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Magazine / Cracked

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A typical cover from 1975, featuring mascot Sylvester P. Smythe and drawn by Cracked mainstay John Severin. (Ignore the plane crashing into the tower.)

Before it became a humor website, Cracked was a magazine. Specifically, it was a knockoff of MAD (in their own words, their fanbase was "primarily comprised of people who got to the store after MAD sold out"), using a similar formula of movie and television parodies with deconstructive humor and otherwise (ostensibly) humorous articles, as well as its own Ugly Cute "mascot," Sylvester P. Smythe. It was by far the longest-surviving MAD knockoff, lasting in print form from 1958 until 2004, when a great deal of Executive Meddling reduced the mag to an erratic printing schedule and many of the original contributors left. For its last few issues, it was published by Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. Finally, it was Retooled as a "lad mag." This format didn't last long, and the magazine went under in 2007, only to re-establish itself as a website.

Notable artists who have contributed include John Severin, Bill Ward, Don Orehek, Warren Sattler, Mike Ricigliano, Howard Nostrand, Rurik Tyler, Frank Cummings, Pete Fitzgerald, Gary Fields, and Walter James Brogan. Writers have included George Gladir, Joe Catalano, Paul Laikin, Mort Todd (editor in the 80s), Steve Strangio, Dan Fiorella, Andy Simmons (son of National Lampoon's Matty Simmons), Lou Silverstone (formerly of MAD, and also the editor for most of The '90s), and Greg Grabianski (who also cowrote Scary Movie 2 and some episodes of Beavis and Butt-Head).

Recurring features:

  • Nanny Dickering: A buxom interviewer who would "interview" all sorts of subjects.
  • "Shut-Ups": A two-panel comic. The first panel presents one person in a scenario, while the second has another person respond with a quip beginning with "Shut up and..."
  • Sagebrush: An Old West-themed comic, created by John Severin.
  • The Cracked Lens: Still shots from various movies and TV shows, with witty captions added by the editors.
  • Spies and Sabs: Miniature drawings of stereotypical "cloak and dagger" type spies; unlike Spy vs. Spy, these were inserted into various situations with witty commentary.
  • Hudd & Dini: A gag comic about two prisoners trying to escape.

For tropes related to the website, see Cracked.

Tropes present in the original magazine:

  • Art Evolution:
    • Mike Ricigliano was originally tasked to draw "Shut-Ups" in a style imitative of the installment's previous artist, Charles Rodrigues. This resulted in very lumpy, Off-Model looking art. After a short time, he was allowed to divert into his own radically different style which stuck to the very end.
    • Walter Brogan's art shifted greatly over the years. His early drawings had a more jagged and pointy appearance. Later issues have the art looking somewhat sloppy, due mainly to him being overworked.
  • Belly Dancer: In issue #126, the "Products and Ads Designed for the Arab Market" comic feature gadgets and tools for Arab sheiks in mind, with many a dancer and harem girl showing off their usefulness.
  • Calculator Spelling: The magazine once had an article that played with this concept. For example — Mary wanted something sweet for her birthday, so John gave her a box of ____ and told her to wait a week. (81 x 81 - 1223). The answer: 5338, or "Bees".
  • Caption Humor: The premise of "The Cracked Lens", which applied captions (typically written by Randy Epley) to stock photos or scenes from public-domain movies.
  • Catchphrase: The Talking Blob: So Long, Suckers! (prior to his consuming his victim)
  • Credits Gag: Starting in the 1990s, the artist and writer bylines often had funny nicknames pertaining to the theme of the article.
  • Cute Kitten: John Severin loved to draw Siamese cats in the background of his work.
  • Depending on the Artist:
    • Early on, Sylvester P. Smythe was a lot uglier; this was especially true of the covers that Jack Davis drew before he went back to MAD. John Severin refined his character design into a more Ugly Cute appearance, as seen on the page image.
    • Nanny Dickering's appearance also varied greatly from artist to artist.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first ten years or so didn't have movie or TV parodies, and usually relied on short, slapdash gag articles. Other than John Severin, none of the artists were regulars, instead cribbed from comics talents of the day (with only Bill Ward staying for a significant period of time). Features like Hudd & Dini, Ye Hang-Ups, Nanny Dickering, and the parodies didn't come until The '70s.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: As determined by a contest in 1998, Sylvester P. Smythe's middle name is "Phooey."
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Talking Blob.
  • Historical In-Joke: Issue #325, the 40th anniversary issue, includes a fictitious guide to collecting Cracked. Included in the guide to said issues are entries reading "Ghost of editor's dead wife hired as art director", "Ghost of editor's dead wife promoted to editor", and "1st appearance of editor's son as cover artist". During his short stint as editor in The '80s, Paul Laikin really did credit his dead wife as art director and editor, and hire his son to draw the covers.
  • Hourglass Plot: Real Life example. Cracked started off as a ripoff of MAD Magazine that eventually sputtered out and died...until it went online. Now the ripoff is extremely popular while the original is struggling to stay afloat.
  • Inherited Illiteracy Title: It was officially Cracked mazagine.
  • Last of His Kind: By far the longest-lived of all the MAD knockoffs. For the last two decades of Cracked's print run, only it and MAD itself were still in print.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: The Dick Kulpa era featured attempts at a much "hipper" writing style, with far more edgy humor than the predecessors, shiny tabloid-esque covers laden with headlines, and frequent use of street slang. The "lad mag" retool was an even further example.
  • Lighter and Softer: At least compared to MAD. Even moreso in the mid-late 80s when the focus became more about doing parodies of pop culture and celebrities, almost all of which were more lighthearted spoofs than satirical jabs.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover:
    • They tried a Teen People magazine parody called Toon People, which had a large number of cartoon characters.
    • Given the uprise of anime in the earlier half of the 2000s, they tried a story in which Western cartoon characters "attacked" popular anime characters.
    • All of their 'Cracked Movies' were crossovers featuring Cracked's original characters (Sylvester P. Smythe, interviewer Nanny Dickering, cowboy Sagebrush, and the Talking Blob) joining forces, usually to stop some threat to the magazine. Many of them are are at least mildy amusing. The weakest is probably the fifth, where the regular cast gets Demoted to Extra while a bunch of heroes from 80's mystery and crime TV shows take over the action to find out who stole the magazine's logo.
    • The 'Greatest Film Ever Made' involved a crossover between Rocky, Jaws, C-3PO and R2-D2 of Star Wars, the Godfather, and a few other movies that were popular during the late 70's/early 80's. All these characters were gathered together to play a baseball game.
    • They did a parody of Survivor a few months after the first season ended (back when the show was massively popular) using the Cracked roster of characters. Simpy Dumpkins, The World's Most Hated Man was the first to go. Naked Guy (Richard Hatch) ended up winning.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Nanny Dickering, a buxom lady who interviews various famous people or expies thereof, was always drawn to be very attractive.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: "Hudd & Dini" never used any dialogue.
  • No Ending: Their Star Trek: Insurrection parody ended with Ru'afo being revealed to be Captain Kirk, who proceeds to take back the Enterprise. The usual "Th' End" caption is missing.
  • Parodies for Dummies: Collectors Edition #119 came with an insert titled Star Wars for Dummies.
  • Pen Name:
    • Bill Ward originally contributed under the name "McCartney".
    • Paul Laikin often padded out the writing credits with pseudonyms (most prominently "Pula Kinlai"). Initially, this was done to hide the fact that he wrote several issues by himself. But upon his short-lived return in the 1980s, it was done to cover up that he was recycling material from other magazines he had worked on and/or was giving kickbacks to friends and family who did not actually contribute.
    • As John Severin was their most common illustrator, he was fond of switching out his signature for something silly, such as "O. O. Severin", "Seneriv", "Nireves", "Le Poer" (the Irish form of his middle name, Powers), "Sigbjorn" (the Swedish form of his last name), etc.
    • MAD and Cracked had a policy that contributors could submit material to both magazines, but had to use a pen name at one of the two. Known examples included Rurik Tyler calling himself "Bo Badman" on his early Cracked work and Greg Theakston crediting himself as "Earl P. Whooton".
    • Greg Grabianski occasionally wrote as "Judd Stomp", most notably on the parody of Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, since he was also a writer on the show.
    • Lou Silverstone sometimes wrote under the names Vic Bianco, Tony Frank, or Linc Pershad.
    • During the Kulpa era, both Barry Dutter and Dick Kulpa were fond of using pseudonyms to cover up that they were doing most of the work themselves.
  • Retool: For the last few issues, it was remade as a "lad mag" akin to Maxim (i.e., suggestive photographs of females, stories about cars, etc.). Didn't work.
  • Redundant Parody: The mag also had an occasional habit of parodying things that were already parodies. Just how do you do a wacky parody of Hot Shots!, which is a wacky parody of Top Gun?
  • Running Gag: Absolutely, positively, unquestionably, undeniably, the very very very last of The Cracked Lens (and we really really mean it this time, for sure!), part IX.
  • Self-Deprecation: There were plenty of jokes at the magazine's own expense.
  • Shown Their Work: Often present during Mort Todd's run as editor. Particularly in anthology issues, he would go out of his way to highlight the talent behind each piece (such as a whole page dedicated to how Nanny Dickering's design shifted with each successive artist).
  • Superpowered Date: Super People, a superhero parody of People magazine, has an article explaining how to have an exceptionally cheap date using your Flying Brick superpowers. The night starts with using Super-Strength and Super-Speed to break into a theater and repair the damage while your date is distracted. The only expense for the night is bringing your own popcorn and using Eye Beams to cook it in a large garbage can. The popcorn, along with free sodas beaten out of the vending machine, help deceive your date into thinking you're very generous. After the movie, you fly her home to save on gas. Finally, at her doorstep, you use your Super-Breath in reverse to suck out all the local air, causing her to briefly faint and assume you have super-kissing powers.
  • Take That!: Countless attacks at MAD over time, such as a cover gag where Alfred E. Neuman steals the "A" from the Cracked logo, or a column pointing out that both magazines did similar cover art spoofing the front cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone only a couple months apart. MAD, being the high-class mag that it is, never once counterattacked.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: During the Kulpa era, one running gag was "Mr. Precious", a cartoon cat created by Ed Steckley, who would meet an untimely death in each installment (such as taking a lawn dart to the head when trying to chase after a frog).
  • Those Two Guys: Mike Ricigliano tended to write most of his stuff with his friend Roger Brown.
  • Totally Radical: "Phat" showed up as early as the mid-90s, but the use of street slang, hip-hop references, and the like became far more prominent in the Dick Kulpa era.
  • Verbed Title