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

Posted in College Parodies | Tagged , | 2 Comments

“Paul Ryan: The Magazine” Needs You

Prototype covers for Paul Ryan parody

Prototype covers for “Paul Ryan: The Unofficial Magazine.”

The brains behind last summer’s masterful online-only parody of The New Yorker (a.k.a. “The Neu Jorker”) are now seeking funds for their follow-up project: an “unofficial parody magazine” devoted to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. In addition to mocking the Wisconsin Republican, the one-shot publication will also be “a satire on the entire magazine industry,” organizers Andrew Lipstein and James Folta promise in their four-minute Kickstarter video: “Each page will take on a different genre, like muscle magazines … sports magazines … in-flight magazines….” Their as-yet-unnamed co-conspirators include veterans of the Onion, McSweeney’s, Mad, the Paris Review and other mags and TV shows. Ryan himself hasn’t endorsed the project, for some reason, but the guys have found a plausible stand-in by the name of Branson Reese.

Branson Reese, Andrew Lipstein and James Folta

Too tall for Paul?: Lipstein (center) and Folta inspect Ryan wannabe Reese.

Lipstein and Folta hope to raise $10,000 in their Kickstarter campaign, which ends February 10. Right now they’re about $8,400 short of that, so parody fans who want to be part of the “Paul Ryan” phenomenon should head over here and open their wallets, just as I did. (Per Kickstarter policy, pledges will be collected only if the funding goal is met.) The creators hope to have the mag out in October, by which time the real Paul Ryan could be anything from Leader of the Free World to a small pile of irradiated ashes, depending on how the Trump era plays out. Stay tuned. — VCR

Posted in Newsstand Parodies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Yale Record’s “Smut,” 1951.

Cover and page 2 of Yale Record's Smut

Cover and page 2 of the Yale Record’s “Smut.”

 

Parody Of: Various girly mags. Title: “Smut.” Parody By: Yale Record.
Date: February 1951. Format: 16 tabloid-size newsprint pages in slick covers, stapled.
Contributors: None credited, but the 1950-51 Record Board included Walter J. Hunt (Chairman), Richard C. Lemon (Managing Editor) and Denver Lindley, Jr. (Art Editor).
Availability: Very hard to find; excerpted in College Parodies, pages 239-251.

February 1951 Yale Record cover“Smut,” which appeared as an oversized insert in the February 1951 Yale Record, might strike current readers as a general spoof of early-’50s newsstand sleazery. In fact, it faithfully apes a short-lived subset of men’s mags with names like Hit!, See, Laff and other punchy monosyllables. These titles borrowed their size and format from Life and sometimes claimed to be picture newsmagazines, but their true forebears were the Police Gazette and interwar gags-and-gals books like Captain Billy’s Whiz-Bang and the Calgary Eye-Opener. Their habitats were all-male environments like barber shops and fraternity houses, and their main draws were pictorials centered on the doings of strippers, bathing beauties, lingerie models and other females willing to show some leg. Such educational features were surrounded by dubious mail-order ads, suggestive cartoons, he-man tales of the “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” variety and shocking exposes of the Rich and Famous. All but the cartoons are gleefully mocked in “Smut.”

Covers of Hit, Night and Day, See and Taboo

The real things: Hit!, Night and Day, See and Taboo.

The Record normally disdained the crude sexual humor found in most of its non-Ivy contemporaries, but it loosened up a bit in parody issues; hence “Smut’s” inclusion of a feature called “Model Makes Good,” credited to a reporter named “Henry Good.” (Groan.) The puns are no better in an eyewitness report on the “Man-Eating She-Devils of Yukuku,” but they blend with the story’s non sequiturs and B-movie clichés to form a rich stew of collegiate nonsense.

Smut's man-eating she-devil story

A look “Backstage at the Smokahavana” (a nod to New York’s Copacabana) serves as the obligatory nightclub feature. Its chorines are a bit too fresh-faced and fully clothed to pass for hard-bitten showgirls, but the leering captions supply a depravity missing from the photos: Asked if she’s adjusting her falsies, hard-bitten “Fifi” answers, “Whaddaya think? I’m packin’ a lunch?”

Pages from Smut and Laff magazines

Nightlife as seen by Smut (top) and the real March 1951 Laff (below).

Within a few years of “Smut’s” appearance, most of its targets had fallen victim to changing tastes and increased specialization. The success of Confidential, founded 1952 by girlie-mag veteran Robert Harrison, sparked a trend that soon glutted the market for celebrity dirt. Meanwhile, dozens of new titles like Stag, Male, Man to Man and Men supplied vicarious thrills for WWII vets now juggling kids and mortgage payments.

The fatal blow came with the rise of Playboy, whose sophisticated airs and carefully retouched foldouts made the “candid” black-and-white shots in See and its ilk look both low-rent and prudish. The girlie pulps found themselves boxed in: too vulgar for respectable outlets and advertisers, too tame for fans of hard-core raunch. By the time “Smut” was anthologized in 1961’s College Parodies, the type of barbershop reading it satirized had gone the way of the 25-cent haircut. — VCR

Posted in College Parodies, College: 1946 on | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Online: Spy’s “New York Times,” 1992.

Spy's fake Times front page

Parody OfThe New York Times. Title: “The New York Times.” Parody By: Spy.
Date: July 15, 1992. Length: 4 pages. Contributors: Uncredited.
Availability: Occasionally seen on eBay and abebooks; online right here.

Real Times front page for July 15, 1992

Real NYT, 7/15/92

Amid the current worry over “fake news,” it might be soothing to revisit a political hoax that only wanted to raise a few laughs. On the night before Bill Clinton’s nomination at the 1992 Democratic Convention, Spy magazine smuggled a thousand copies of a facelifted New York Times into Madison Square Garden for delegates and journalists to find the next morning. “The front sections of copies of the real Times were wrapped with Spy’s new pages one, two, op-ed, and back page,” George Kalogerakis wrote in the 2006 history, Spy: The Funny Years. “Ross Perot was running as a strong third-party candidate, so the lead front-page story was: PEROT SET TO PICK TV’S OPRAH WINFREY AS RUNNING MATE. For a few seconds, democracy teetered. Then everyone laughed. … [T]he parody was discussed on the The Tonight Show by Tom Brokaw, reporting live from the convention floor, and by [Nightline‘s] Ted Koppel as well, who fooled his wife with a copy.”

A second Ross Perot story said the eccentric billionaire had kept his mother’s body in an attic for seven years after her death, “apparently believing she was still alive.” Spy later said this was one of the alleged “dirty tricks” that prompted Perot to suspend his presidential campaign on July 16, the day after the parody appeared. True or not, it’s no crazier than Perot’s own claim that George H.W. Bush and the CIA were planning to disrupt his daughter’s wedding.

Spy's 1992 Times parody page 2

Spy was obsessed with the New York media world generally and the Times in particular, and both are skewered here. British tycoon Robert Maxwell, who had conveniently drowned off the coast of Spain as his media empire was collapsing, reemerges on page two as “Roberto Maxbueno,” secretive publisher of the Canary Islands’ trashiest tabloid. Vanity Fair’s Tina Brown promises Condé Nast a “New New Yorker” in the back-page “Chronicle,” and, on the Op-Ed page, former Times editor Abe Rosenthal says nothing for 400 words in a column aptly headlined “I Don’t Know.”

Spy's 1992 Times parody page 3

The other Op-Eds parody a trio of familiar Times types: the Highly-Credentialed Has-Been (played here by Michael Dukakis), the Concerned Empathizer (Anna Quindlen), and the Gadfly Intellectual (Camille Paglia). All three are aped precisely and, in the Paglia take on Bill Clinton’s sex appeal, exuberantly: “In a way, we citizens are like millions of sperm ejaculated toward the great womb of the commonweal, driven to swim in order that one may be selected to fulfill the general imperatives of the organism as a whole,” runs a typical sentence in “A Hot-Button Candidate.”

Spy's 1992 Times parody page 4

The real Camille Paglia appreciated the attention: “Just a note to express my admiration of your New York Times parody, with its deft, skilful and hilarious send-up of my heavy-breathing, multi-adjectived op-ed pieces,” she wrote in Spy’s October issue. The July 15, 1992 “Times” succeeds as both a prank and a parody, and is still funny 24 years later. I’ve posted it here so you can see for yourself. — VCR

Posted in Newsstand Parodies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Yale Record Parodies Since 1926

Five Yale Record parodies

The Record mocks Click (1939), True (1963), Film Fun (1927), Esquire (1955) and movie mags (1947).

The Yale Record was founded in 1872 and likes to call itself “the nation’s oldest college humor magazine,” but its no-nonsense title gives the game away. It really started out as “a Godawful boring weekly news sheet” that used humor mostly as filler, according to author and 1991 Yale grad Michael Gerber. The jokes slowly took over, a feathered mascot named Old Owl wandered in, and by the end of the century “the Record had transformed into that familiar dog’s breakfast, the college humor magazine.”1

The Record's 1960 Time parody

Grossman’s 1960 “Timf” cover.

Such mags boomed after World War I. By 1922 there were over a hundred, and for the next four decades the Record was one of the best. Its chief glory was a string of great cartoonists: Peter Arno in the ’20s (when he was Curtis Arnoux Peters); Whitney Darrow Jr. and Robert Osborn in the ’30s; Henry Martin, Robert Grossman, William Hamilton and Garry Trudeau in the postwar decades. Its writers included Stephen Vincent Benét, Dwight Macdonald, C.D.B. Bryan and the Firesign Theatre’s Philip Proctor.

The Record easily survived the Depression and a three-year pause for World War II, but the ’60s brought two changes that knocked Old Owl for a loop and killed off most of his contemporaries. The first came in 1963, when the tobacco companies, hoping to preempt federal regulation, quit advertising in student publications. This proved fatal for mags that could usually pay for an entire issue with one back-cover ad for Salem or Winston. The second  was the death of the old college culture of Gentleman’s Cs and secret handshakes, where helming the newspaper or debate club meant more for one’s future than making good grades. The Record was inextricably bound up in this world, and neither the reformers of the ’60s nor the studious careerists who followed them had much use for it. In 1970, the Yale Daily News bashed its rival’s latest issue as “a complete anachronism, … a museum piece of the Old Yale, a cultural monument to prep humor.”2  Soon after that bouquet, the Record sank and resurfaced only fitfully for twenty years.

The magazine returned for good in 1989 under the leadership of Michael Gerber (now its chief alumni advisor) and Jonathan Schwartz. Since then it has grown from two issues a year to six or more, and established a website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. The current press run is 500 copies — far from the 4,000 circulation of the late ’40s, but pretty good for a product available free online.

1943 and 1967 Reader's Digest parodies

Reader’s Digest parodies from 1943 and 1967.

Parody issues were cash cows for the college mags in their heyday, and the Record was among the few that could produce a major parody every year for decades. Info on the earliest is sparse online, but by the mid-’20s the parody was as much a part of the Record’s lineup as the Freshman Issue and Graduation Number. One of the last Records before the WWII hiatus contained a note-perfect, 64-page parody of Reader’s Digest; the first postwar volume brought a famous spoof of the New York (not Yale) Daily News that sold 18,000 copies.

Other postwar highlights included 1955’s oversized, 84-page “Esquirt” and a 1960 Time parody mostly written by Philip Proctor. The Record occasionally varied its pitch by spoofing a category rather than a single title, as in 1947’s “Happy Hollywood” or 1939’s “Phlick,” a mash-up of Pic, Click and Look whose cover shows a group of bathing beauties arrestingly labelled “Marihuana Victims.” Perhaps the Record’s greatest achievement was its 1961 “Yew Norker,” in which editor Robert Grossman skillfully impersonated some two dozen New Yorker cartoonists.

Two cartoons from the 1961 "Yew Norker"

Robert Grossman channels Whitney Darrow Jr. and Chuck Saxon in “The Yew Norker.”

The long parody streak ended on a high note in 1967 with another “Reader’s Dijest” even funnier than 1943’s. Michael Gerber’s 1991 parody of the short-lived National Sports Daily got the reanimated Record some good press but failed to revive the tradition: The mag hasn’t done a nationally distributed parody since. The format still works, though: In 2014 the Record printed 2,150 copies of a takeoff on its old tormentor, the News.

The following list is incomplete and, for early years, non-existent; dots (…..) indicate the most conspicuous gaps. The 1958 Yale yearbook mentions three Record parodies — of LifeHarper’s Bazaar and the Saturday Evening Post — but provides no dates. As always, I’d welcome corrections and more information. —VCR

Yale Record Parodies, 1926-2016:

…..
College Comics (“Collegiate Comicals”), February 2, 1926
Film Fun (“Yale Record’s Film Fun Number”), April 20, 1927
Yale Daily News (“Yale Daily Clews”), June 1927
The New Yorker, 1928-29
Time, 1928-29
…..
Vanity Fair, November (?) 1933
Yale Daily News (“Yale Delayed News”), May 1934
…..
Generic pulp mag (“Real Spicy Horror Tales”), April 23, 1937
Yale Daily News, June 3, 1938
Typical picture mag (“Phlick”), Feb. 23, 1939
Reader’s Digest (“Record’s Digest”), March 1943
1946 New York Daily News parodyNew York Daily News (“Yale Record Daily News”), December 16, 1946
Typical movie mag (“Happy Hollywood”), November 1947
“Record Comics,” 1949 (parodies comic books &strips)
Saturday Review of Literature (“Shattering Review…”), 1949
Yale Daily News, November 1949
Typical men’s mag (“Smut”), February 1951
Yale Daily News, February 1951 [?; in YU Library catalog]
Yale Daily News, January 31, 1952
Punch (“Paunch”), December 1952
Yale Daily News, January 16, 1954
Male (“Tale”), February 1954
Esquire (“Esquirt”), February 1955
Yale Alumni Magazine (“Yale Aluminum Manganese”), June 1955
The New Yorker (“The Nouveau Yorkeur”), February 1956
New York Daily Mirror, December 1956
Playboy (“Ployboy”), February 1958
Sports Illustrated (“Sports Illiterate”), February 30, 1959
Time (“Timf”), April 1960
Reader’s Digest (“Reader’s Digestion”), September 1960
The New Yorker (“The Yew Norker”), February-March 1961
Life (“Liff”), February-March 1962
True (“Twue”), February-March 1963
Playboy (“Pwayboy”), February 1964
Sports Illustrated (“Sports Illstated”), February 1965
Yale Alumni Magazine, “Alumni Issue,” 1965
The New York Times Magazine, March 3, 1966
Reader’s Digest (“Reader’s Dijest”), February (or late spring?) 1967
Yale Daily News, January 13, 1970
The New York Times, April 1, 1974
The National Inquirer, November 1, 1975
…..
??? (“The Retraction”), 1989
The New Haven Advocate (“…Abdicate”), April 1990
The National Sports Daily, April 1991
The Yale Herald (“…Harold”), April 1992
…..
The New York Times website, April 1, 1999 (online here)
Cosmopolitan (“The Please Your Man Issue”), April 2009
…..
Yale Daily News (“Yale Daily Record”), April 10, 2014
Yale Daily News (“Yale Daily Record”), May 6, 2016

___________________________

  1. Michael Gerber, “The Yale Record: A Short History of its Rise, Fall and Rise Again,” on Scribd .

2. Jeffrey Gordon, “Off the Record,” Yale Daily News, Dec. 3, 1970, p. 2.

Posted in College Parodies, College: 1911-1945, College: 1946 on | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Online: National Lampoon’s “Mad,” 1971

Mad parody cover and contents page

Parody OfMadTitle: “Mad.” Parody In: National Lampoon.
Date: October 1971. Length: 15 pages. Contributors: John Boni, Sean Kelly, Henry Beard (writers); John Romita, Joe Orlando, Ernie Colon, Al Weiss, Babi Jeri, John Lewis, Stuart Schwartzberg, Ralph Reese. Availability: Online here. Reprinted in National Lampoon Comics (1974) and National Lampoon’s Magazine Rack (2006).

October 1971 National Lampoon cover“Mad” is one of National Lampoon’s best and best remembered parodies. Like Mad itself, it goes after its target with very little subtlety and a great deal of skill, piling up visual and verbal gags to drive home the message that even iconoclasts can have clay feet. You’ll find the whole thing on John Glenn Taylor’s blog “Easily Mused.” where it’s been sitting since 2009. I only discovered it the other day, by way of an essay by Matt Keeley at Kittysneezes.com.

Keeley’s “What, Me Funny?” is such a thorough, page-by-page examination of “Mad” that there’s little to add, but I want to echo his observation that it “seems to come from a place of love.” Disappointed love, of course. NatLamp’s fiercest parodies were of magazines its writers’ younger selves had considered the height of sophistication and then outgrown, or at least come to see as formulaic: Playboy, Esquire, The New Yorker. Mad was the NatLamp gang’s first crush and first disillusionment, and the combination of hurt feelings and intimate knowledge in articles like “Citizen Gaines” and “You Know You’ve Really Outgrown Mad When…” is so intense it’s almost painful. Too many magazine parodies aren’t actually about the publications they resemble; they’re just random jokes stuffed into a conveniently familiar format. “Mad” is about Mad and nothing but Mad, and its narrow focus is what gives it such a sharp point.  — VCR

Excerpt from the Mad parody

Jack Rickard aped by John Lewis.

Posted in Newsstand Parodies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

College Parodies (Ballentine Books, 1961)

Ad for College Parodies

A full-page ad from 1961.

Book: College Parodies (New York: Ballantine Originals, 1961).
By: Will and Martin Lieberson (editors). Pages: 254.
Parodies Of: See below. Availability: Easy to find online.

I know of only three anthologies of magazine and newspaper parodies, and two of them have the word “lampoon” in their titles.* The third is Will and Martin Lieberson’s College Parodies, a mass-market paperback released by Ballantine Books in 1961 at the then-outrageous price of 75 cents. It’s long out of print, but abebooks.com has dozens from under $4 to over $30. If you’re at all interested in the subject, you should own it.

Stanford's Pest and College Parodies' reprint

Stanford’s “Pest” re(pro)duced in College Parodies.

True to its name, College Parodies contains extracts from over two dozen of the things, all published between 1939 and 1959. (There are also comic-strip parodies, many from the Stanford Chaparral’s annual “Crash Comics.”) The book’s only serious flaw is its pulp-paper, pocket-size, black-and-white format, which can’t do justice to works like the Chaparral’s “Saturday Evening Pest.” Other selections range from the Yale Record’s famous “Daily News” of 1946 — which received high praise and two pages of free publicity in Life — to local efforts by the Ohio Green Goat and Lafayette Marquis. The Liebersons don’t say why they chose these particular examples, nor do they say much else: There’s no preface or introduction, and only minimal copyright info. To remedy this, here’s …

College Parodies coverWho Did Whom in College Parodies:

Cover covers (top row, from left): Yale Record, 1959; Illinois Chaff, 1958; Denison Campus, 1954; Columbia Jester, 1956; Harvard Lampoon, 1956; (second row) Yale Record, 1955; Columbia Jester, 1948; Stanford Chaparral, 1955; Stanford Chaparral, 1957; (third row) Pennsylvania Highball, c. 1955; Columbia Jester, 1952; Stanford Chaparral, 1959; Yale Record, 1951. (All but Highball’s “Pest” are excerpted inside.)

  • Ladies Home Journal: Columbia Jester, May 1952  (pages 17-32).
  • Look: Stanford Chaparral, Mar. 9, 1955 (33-43, 46-49), Cornell Widow (44-45).
  • Saturday Review: Columbia Jester, May 1956 (51-62)
  • Sports Illustrated: Yale Record, Feb. 1959 (63-65, 70-73); Lafayette Marquis (66-69); Illinois Chaff (70).
  • Holiday: Stanford Chaparral, April 1957 (75-87).
  • New York Daily News: Yale Record, Dec. 1946 (88-98).
  • The New Yorker: Yale Record, Feb. 1956 (99); Michigan Gargoyle, March 1955; Harvard Lampoon, May 15, 1948.
  • True: Stanford Chaparral, April 1959 (115-116, 124-126); Yale Record, [?]  (117-123 [?]); Purdue Rivet (127); Michigan Gargoyle (128-129).
  • Confidential: Syracuse Syracusan, Feb. 1957 (131-142).
  • Life: Columbia Jester, May 14, 1948, reprinted Aug. 15, 1948 (143-153, 156-58).
  • Playboy: Illinois Chaff, March 1958 (167-68, 174-79, “Careless” on 181); Cornell Widow, Dec. 1957 (169-73, “Sticky” on 181); Ohio Green Goat, Jan. 1956 [sic; really Jan. 1957] (182).
  • Time: Ohio State Sundial, May 24, 1958 (183, “Letter” on 185); Cornell Widow, April 1958 (184-187); Florida Orange Peel, undated [1958] (188).
  • Saturday Evening Post: Stanford Chaparral, March 10, 1954 (189-199, 202); California Pelican, Nov. 1958 (203-204).
  • Reader’s Digest: Columbia Jester, 1949 (205-16).
  • Esquire: Yale Record, Feb. 1955 (217-19, 222-30).
  • Newsweek: Harvard Lampoon, March 22, 1956 (231-38).
  • “Smut” (generic men’s mag): Yale Record, Feb. 1951 (239-51).

— VCR
__________________________
* 100 Years of Harvard Lampoon Parodies (Harvard Lampoon, 1976), and National Lampoon Magazine Rack (National Lampoon Press, 2008).

Posted in College Parodies, College: 1946 on | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Parodists and Copycats

Covers of Time and Cavalier

Time and its U.K. wannabe Cavalcade in 1937.

When is a parody not a parody? When it’s a straight-faced, money-grubbing imitation, according to the courts. Lawsuits over parodies of copyrighted works are rare and their outcomes unpredictable, but two things any accused parodist better be able to show are (1) that no reasonable person could mistake the parody for the Real Thing, and (2) that the parody hasn’t cut into the Real Thing’s sales. The easiest way to avoid this fix is to make the parody as unlike its target as possible, but that rather defeats the purpose. So parodists find themselves sweating to duplicate the look and tone and subject matter of a particular publication, while at the same time making clear to the even densest readers that what they’re holding isn’t that publication. It’s a rare and delicate art, and it’s how parodists justify their massive paychecks (joke).

Playboy and Gallery covers

May 1972 Playboy and the November 1972 debut issue of Gallery.

Occasionally, however, some enterprising pirate cuts through the niceties and kidnaps a format in broad daylight, strictly for profit. In 1972, a businessman named Ronald Fenton launched a men’s magazine called Gallery, with lawyer F. Lee Bailey as figurehead publisher. “Fenton not only copied the Playboy formula — he copied the magazine line for line, picture for picture, party joke for party joke,” Aaron Latham wrote in New York soon after the first issue appeared. “The only thing he changed was the name” — and even there he made sure to imitate Playboy’s distinctive logo. Time cracked that Gallery was “perhaps meant to be mistaken for [Playboy] on newsstands by the nearsighted,” and said Hugh Hefner’s lawyers were inspecting the first issue for possible copyright infringement; even Bailey thought the mag was too obviously a Playboy clone. “Gallery’s next issue is to be partly redesigned,” Time noted, “but Fenton is unworried. ‘All magazines,’ he says blandly, ‘have similarities.'”

Covers of Reader's Digest and Conservative Digest

The Digest and its “pure chance” lookalike (from Tom Crawford’s  Legal Guide for the Visual Artist).

Hefner chose to ignore Gallery, which soon shed its Playboyish pretensions and became just another skin mag. Giant Reader’s Digest (circulation 17 million) wasn’t so sanguine in 1985, when a small Colorado-based monthly named Conservative Digest (circulation 15,000) shrank its page size and began printing its table of contents on the cover. Though the contents were back inside after two issues, Reader’s Digest sued for copyright and trademark infringement anyway and asked for $1.2 million. In June 1986 U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard Gesell found that Conservative Digest had “copied Reader’s Digest’s trade dress in a manner which created a likelihood of confusion,” but awarded the larger magazine only $500 for trademark infringement and nothing for actual damages. Gesell reproved the big Digest for “relentlessly” pursuing the small one, but he saved his sharpest zinger for Conservative Digest editor Scott Stanley Jr.: “Mr. Stanley … testified that he did not copy Reader’s Digest‘s front cover but by chance happened to achieve complete identity while casually developing his own ideas for a new cover using a design computer,” the judge wrote in a footnote. “This testimony, reminiscent of Greek mythology recording the birth of Athena who sprang full-grown from the head of Zeus, is not worthy of belief and is rejected.”

Dingbats from Time and Cavalcade

Dueling dingbats, Time’s on top.

For truly blatant appropriation, it’s best to be outside U.S. jurisdiction altogether. Every newsmagazine since 1923 has lifted its basic format from Time, but Britain’s Cavalcade took everything else, too — from the cheeky tone and convoluted syntax to the shape of the dingbats separating short news items. Cavalcade would have been the first British newsmagazine, but editor Alan Campbell’s former employer got wind of his plans and beat him to press in early 1936 with a rival called News Review.

Inside pages of Time and Cavalcade

“Frankly plagiarizing”: March 1, 1937, Time and May 15, 1937, Cavalcade.

Time didn’t lose much sleep over either imitator, though it did call them “frankly plagiarizing” in a story on their launch. It was especially cutting about Cavalcade’s “casual way of commenting on the parallel” in its first issue: The only mention of Time was a footnote blandly calling it “a news-magazine published in the United States.'” As a news-magazine published in Great Britain, Cavalcade lasted about two years, then became a newsprint tabloid. News Review also grew less like Time over the years and ran out of the same in 1950.

Publications that wouldn’t hesitate to sic the law on imitators tend to tolerate parodists because it makes them seem good sports, because parodists aren’t rich, and because parodies usually have the word PARODY printed on them in great big type. Unlike copycats, parodists want buyers to know they’re getting a spoof — especially if the spoof costs more than the real thing. (In 1982, some newsstands mistakenly sold the $2.00 “Off The Wall Street Journal” as the real Journal, price 50 cents.) Most importantly, parodies are one-shots, usually gone by the time the Real Thing’s next issue hits the stands. But when they’re done right, one is enough. — VCR

Posted in Newsstand Parodies | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Esquire’s “Ladies Whom BeCause,” 1962.

Ladies Whom BeCause cover

Parody Of: McCall’s / Ladies’ Home JournalTitle: “Ladies Whom BeCause.”
Parody In: Esquire.  Date: July 1962. Pages: 7. Contributors: Howard Zieff (photos), John McCray (art); no writer credits. Availability: Not hard to find.

Esquire cover, July 1962.

Esquire, July 1962.

Every so often, a magazine develops an unexpected craving for parodies, features them for a few years, then moves on. Take Esquire: Starting with “BeCause” in 1962, over the next 12 years it parodied Mad, Scientific American, The Saturday Evening Post, Ms. and People. It also imagined some unlikely newstand nuptials (“I, Playboy, take thee, Reader’s Digest…,” August 1965) and swiped Playboy’s “Interview” format for a chat with Hugh Hefner (December 1970). The most elaborate take-off ran in the December 1969 issue: an eight-page preview of The New York Times for November 8, 1976. One prescient feature caught up with former President Nixon, who had resigned halfway through his second term.

Esquire's full-page boiling water photo.

Fun with water in “BeCause.”

Esquire’s editor for most of this period was Harold Hayes, who had edited the student magazine at Wake Forest in the late ’40s, but the uncredited brains behind “Ladies Whom BeCause” were most likely David Newman and Robert Benton, two young editors who worked well as a team and had similar senses of humor. (They later went to Hollywood and grabbed the brass ring on their first try with the screenplay for Bonnie and Clyde.) Newman cut his editorial teeth at the Michigan Gargoyle in the mid-’50s, and Benton was a veteran of the Texas Ranger. They handled Esquire’s annual college issue and came up with a number of college-mag-like features, including the Dubious Achievement Awards and the March 1967 parody, “Sceintific [sic] American.”

As its name suggests, “Ladies Whom BeCause” is a mash-up of Ladies’ Home Journal and McCall’s, mostly the latter. Founded in 1873, McCall’s was the oldest of the “seven sisters” women’s magazines* but consistently played second fiddle to the Curtis Publishing Company’s Journal. That changed in the late 1950s, after art director Otto Storch gave McCall’s a major redesign emphasizing full-page illustrations closely integrated with headlines and text. “Mr. Storch used a variety of photographic processes to make type twist, turn and vibrate in the days before computers made such special effects commonplace,” Steven Heller wrote in Storch’s New York Times obituary. The look was widely imitated and proved popular with readers; in 1960, McCall’s passed the Journal in circulation for the first time ever.

John McCray's art for Ladies Whom BeCause

John McCray’s double-page pastiche of illustrator Brian Sanders in “Ladies Whom BeCause.”

Real Brian Sanders art from the '60s

Real Sanders art from the ’60s.

Like its targets, Esquire was Life-sized in the ’60s and had room to mock these innovations in all their wide-screen splendor. An article titled “22 Fun Things to Do With Boiling Water” deploys a few skimpy lines of text on a full-bleed photo in a triumph of presentation over content. That goes double, literally, for John McCray’s two-page illustration for the inevitable boy-meets-girl short story, where the central couple almost disappear in a gray-green subway station painted in the classic ’60s style of Brian Sanders. (Sanders’s art is so closely associated with the era that AMC hired him forty years later to do posters for Mad Men.)

Real McCall's cover for December 1961

Real McCall’s cover, Dec. 1961.

Not all the jokes are visual. “What is your own personal definition of an isosceles triangle?” one reader asks advice columnist “Sen. Mildred H. Pauling,” who gives an equally “personal” reply. A vacuous gossip column by “the Duchess of Mortmain and Avon” kids its targets’ longtime weakness for Big Name contributors with little or nothing to say. Even the hyperventilating cover text echoes that on the real McCall’s cover the previous December, and needs only slight exaggeration to become pure blathering giddiness. (In fairness, McCall’s editors seem to have been having the same kind of fun themselves.)

Parodists, most of them male, have been mocking magazines for women since at least the 1920s, often with a heavy overlay of clueless condescension. “Ladies Whom BeCause” isn’t free of such blemishes, but it partly compensates for them by being impeccably dressed. — VCR

—————————————-
* The others: Ladies’ Home Journal (1883-2014), Good Housekeeping (1885- ), Redbook (1903- ), Better Homes & Gardens (1922- ), Women’s Day (1931- ), Family Circle (1932- ). McCall’s died in 2002, two years after Rosie O’Donnell was named editorial director and one year after its name was changed to Rosie.

Posted in Newsstand Parodies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment