What, me worry? Even Alfred E. Neuman wouldn’t be Mad enough for today’s world | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

What, me worry? Even Alfred E. Neuman wouldn’t be Mad enough for today’s world 

Taking a Gander

Pin It
click to enlarge news-opinion1-1.png

Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Mad comic books emerged as one of America’s most popular pulp periodicals. Targeting mostly the young, they provided a new kind of reading—a satirical breath of provocative reason, gingerly and flippantly talking about the issues of the times with a humorous, yet insightful home-grown wisdom.

During an age when fears of nuclear holocaust haunted the waking hours of a tentative world, Mad was a welcome relief to the fear that had enveloped everyone and, much like the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Mad Magazine’s own, oft-quoted, refreshingly-frivolous motto arose from the voice of its freckle-faced, red-haired, gapped-tooth mascot, rejoicing the heartily-embraced theme of a worry-free existence.

When Mad moved from the realms of comic books to that of a monthly, full-color magazine—something that would continue for another 67 years—its presence was noted with attacks on some of the most sacred subjects, all with a hefty dose of clever, sarcastic wit. Virtually every Mad cover featured the mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, with his irrepressible smile of confidence, voicing his famous words of cheerful abandon, “What, me worry?”

Alfred E. Neuman became a sort of guru to many Americans. His wisdom became a sort of national treasure. In fact, Neuman’s popularity grew to the point where there were almost-serious pleas for him to run for President of the United States.

That, of course, was impossible. Just like the possibility of some AI-created figures of today, Alfred didn’t have a Social Security number, a birth certificate, a job history or any other credentials. His attempt at a presidential nomination was a failure, and he never moved on to become the independent nominee.

It's funny to me how people young and old alike were able to laugh at the ridiculosity of Mad Magazine—with its touché assessments of a world in peril—when we’ve now reached a point where it’s harder and harder to find humor in our world’s current predicaments.

The bad joke of Donald Trump has totally worn itself out. Initially, it really was the Greatest Show on Earth and constituted a refreshing change to business-as-usual as Americans gobbled up the sick humor of every one of Trump’s garish faux pas and toddleresque bad behaviors.

Today, America’s twice-impeached former president has worn out his schoolkid welcome, and most Americans are tired of giving attention to a reprobate and loser. What’s to laugh about?

I guess it’s a type of humor that the mounting perils of criminal prosecution have been piling up like the front-loader mountains of manure on a dairy farm. The B.S. is going to be smelly enough and deep enough to cause Trump’s final political asphyxiation and yet, the ignorant, uneducated and just-plain-stupid continue to gobble up the turd’s long-debunked, standard catalog of lies.

“I won.” “This is a witch hunt.” “I wouldn’t have raped her because she’s not my type.” “The DOJ and FBI are controlled by my detractors.” “Quarter-pounders-with-cheese have no calories.” “The world is flat.” “I am the artist of ‘the deal.’” And, of course, “That was just locker-room talk.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not laughing.

Though there’s a bona fide comedian at its helm, there’s certainly little to laugh about on the matter of Ukraine—whose cities are demolished, its citizens scattered to the four winds and whose soldiers fall in patriotic displays as the world repeats its commitment. “We will be there for you until the last Ukrainian is dead.”

Now, there is some black humor in that statement, but it’s hard to laugh when the stink of death is blanketing the European continent and the attitude of the world community continues its pathetic abdication of wait-and-see.

While we continue to laugh at the numerous attorney jokes, like the one in which a lawyer is saved from becoming a shark’s dinner (because of professional courtesy), there is no humor in the sinking boatloads of refugees who flounder in a sea bordered by lands of the free, and then drown into a forgotten silence. It elicits empathetic, painful cries from every real human. Except for the truly sick, one can find no pretext for humor there.

Or, how about the condition of our Supreme Court? It is owned by the same robber barons it once sought to thwart by a crackdown on the “combinations in restraint of trade.” Today, the court has abandoned its allegiance to the principles of fair trade and embraced the doctrine of honoring wealth and power—all for greed and the corrupt perks provided by the people and companies who are systematically raping the American people, the same ones who won’t allow laborers to have guaranteed life-preserving water-breaks every four hours during their sizzling workdays.

No, these things aren’t funny, nor is the catastrophic rise in world temperatures and the climate concerns that are just as daunting as the threat of a 1960’s nuclear holocaust.

It may have been funny during the heyday of Mad Magazine, but “What, me worry?” is not a slogan that fits our world today. Let’s face it; things are not going as planned.

We had better be worried, and look for the solutions to fix our broken America and an imperiled world.

The author is a retired novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife Carol and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog. comments@cityweekly.net

Pin It


More by Michael S. Robinson Sr.

Latest in Opinion

Readers also liked…

© 2023 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation