In this 1972 file photo, "Mad" magazine Editor Al Feldstein, center, sits with Art Director John Putnam, left, and a freelancer named Jack, at the magazine's New York headquarters. (AP Photo/Jerry Mosey, File)
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Before "The Simpsons" or even "The Daily Show," Al Feldstein showed America how to laugh at itself and giggle at popular culture.Millions of young baby boomers looked forward to that day when the new issue of Mad magazine, which Feldstein ran for 28 years, arrived in the mail or on newsstands. Feldstein's reign at Mad, which began in 1956, was historic and unplanned. Publisher William M. Gaines had started Mad as a comic book four years earlier and converted it to a magazine to avoid the restrictions of the then-Comics Code and to convince founding editor Harvey Kurtzman to stay on. But Kurtzman soon departed anyway and Gaines picked Feldstein as his replacement.Under Gaines and Feldstein, Mad's sales flourished, topping 2 million in the early 1970s and not even bothering with paid advertisements until well after Feldstein had left.By Feldstein's retirement in 1984, Mad had succeeded so well in influencing the culture that it no longer shocked or surprised: Circulation had dropped to less than a third of its peak, although the magazine continues to be published in local editions around the world.Much of Entertainment Comics was shut down in the 1950s in part because of government pressure, but Mad soon caught on as a stand-alone magazine, willing to take on both sides of the generation gap.
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