their writers but I have no idea what he looked like, nor do I know if the person talking to Richard Pryor was a MAD staffer.
It's hard to read. Kurtzman's Declaration of Principles says:

1. MAD will not pander to the lowest common denominator.
2. MAD will provide first-rate material
3. No subject is too sacred for MAD.
4. MAD will explore the pretentions of our society until it hurts.
5. MAD will be original, impudent, and daring.
6. MAD will not accept advertising nor merchandise schlock.
The new declaration says:

1. MAD will not pander to the lowest common denominator to sell magazines.
2. MAD will provide first-rate material. subscription service.
3. MNost subjects are is too sacred for MAD.
4. MAD will explore the pretentions of our society untilless it hurts.
5. MAD will apparently be original, impudent, and daring.
6. MAD will not accept advertising nor merchandise schlock.


This version of the Lighter Side in the MAD parody has always cracked me up.
Writer Mark Evanier recalls this incident about his friend Dave Gibson and this strip:

“[...Gibson] will always be remembered for The Dave Berg Incident. This came about shortly after National Lampoon had done its famous parody of MAD magazine in its October, 1971 issue. [...]

“In the grand spirit of giving someone a taste of their own you-know-what, the NatLamp folks skewered MAD but good… and even the MAD staffers admired the effort. Some admitted the satire was dead-on and deserved. One of the most talked-about pages was the spoof/attack (take your pick) on Dave Berg, who did 'The Lighter Side of…' section for MAD. It was drawn by Stu Schwartzberg, a very funny gent who did some work for Marvel in the early seventies, occasionally contributing to their comics but mainly operating the world's smelliest photostat machine in the office.

“Dave Berg always drew himself into one or more of his cartoons. In the parody, a kid walks up to him and asks, 'Say, you aren't the same Dave Berg who draws for MAD magazine, are you?' Dave Berg says, 'That's me, young man.'

[…]

“The kid then says, 'Boy, are you an asshole!' Dave Berg reacts accordingly.

“Not nice but funny…especially if you recall how Berg manufactured his own, slightly-less-insulting punch lines. So a year or so after it comes out, we're all at one of the San Diego Comic-Cons. My memory is that this occurred at the '72 con, which was the first one at the El Cortez Hotel. I further recall that this took place in the waiting area of the Denny's restaurant just down the hill from that hotel. Gibson walks in with some friends and sees Dave Berg standing there. This gives Gibson an idea that he somehow thinks Mr. Berg will appreciate. He goes up to him and says, 'Say, you aren't the same Dave Berg who draws for MAD magazine, are you?' Dave Berg says, 'That's me, young man...'

“Gibson then asks, 'No kidding, you're the guy who does that Lighter Side thing?' Dave Berg says, 'That's right, youngster.'

“Gibson says, 'Hey, you're really putting me on! You really write all that stuff about baby-sitters and blind dates and drive-in movies?' Dave Berg proudly says, 'Yes, I do, son.'

“Gibson, pleased that Mr. Berg is playing along and following the script, then delivers the kicker. He says, clearly and loudly so all us onlookers can hear, 'Boy, are you an asshole!'

“There is silence. In fact, of all the silences I have heard in my life, this one most closely approximated the sound of floating adrift in deep outer space. It was finally broken only by the noise of Dave Berg sputtering and fuming and storming off.

“Turns out Dave Berg had never seen the National Lampoon parody.”

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