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'Mad Magazine' cartoonist Al Jaffee has died at 102


Cartoonist and writer Al Jaffee has died in Manhattan on Monday. He was 102 years old. Jaffee was one of Mad Magazine's so-called usual gang of idiots. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Al Jaffee's Mad Magazine fold-ins are ingenious. He'd create one illustration on the back page. By folding the page in, a completely different illustration would appear. Jaffee made his first fold-in in 1964. He was a freelance cartoonist at the time.


AL JAFFEE: The only thing you can do when you're freelance is you get up in the morning and you panic. What am I going to do today to make a living?

BLAIR: In 2014, Jaffee told WNYC that on one of those days, he was looking at a bunch of magazines. There was Playboy's centerfold and the fold-outs in Life magazine and National Geographic.


JAFFEE: I thought, well, Mad Magazine has to get into the act, so how about a cheap, black-and-white fold-in?

BLAIR: Those cheap fold-ins were so popular, they continued for more than five decades. Another famous Jaffee segment was called Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions. Mad Magazine writer Dick DeBartolo worked with Jaffee for more than 50 years.

DICK DEBARTOLO: People loved that because they hated - you would walk in the front door soaking wet and someone would say, is it raining out? And so Jaffee would have that illustration of the person coming through the door soaking wet, and the person inside is saying, is it raining out? And then there was snappy answers like, no, I just took a shower with my clothes on; no, there was a bucket of water over the door, and it just spilled all over me.

BLAIR: DeBartolo says Al Jaffee had a knack for pointing out how funny the stuff of everyday life could be. From Jon Stewart to Weird Al Yankovic, DeBartolo says he's thrilled to see the tributes pouring in for his friend, but he'll miss him.

DEBARTOLO: I'm going to miss just being able to say really dumb things to him and him coming back with something even dumber. You know, we just had great times together.

BLAIR: When Al Jaffee turned 95, the "Guinness Book Of World Records" gave him an award for the longest-working cartoonist in history. He retired at age 99. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.