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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.)
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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 the 2000s, 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.

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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).

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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.

For tropes related to the website, see Cracked.


Tropes present in the original magazine:

  • Art Evolution:
    • Mike Ricigliano initially drew the "Shut-Ups" in a very lumpy style that seemed to emulate predecessor Charles Rodrigues before finding his own more sketchy style in The '80s.
    • Walter James Brogan's art shifted greatly over the years. His early drawings had a more jagged and pointy appearance.
  • 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.
  • Catch-Phrase: The Talking Blob: So Long, Suckers! (prior to his consuming his victim)
  • Credits Gag: Starting in the late 1990s, the artist and writer bylines often had funny nicknames pertaining to the theme of the article.
  • Crowded Cast Shot: Cracked's final magazine issue had all the mascots of satire and parody magazines - Alfred E. Neuman, Sylvester, and Loads and Loads of Characters.
  • Depending on the Artist: Early on, Sylvester P. Smythe was a lot uglier. John Severin refined his character design into a more Ugly Cute appearance, as seen on the page image.
  • 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". All of these actually did happen during Paul Laikin's short-lived tenure as editor in The '80s.
  • 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 / Long-Runners: 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. The "lad mag" retool was an even further example.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover:
    • They tried a Teen People magazine parody called Toon People, which was a very Shallow Parody of the mag with toon characters attached.
    • 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
  • 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.
  • Pen Name:
    • Bill Ward originally contributed under the name "McCartney".
    • Paul Laikin often padded out the writing credits with pseudonyms (most prominently "Pula Kinlai") to hide the fact that on at least one occasion, he wrote an entire magazine by himself.
    • John Severin was fond of switching out his signature for something silly, such as "O. O. Severin", "Seneriv", "Nireves", or "Le Poer".
    • Rurik Tyler's first few articles were credited to "Bo Badman", since he was also writing for MAD at the time.
    • 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.
    • When former MAD writer Lou Silverstone became editor in the late 90s, he often used pseudonyms to cover up the fact that he was writing so much of the mag himself. The most commonly used one was "Tony Frank", although he also used "Linc Pershad" on occasion.
  • 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 often 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, including a section where they pointed out that the two mags had fairly similar cover gags (a takeoff of the cover to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone with the respective mascot of each mag riding on Harry's broom). 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

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