MIT Voo Doo Parodies, 1923-1991.

Covers of five Voo Doo parodies

Clockwise from left: Voo Doo parodies from 1966, 1965, 1961, 1958 and 1931.

If you’ve got a few free hours, head over to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website and dive into the VooDoo Archive. The second most famous funnybook in Cambridge, Voo Doo (as it was usually spelled) was never as profitable or as polished as the Harvard Lampoon, but it was a better mirror of trends in campus humor. The Archive has major gaps in the mid-1920s through early ’40s, but it gives a good overview of Voo Doo history up through 2004; most later issue are posted on the magazine’s own website. (If you’d like to contribute money or missing issues, write voodoo [at] mit.edu.)

Mascot Phosphorus the cat, 1919

Mascot Phosphorus

Voo Doo debuted in March 1919 as successor to the even-more-oddly named Woop Garoo, which published three issues in 1918. The second issue introduced Phosphorus, a real black-and-white alley cat who morphed into the mag’s mascot. According to the Archive, early Voo Doos consisted largely of “jokes, drawings, and satirical essays about such matters as exams, professors, dating, and drinking.” These remained the magazine’s obsessions for 40 years and occasionally got it into trouble: After an “especially offensive” issue in 1928-29, school authorities censured Voo Doo and forced several board members to resign.

Jock World coverVoo Doo was famous in college humor circles for its tireless efforts to slip off-color material past faculty censors — a campaign that became more and more successful as the ’60s loosened up. “Socialite Beats Off Six Stranglers” was the front-page headline of 1965’s Boston Record-American parody. The sports and scandal mashup “Jock World, incorporating Athletic Supporter” (April 1966) featured a high-hurdler named “Dick Hertz,” repeated use of the number 69, and countless puns on the word “balls.”

Surprisingly, “Jock World” appeared just three months after one of Voo Doo’s smartest parodies, “The Noo Yawk Times Magazine” (January 1966). From the cover photo of a vital South Vietnamese mayonnaise factory to the cheerfully optimistic report from troubled but pro-western “South Bhramanesia,” the issue ridicules the press’ lap-dog attitude toward an administration and foreign policy establishment hell-bent on waging an unpopular war. (The fact that Harvard was the epicenter of that establishment must have been icing on the cake.) In general, Voo Doo’s national parodies, like the regular issues, tended to be strong on jokes and weak on presentation. The best, including 1965’s “Popular Everything” and the two Scientific American spoofs, usually targeted hard-science publications.

New York Times parody pages

Youth on Asia in the 1966 “Noo Yawk Times Magazine.”

Voo Doo’s decline in the late 1960s was steep and sudden: from nine issue in 1967-68 to only four in ’68-69, the last a 32-page, bare-bones “Golden Anniversary Issue” dated March 1969, exactly 50 years after the first. After that, the mag disappeared for six years. When a “Resurrection issue” finally appeared in 1975, it blamed the old Voo Doo’s demise on “the editors refusal to compromise their artistic integrity over … a debt roughly the size of the gross national product of the Dominican Republic.”

The revived Voo Doo produced a handful of zine-like, mostly ad-free issues before being incorporated into a short-lived proto-Onion called Thursday VooDoo (1978-79). Its successor, Tool & Die, debuted in Fall 1983 with 16 pages, no advertising and a $1 price tag. T&D struggled to publish more than once a year and never established an identity. In 1987 it became VooDoo’s Tool & Die and by 1990 was again just VooDoo (one word this time). The new VooDoo claims to come out twice a year, but its current status is unknown: The most recent issue online is dated Spring 2015.

Three Voo Doo Tech parodies

Voo Doo “Techs” from 1937, 1964 and 1985

Under whatever name, M.I.T.’s post-1975 humor publications haven’t had the resources or ambition to put out large-scale magazine parodies, though both the old and new Voo Doos delighted in mocking the school newspaper, The Tech. Bad blood between the two dates back to 1926, when Tech staffers obtained advance proofs of a Voo Doo parody of their paper and published it several days early, with a rebuttal. Voo Doo has also targeted the specialized Tech Engineering News, the staff newsletter Tech Talk (spoofed as “Tick Tock” in 1966) and the monthly MIT Reports on Research (founded 1958, parodied 1975). Voo Doo even published a parody of itself, produced by the Tech Engineering News, in the same issue that contained its second T.E.N. spoof — a rare instance of a humor mag giving the opposition equal time.

Cover-only parodies from 1930, 1947 and 1968

Bait and Switch: Cover-only parodies from 1930, 1947 and 1968.

The following list is as complete as possible given the gaps in the VooDoo Archive, which is missing at least three early parodies: the 1923 “Newspaper Number,” 1931’s “Vanity Fair” and the 1939 spoof of Time. The files of The Tech mention very few Voo Doo parodies from the magazine’s first three decades, which I take as a sign they were relatively rare. Every now and then, Voo Doo would imitate another publication’s cover without following through inside; I’ve tagged those parodies COVER ONLY as a warning to readers expecting more. As always, additions and corrections would be appreciated.

Voo Doo Parodies, 1923-1991:

[Updated Oct. 11, 2017]

Generic newspapers (“Newspaper Number”), December 1923
The Tech,  1926
Tech Engineering News, November 1930
Vanity Fair, February 1931
Generic tabloid (“Voo Doo”), February 1932 [COVER ONLY]
The Tech, November 9, 1934 [mentioned in Tech self-parody pub. 11/13/34]
The Tech, September 24, 1937
Tech Engineering News, November 1937
Voo Doo [by Tech Engineering News, published in Voo Doo], November 1937
Time, November 1939
Harper’s Bazaar (“Harper’s Brazeer”), May 1945
Time (“Voo Doo”), February 1947 [COVER ONLY]
The Tech (“The Wreck”), November 1951
Scientific American (“Pseudo Scientific American”), December 1958
The New Yorker (“The New Yakker”), January 5, 1960
Good Housekeeping (“Good Housecreeping”), May 1961
Tech Engineering News (“Tech Engineering Nonsense”), March 1962
Scientific American (“Pseudo Scientific American”), February 1963
Generic mens mag (“Raw Guts”), January 1964
The Tech (“The Rech”), May 1, 1964
Playboy (“Gayboy”), February 1965
Boston Record American (“Wretched American”), May 1965 (though dated April 23)
The New York Times Magazine (“Noo Yawk Times Magazine”). January 8, 1966
Generic sports mag (“Jock World”), April 1966
Tech Talk (“Tick Tock”), April 27, 1966
The Harvard Lampoon (“The Harvard Tampoon”), in May 1966
Popular Science (“Popular Everything”), May 1967
The Tech entertainment section (“Tech In Twilight”), January 11, 1968
Time (“Voodoo”), April 1, 1968 [COVER ONLY]
TV Guide (“VD Guide”), May 1968
MIT Reports on Research, May 1975 [parody dated “March 1974”]
Undergraduate Residence Guide (“Voo Doo Supplement to…”), November 1975
The Whole Earth Catalog (“The Whole Gnurd Catalog”), April 1976
The Tech (“A Tech”), October 30, 1981
Consumer Reports (“Consumers Report”), in Tool & Die, Fall 1983
The Tech (“The Tecque”), by Tool & Die, May 2, 1985
Parade, Winter 1991

— VCR

About Cullum Rogers

I'm a semi-retired freelance cartoonist in Durham, N.C., who's been collecting newspaper and magazine parodies for over 50 years.
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2 Responses to MIT Voo Doo Parodies, 1923-1991.

  1. Charles Grossman says:

    Your excellent article on Voo Doo parodies may have missed a few:
    • Parade Magazine (“Parade”), Winter 1991 [last pages of issue, to be read upside-down from the back]
    • Whole Earth Catalog (“Whole Gnurd Catalog”), April 1976
    • MIT Undergraduate Residence Guide (“VooDoo Supplement to Undergraduate Residence Guide”) November 1975 [entire issue]
    • Marvel Comics (“M.I.T. Comic Book VooDoo”), May 1975 [cover only]

    Like

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