Sunday, September 20, 2009

BACKWORD by Stan Freberg

(from the paperback compilation Inside Mad, Ballantine Books, 1955.)

(The following appears on page vi.)

Foremost among the song parodists is a young Californian who has rocked the nation with such hits as “John and Marsha,” “Try,” and now “Rock and Roll Around Stephen Foster.” You’ve seen his writing in Mad, Colliers, and other influential media. Now it gives us great pleasure to present this special Backword by Stan Freberg. Mr. Freberg. . .


Where is he?

I don’t see anybody.

Hold it. HOLD IT! You kids want to read Stan Freberg, don't you? Sure you do! Tell you what you do, then. Stan’s Backword is around in the back of the book. Lets all turn to page 183 in our MAD books. Got that—page 183. Ready?

Start turning!

(page 183)

BACKWORD by Stan Freberg

That fortunate legion of us tuned in on the MAD wave length, and therefore receptive to the mighty impulses radiating from its Furshlugginer-active1 pages, will immediately recognize the wisdom of a Backword. I feel, therefore, that no explanation is necessary. True, a few preoccupied shoppers may whisk the book home thinking it is Norman Vincent Peale or at least “The Mollie Goldberg Cookbook.” No matter. These people, being too pseudo-blasé or just plain dull to receive the MAD radiations, will (a) suffer an intense migraine headache four pages in, and (b) fling the book out of the window.

So that takes care of them.

This leaves a number of non-MAD-addicts who, because of their superior intelligence, will (a) see instantly the brilliant lampoonery that is MAD, (b) curse themselves soundly for having been behind the door when MAD was handed out, and (c) howl all the way through. By the time they will have reached the Backword, their brain-pans will have been conditioned to accept such things without a question. They will have become “MADDICTS” and therefore one of us. And we don’t need any explanation of a Backword, do we? So the sooner you get it through your potrzebie that there won't be any explanation the better—and that’s final now! Crimenentles!

Where was I? Oh, yes, the Backword. For the uninformed, MAD started out three years ago as a comic book kidding only other comic strips. It has graduated today into a first-rate humor magazine, kidding not only comic strips but movies, TV, novels, commercial ads or anything it feels like. Merely to say that I am a fan of this magazine would be like saying that Gina Lollobrigida is “sort of interesting.” I am addicted to MAD like the Aga Khan to starches. Why? Because it makes me laugh, and I am fond of laughing.

Fortunately, MAD loves to laugh at the same things I do—that is to say, we are both completely insane. MAD does the same thing in a literary (or illiterary) form that I try to do on phonograph records, which is to point up some of the absurdities of mankind through the medium of satire. In a world where things get a shade ridiculous at times, satire is a very important thing to mental health. It lets a little of the air out of people and things who take themselves too seriously and deserve to be brought back down to earth. It also gives everyone a good healthy laugh into the bargain.

Mad is an example of pure and honest satire, written brilliantly by my friend Harvey Kurtzman, and drawn hysterically by Jack Davis, Bill Elder and Wallace Wood. I cannot praise their combined efforts enough. This volume, for example, is taken from several issues of the original MAD and is all written by Harvey. My favorite is “Smilin’ Melvin.” You may like “Superduperman.”2

In closing, let us remember that someone once said “Laughter is the best medicine.” It is a true fact that a friend of mine had an acquaintance who fell into poor health and proceeded to decline a little each day until the doctors could do nothing for him. Upon being told that the patient was beyond medical help, my friend called one day at his bedside and on a hunch told him a very funny joke he had just heard regarding three wild animals and a man who played the violin.3 As he reached the punch line, the pale man opened his eyes and laughed for the first time in months. Color returned to his face, and would you believe it?—within forty-eight hours. . . he was dead. the laughter had overtaxed him. This shows how much the guy knew who said “Laughter is the best medicine.” HOO HAH!

It is possible, of course, that he meant “Laughter is the best tasting medicine.” This really shows you what a nudnick he was! I know of some much more daring medicines. I know of a cough sirup, for example, that tastes just like Manischewitz Wine when you pour it over the rocks. (It doesn't taste bad over ice, either.) Make this simple test at home: Pour first the cough sirup into a tall glass, then the laughter. See how much of a belt you get out of the laughter! I rest my case.

It seems pointless to go on because I think I have covered the subject adequately, and also because we are running out of paper. Those wishing to read the conclusion of my Backword will find it (with a fine magnifying glass) on the edge of this page in Sanskrit. The body of my message has been put across by now anyhow, which is simply that MAD is my favorite pastime (next to girls) and I hope you have enjoyed INSIDE MAD as much as I did. I boiled mine for dinner.

(photo of the back of Stan's head)

Notes (in original)

1. Similar to “radio-active” but with fewer commercials.
2. You may like it but you won’t get it, it’s in another collection. What do you expect for 35¢ anyway?
3. This joke is available on request.

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