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Magazine / MAD

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"What, me worry?"

For decades a key influence on American parodists and satirists in all entertainment media, MAD began in 1952 as a full-color Comic Book, Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD, published by EC Comics. Harvey Kurtzman, the founding editor and writer, started it when he complained how other artists got more money with more page counts, especially when he was so meticulous with his war comics. His publisher, William Gaines, suggested that he do a humor book on top of his present work since that material came easily for him.

Kurtzman began by satirizing popular comic book genres of the time (horror, crime, SF and adventure), but soon found his niche concentrating on parodies of specific comic books and strips, TV shows, films, and classic literature, as well as broader satire of American pop culture. EC artists, such as Jack Davis, Will Elder, and John Severin, accustomed mostly to drawing in a "serious" style, were encouraged to cut loose for MAD, resulting in panels filled to capacity with outrageous caricatures, physics-defying antics, gross-out humor and innumerable background signage gags.

In July 1955, with issue 24, MAD became a black-and-white magazine (only to become color again in the 2000s). Contrary to popular belief, EC did not do this in order to escape The Comics Code. Rather, Kurtzman had received an offer from the more lucrative magazine market, and so EC publisher Bill Gaines proposed the change in format in order to retain him. Nevertheless, the new medium benefitted from the lack of censorship, as well as the broader range of subject matter and media available (including prose and photo features). By late 1956, MAD had become EC's only surviving publication. As history shows, it was more than enough for the company to prosper with.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, MAD began to take on its most familiar (and commercially successful) form, with Al Feldstein as editor and a long-lasting team dubbed "The Usual Gang of Idiots", which consisted of core writers (Jerry DeFuccio, Dick DeBartolo, Frank Jacobs, Arnie Kogen, Stan Hart) and artists (Don Martin, Al Jaffee, Dave Berg, Mort Drucker, Angelo Torres, Bob Clarke, Paul Coker Jr. Don "Duck" Edwing, Norman Mingo, George Woodbridge, Antonio Prohías, Sergio Aragonés) who were all willing to take on any target the magazine felt it could get away with. Many other defining artists and writers have joined since, including artists Tom Bunk, Sam Viviano, Rick Tulka, James Warhola, Hermann Mejía, Peter Kuper, Scott Bricher, and Tom Richmond, and writers Desmond Devlin, Michael Gallaghernote , Mike Snider, Charlie Kadau, Joe Raiola, and Dave Croatto.

In February 2018, MAD ended its original run with issue #550, and subsequently announced a new revamped version of the magazine to launch with #1 in April of the same year (which more than a few people initially mistook for an April Fools joke), to coincide with the staff moving operations from New York to Los Angeles.

In July 2019, it was announced MAD would be ceasing publication of new material after 67 years. The magazine continued to produce scant new material alongside reprinted material until October 2020, confirmed by Tom Richmond to be the last with new content, barring only the cover and Fold-in. The magazine would briefly return to publishing new material in October 2022 to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

For the page on the animated spin-off see MAD. See also MADtv (1995), the loosely-affiliated Sketch Comedy show, and Planet Tad, a regular feature in the magazine that was released as a book in 2012.

Not to be confused with Mutually Assured Destruction.

Recurring features in MAD include:

  • Movie and TV satires: Nearly every issue features a comic satirizing a contemporary popular movie or TV show.
  • Spy vs. Spy: A black-and-white gag comic featuring two Spies trying to outwit each other. Created by Antonio Prohías; handled by Peter Kuper since 1997.
  • Monroe and... In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a comic strip (written by Anthony Barbieri, originally drawn by Bill Wray before being taken over by Tom Fowler) featuring the eponymous Monroe, an angsty teenager dealing with his unsympathetic parents and the woes of adolescence.
  • The Lighter Side of... A series of gags written and drawn by Dave Berg, with a comedic look at Slice of Life topics. Initially, the installment would focus on one topic, but in later years the installments would have one gag each on several different topics. Ended in 2002 after Berg's death, but revived in 2018 with writer Tammy Golden and artist Jon Adams. Some of these were also redone as The Darker Side of the Lighter Side of... in which the original gags were featured with the same artwork and mostly the same dialogue, but a different punchline at the end.
  • A MAD Look at... Sergio Aragonés' signature, dialogue-free vignettes all focused on a different central topic in each issue.
  • Drawn-Out Dramas. Also by Aragonés, these are simple cartoon sketches included in the margins of articles throughout the magazine.
  • The Fundalini Pages: Starting in the early noughties, this was a collection of slapdash one-off gags by various contributors. Renamed "Shorts and Briefs" in 2018.
  • The Strip Club: A collection of one-off comics submitted by various artists and writers. Present from the Turn of the Millennium until the 2018 reboot.
  • MAD Fold-In: Drawn and written by Al Jaffee until his 2019 retirement, these have occurred in almost every issue since the 1960s. The art poses a question to the reader, with the answer and a concealed image both being revealed upon folding the image inward. As noted above, this is just about the last feature still continued in the magazine's reprint version, with art now by Johnny Sampson.
  • Potrzebie Comics/The Potrzebie of __: Replacing The Strip Club in the 2018 reboot, this section featured serialized series of comics, among them the works of Luke McGarry, Bob Fingerman, and Kerry Callen. Lasted until the 2019 switch to mostly reprints.

"What, me trope?":

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  • 3D Comic Book: In the Fifties this fad was (naturally) mocked in a segment by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood where the Fourth Wall was utterly demolished that the characters ended up falling out of the comic, leaving the last page of the story completely blank.
  • Actor Allusion: Invoked in the movie / TV parodies, there are many jokes related to this.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • It's almost become routine for celebrities to write to the magazine with positive reviews of articles that parody their works, some of them including photographs or even original artwork, which the magazine always displays on their letters page.
    • In one "A MAD Look At", a student tells an apparently offensive joke. The teacher steps out into the hall, laughs, then returns to class to scold the student.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: A lot of characters in movie and TV parodies tend to be somewhat exaggerated versions of their usual personality, as well as possibly a little more Genre Savvy, depending on the story. That said, there are some cases in which the characters act noticeably differently in the parodies than they do in the actual movie.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In several cases, often in parodies of TV shows, the culprit is one of the heroes.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "Duck" Edwing titles every one of his one-page "Tales From the Duck Side" strips this way, with colorful titles like "The Demonic Detector Disaster" and "The Cannibal Coffee Shop Conundrum".
  • Affectionate Parody: Largely averted. Most parodies of films include at least a few jokes overtly saying how bad the film is, the number of which depend on the quality of the film or the author's mood.
  • Agony of the Feet: A back-page comic drawn by Tom Bunk and written by Michael Gallagher features a man buying magnetic insoles so strong that they draw an entire shelf of sharp knives down onto his feet. One panel from this comic is the page's image.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: In the parody of Scarface, Tony Montana is thought to be shedding Tears of Remorse for his lifestyle after being gunned down... but is actually sniffing cocaine despite having been killed.
  • Analogy Backfire: Near the end of the Mrs. Doubtfire parody, when Daniel's custody rights are severely curtailed in punishment for his "Mrs. Doubtfire" stunt, Daniel complains that the judge "treated (him) like a murderer." He's told that the judge would have given a murderer clemency.
  • Animated Adaptation:
    • For its first few years on the air MADtv (1995) aired animated bumpers featuring Don Martin characters and "Spy vs. Spy".
    • Cartoon Network premiered an animated adaptation, also titled MAD, in September 2010. It's the magazine in animated form: parodies and quick gags.
  • Anime Hair: Monroe of the Monroe and... series had two antenna-like hair protrusions.
  • Appeal to Worse Problems: Sometimes, people are mocked for their own exceedingly petty concerns when there are worse problems out there, especially when the news media cover celebrities over important events abroad
  • Arc Words:
    • In one story about a criminal and mass murderer known as Mole, it's frequently promised that one day, he'll go "straight to the electric chair." In the end, he accidentally tunnels his way straight to the execution chamber.
    • Parodied in the parody for the Tomb Raider film, in which all the references to 1,000 years were meant to fill out the script quickly in case the writer's guild went on strike.
  • Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: Inverted in the T.J. Hooker satire. A journalist speaking on TV thanks Schnooker for saving her life, then lists the misdeeds she witnessed him commit: disobeying a direct order, assaulting an innocent school teacher, wrecking a squad car, selling Girl Scout cookies without a license, being overweight...
  • Art Evolution: Many of the longtime artists have done this:
    • In the early days, nearly every artist seemed to be asked to follow Will Elder and Harvey Kurtzman's styles, but found more artistic freedom when those two left the magazine.
    • Sergio Aragonés had a very plain style early on, but quickly grew to develop his trademark loose sketchiness and absurdly high level of detail.
    • Dave Berg had this happen twice. His early pre-"Lighter Side" work had a flatter and more cartoonish look to it, but he gradually developed a more realistic style of art. The second evolution came later in his life, when old age caused his style to look much rougher.
    • Both Mort Drucker and Al Jaffee have also shown subtler signs of age taking its toll on their art skills.
    • Monroe had a vastly different appearance in the first few installments of Monroe and..., which made him look much younger than a teenager.
  • Artifact Title: The 'departments' listed at the top of each article. This is a leftover from the days when MAD was a color comic book in the 50's, when it actually had things like "Western Department" or "Horror Department" depending on the article's subject matter. Now (and at least since the 60's) it's little more than a throwaway gag and usually Just for Pun.
  • Artistic License – History: In one article about music in history, MAD suggests that the convicted Salem witches went on a musical tour before their executions. The accompanying illustration shows the accused witches, in 17th century attire, singing as they're being burned at the stake— in reality, the Salem witches were hanged.
  • Asians Eat Pets:
    • In one issue, there were a series of charts called "Cause or Coincidence?" showing possibly-linked trends; one showed the cat population of the US decreasing, and another showed the number of Chinese restaurants in the US increasing at the same rate.
    • Issue 166 from 4/74 had a feature on how to "Eat Out and Lose Weight", which suggested dining in settings where you're likely to lose your appetite, such as a seat within smelling range of the men's room. One idea said to enter Chinese restaurants through the kitchen; the illustration depicted a cat about to be slaughtered.
  • Ascended Extra: Duck Edwing spent most of his first several years as a gag writer for other artists, but began drawing in 1980 as well (although he still continued to write gags for other artists too). He seemed to start drawing his own work more frequently after Don Martin, for whom he was a frequent ghost-writer, left.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: The premise of Al Jaffee's recurring "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions", a panel of which is the source image.
  • Author Appeal: Sometimes, certain parodies are taken up by artists and/or writers who particularly like the subject matter or are particularly skilled at it. For instance:
    • Dick DeBartolo usually handles the Game Show parodies, most likely because he used to work for Mark Goodson productions.
    • Desmond Devlin usually writes parodies of contemporary music and YA franchises.
    • Previously, Frank Jacobs was the go-to writer for music and poem parodies. He also used to handle most of the comic strip parodies, usually with Bob Clarke or Jack Rickard handling the art (because those two were the most skilled at recreating the styles of contemporary comic strips).
    • Jack Davis said in a reprint that he loved to draw articles about sports and the Old West.
    • Before he got promoted to art director, Sam Viviano usually drew the parodies of animated works.
    • Most of the South Park parodies were drawn by Grey Blackwell because he was easily able to replicate the show's art style. However, Viviano did the South Park-themed covers of #371 (which had two versions) and #375, as his experience with computer graphics allowed for a completely spot-on re-creation of the show's style.
    • Al Jaffee used to love doing articles with creative technical takes on things (cutaway views, random inventions, Rube Goldberg Devices, etc.).
  • Author Avatar: Several artists are - or were - known to do this. Dave Berg did it Once an Episode, his "The Lighter Side" including a character named "Roger Kaputnik" meant to be a caricature of himself. It has also been commonly done by Al Jaffee (who even uses a caricature of himself as his signature) and Sergio Aragonés.
  • Author Catchphrase: Al Jaffee is fond of the word "glitch".
  • Author Tract: MAD has had quite a long-running relationship with The Simpsons, prompting the former to regularly launch take thats against Family Guy for perceived plagiarism and causing the latter to regularly feature MAD (with one notable episode having it be integral to the plot).
  • Badass Preacher: The Ventriloquist Priest, who appeared in many Duck Edwing comics; he knew ventriloquism, and became somewhat of a non-violent Church Militant with it, doing everything from tricking miserly people into donating to charity to convincing would-be suicides not to jump, and even fooled Satan himself into leaving a possessed child by imitating the voice of God!
  • Bad News in a Good Way: A series of notes do this for one person. For example, a kid cheerfully talks about the "camping trip" in the desert he's having before mentioning that unless his parents pay the ransom, the kidnappers will leave him to starve.
  • Bad News, Irrelevant News: In the parody of The Fugitive, Kimble gets the bad news that he's been sentenced to lethal injection for a murder he didn't commit. The "good news" is that being a doctor, he can perform the injection on himself and save the state some money.
  • "Bang!" Flag Gun:
    • Don Martin did "Great Non-Violent Guns" in issue #137, which parodies the use of these.
    • The cover of issue #223 has a disembodied (and six-fingered) hand shooting one of these through the head of J. R. Ewing.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: MAD had an article parodying bullfighting as the noble sport of Dog Kicking (literally).
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:Lampshaded in the parody "Lover's Story," in which the doctor describes this to Oliver as an actual symptom of her illness. By the time she's lying on her deathbed, smiling radiantly, she's too beautiful for anyone to look directly at her.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In "The Lighter Side," one woman asks to be treated as an equal to her male coworkers. Her boss grants her request... by cutting her salary to the same level as that of one of her male peers.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Subverted in one early feature, in which in the "real life" version of the scene, more Indians arrive instead of the cavalry, overwhelming the settlers.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Whenever they mock something produced by Time Warner (including Warner Bros Studios and DC Comics) it can count as this.
  • Black Comedy:
    • "Celebrity Cause-of-Death Betting Odds" was a recurring feature in the late 90s and early noughties, which gave jokey predictions on how a famous celebrity would die.
    • They actually got angry mail after running an issue in 1999 in which readers were encouraged to choose which way Pikachu was going to dienote , and on the back page, a spoof advertisement about several children's books as written by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, all with suicide or death themes.
  • Blatant Lies: One picture has Richard Nixon as George Washington. Holding an axe behind his back, he says "I cannot tell a lie! I DIDN'T DO IT!!"
  • Bluffing the Murderer:
    • One prisoner is tricked into confessing by being told that he will be given a pardon. His crime was stealing a loaf of bread.
    • A more benevolent example of this Trope appeared in one of Duck Edwing's comics, where the Ventriloquist Priest fooled a killer into confessing this way.
  • Blunt "Yes": Inverted in one article. One politician, as an example of a rare moment of honesty, says it isn't possible to lower taxes and keep a balanced budget without cutting spending.
  • The Board Game: Manufactured by Parker Brothers in 1979. Kind of like Monopoly, but with the goal of losing all your money.
  • Bold Inflation: Dialogue in the magazine tends to have several words bolded for no particular reason, particularly the majority of the nouns, and almost every sentence that isn't a question ends in an exclamation point! Inherited from EC Comics.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Once took a shot at Hollywood liberals for various hypocrisies; examples include promoting gun control despite starring in action flicks and preaching that a woman's body is her own property only to reject any actress who doesn't get plastic surgery.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • This trope gets parodied mercilessly in Harvey Kurtzman's and Jack Davis's sketch Book! Movie! about the many changes made for a book's Live-Action Adaptation.
    • Played straight with the A New Hope parody. In the original, R2-D2 calls C-3PO a "fag robot". Later reprints changed this to "gay robot".
  • Boxed Set: The Totally MAD 7-disc CD-ROM setnote , and Absolutely MAD DVD-ROM.note 
  • Break Them by Talking: In the parody of Lois & Clark, at the end, Superman comes face to face with Newt Gingrich, who's allied with Lex Luthor. Gingrich then proceeds to portray Superman's actions as going against the Republican's agenda, hypocritically claims to be extolling family values, and eventually drives Superman to leave.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The characters in movie / TV parodies frequently reference the fact that they're in movies, from mentioning the current runtime to complaining about narrative decisions.
  • Briar Patching: A boy gets in trouble, and begs his mother not to tell his father, resulting in her deciding to do so. The boy's friend chastises him for letting his mother know his weakness, but the boy says his father is soft.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In the parody of The Matrix, as in the film, Neo's mouth vanishes when the Agents plant a bug in him. At the end, after realizing his status as the One, he does this to Morpheus when facing another one of his long speeches.
    • In the parody of Road to Perdition, Michael Jr. asks his mother what his father does for a living, and his mother says Michael is a baker, before making a bread-related pun about Michael killing people. Shortly before the climax, Michael Jr. asks his father where he's going, and Michael makes another bread-related pun.
  • Broken Aesop: Invoked. One article talks about how various lessons in childhood are undermined by certain people and organizations not being held to those standards (a lesson about admitting your wrongdoing and accepting punishment is undermined by headlines about Nixon getting pardoned and Spiro Agnew getting off with a fine).
  • Brutal Honesty: One article shows what would happen if people in various situations, from a man passing over a woman for promotion in favor of his friend's son, to a racist cop pulling over a black man, were completely honest with each other.
  • Butt-Monkey: Monroe of Monroe and... usually had a myriad of misfortunes in every episode.

  • Call-Back: A few in the Monroe stories, typically identified by "See Monroe and...". The ones that don't have this notificaition are typically Noodle Incidents.
  • Captured by Cannibals: A common theme in "Duck" Edwing's one page comic features.
  • Carload of Cool Kids: In one issue, there is a Dave Berg piece from the 60s or early 70s with a car overloaded with teenage boys.
    Father: Where are you going?
    Boy: To the school dance, Dad. But first we gotta pick up our dates.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: In movie parodies, heroes and villains will often converse amongst themselves or with each other in the middle of battle or chase scenes.
  • Catchphrase: "What, me worry?", "Price: $x.xx (Cheap!)", "Fa! Fa! Fa!", and "The Usual Gang of Idiots" (used to describe the creators on the credits page of almost every issue).
  • Celebrities Hang Out in Heaven: The premise of Potzrebie Comic's "The 27 Club" by Luke Mcgarry. The titular Club live in Fluffy Cloud Rock and Roll Heaven (except for Robert Johnson), have superpowers and can travel back to Earth to fight crime. Some recently deceased stars made short cameos.
  • Censorship by Spelling: In one "Lighter Side Of" strip, the parents are talking about their son's bad report card in front of him; the mother is reluctant but the father says "just spell it." So they have the conversation, which ends with:
    Mother: I-M W-O-R-R-I-E-D T-H-A-T H-E M-A-Y B-E S-T-U-N-T-E-D I-N-T-E-L-L-E-C-T-U-A-L-Y.
    Son: That's I-N-T-E-L-L-E-C-T-U-A-L-L-Y!
  • City Shout Outs: One feature on boy bands (the same one as the Trope Namer for Cardiovascular Love) suggests to producers that boy bands can be made to look less formulaic than they are by allowing them to express a little of their "spontaneous side":
    Exactly 43 minutes into your Friday night stage show, one member might yell, "Let me hear you scream, Miami!" But the next night, he should feel totally free to change this to "Let me hear you scream, Orlando!" At the 43-minute mark, of course; let's not go completely nuts. But that sort of freewheeling improvisation is what makes or breaks a live performance.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Parody: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was finally spoofed in 2019 as "Silly Wonky and the Town of Flavor," with Guy Fieri as Silly Wonky.
  • Cheek Copy: As part of the changeover to the "edgier" style in the late 1990s, the first cover of the era (issue #356) had Alfred copying his butt, and pictures of his face coming out of the copier.
  • Classically-Trained Extra: Parodies often point out how much of a waste it is for an excellent actor to get a very small role.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: In the parody of "All the President's Men," Woodward and Bernstein are told that the FBI is unhappy about their reporting, believing it will hinder them in their struggle with "the enemy"- the CIA.
  • Cliché Storm: Invoked
    • In the Dirty Dancing parody, every single panel except the introduction has a footnote describing the cliche in it, such as "Rich girl meets boy from the wrong side of the tracks..." A similar format is used again in the Detroit Rock City parody.
    • The "Cliche Movie Scripts" show snippets of especially cliched dialogue from various movie genres, from a young man winning over his wealthy girlfriend's parents to an opera singer making it big before retiring to live with the man she loves. From the dialogue, it's clear that the plots are rather cliched, too.
  • Clothes for Christmas Cringe:
    • They had an article called "the Timeline of Disillusionment", which included "Age 6: Getting clothes for Christmas."
    • In a Dave Berg "Lighter Side", a little boy is bummed that all he got for Xmas was a dart gun, plus lots of outfits. His mom is perfectly happy with clothes as gifts and tells him to make the best of them. The final panel has the kid doing just that: using the hanged-up articles of clothing for dart-gun target practice.
    • In a piece about family photos, we're shown a typical photo of 3 elated kids on Xmas holding large presents in front of the tree. Then we're shown a second picture left out of the album — the same kids in tears after they've opened said gifts and found nothing but clothes inside.
    • Handwritten letters to Santa Claus after Xmas, e.g., asking why the toys he saw advertised on TV don't work as well as in the commercial. One kid details how he took pains to be a good boy all year, but all he received on Christmas morning was "pajamas, underwere, and a swedder (sic)". He tells Santa that, thanks to those "presents", he's gonna be a bad dude the following year.
  • Cobweb of Disuse: Done frequently, particularly in Sergio Aragonés' "A MAD look at _____". If a person bought something that sits in disuse, you'll see it sitting on a shelf or in a closet with spider webs.
  • Comically Cross-Eyed: A 1990s magazine cover shows the magazine title misspelled as MAAD with Alfred E. Neuman looking cross-eyed and the caption "Proof Reader Wanted!"
  • Comically Invincible Hero: Fantabulaman.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Very frequent, to the point of being one of the magazine's stock jokes. "The Lighter Side" features this especially frequently.
  • Company Cross References: One "The Lighter Side Of..." strip depicts a kid with a collection of classic comics, including editions of MAD's former EC Comics stablemates Shock SuspenStories and Panic. He expects they'd be worth somewhat more than his early issues of Superman and Batman.
  • Compressed Adaptation: To varying degrees in the film parodies. Most of the time, each of the major scenes gets one (or in some cases two) panels, but often, a fair amount of the film isn't even referenced, particularly toward the ending. In the "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" parody, the entire climax happens in a single panel. Also, the Forrest Gump parody abruptly ends about halfway through, with Bill Clinton showing up as Gump runs cross-country.
  • Contractual Immortality:invoked Often made fun of for long-running franchises. Batman and the Joker attempt to defy this trope at the end of the Tim Burton's Batman parody; the Joker, falling to his death, tells Batman not to save him lest they put him in the sequel. In the last panel, Batman cuts the line he's swinging on in hopes of doing the same.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    • In the parody of "All the President's Men", a girl from the Republican Party who squealed on the party was tied to a chair and forced to listen to the "Checkers" speech, and watch home movies of Julie and David's wedding.
    • In the parody of "Up the Academy", the main characters are set to the academy as punishment for various offenses (stealing, getting a girl pregnant, being a disgrace to the family), under the belief that it would ruin their careers. One mob boss's subordinate pleads with him to reconsider, as it's too cruel of a thing to do to his son.
  • Cool Old Guy: Even well into The New '10s, many contributors born in the 1930s and 1940s still write and/or draw for the magazine. Special mention goes to Al Jaffee (born 1921), who in 2016 was honored by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest active cartoonist (since December 1942).
  • Couch Gag:
    • From about the late 1990s onward, the table of contents would always include a listing for a fake article.
    • Every "cover" of Potzrebie Comics had a different verb of disapproval from the Comics Code Authority, rhyming or alliterative sneak peaks at the strips, and an ad for a strip not included.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: In the parody of The Fugitive, the marshal pursuing Kimble knew he was innocent all along, but kept up the chase in order to get more overtime pay.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Amusingly done in one "A Mad Look At", in which the victim writes out not only the name of his killer, but also his motivation.
  • Cover-up Purchase: The magazine had an article about an honestly-labeled video store, and one of the categories was "Diversionary rentals to put on top of the six porn tapes you're slinking around with so the cashier won't think you're a total sleaze"
  • Crappy Holidays: A satire of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" showed that if modern Christmases have become crappy for the people, it's become even worse for Santa: no reindeer for his sleigh, no elves to make the toys, no workshop to make the toys due to a lack of insurance and a tax audit, people shooting at him with their guns, irradiation from nuclear plants, among other things. At the end of the satire, Santa decides that he's going to retire and is seen riding off on his rocket-powered sleigh, kicking the sack of toys off it in disgust.
  • Creator Cameo: Whenever "The Lighter Side of The Office" appeared, the office itself feature real-life MAD Magazine staff members, including Bill Gaines (publisher) and Lenny Brenner (production director).
    • After Gaines died, Dave Berg semi-retired the boss character. He still appeared, but as a picture on the wall silently reacting to the office antics.
  • Creator Killer:invoked MAD is relatively quick to label works as having destroyed the careers of those involved.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Harvey Kurtzman had some odd attraction to the name "Melvin": an overwhelming amount of stories from his reign as writer have one of the characters named Melvin in them. The name's even on the first cover.
  • Crossover Punchline: In many parodies, characters from different movies/shows/etc. may be worked into crowd scenes or have a few lines for quick gags.
    • The Pulp Fiction parody had several unrelated characters show up at the splash page opening just to comment how cool and innovative the movie feels. Then Tom Cruise as Lestat ("Le Fotostat") says that he could drink all the blood spilled in the movie and live forever.
    • The parody of The Rock has Vincent from Pulp Fiction pop up to inject the livesaving drug into Stanley's heart, saying he has experience. This becomes Hilarious in Hindsight due to their actors starring together in Face/Off the following year.
    • In the parody of The Dark Knight, the wannabe Batmen who Batman ties up himself are Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney (and Adam West with his face obscured) in their own Batsuits, with Christian Bale's Batman none too pleased.
  • Crowded-Cast Shot: A trademark of many artists' styles is to cram as many characters as physically possible into one panel. Sergio Aragonés and Tom Bunk were both particularly adept at this.
  • Cut Short: Potzrebie Comics was unceremoniously cancelled in 2019 after only a year's run. As such, the strip "Lukey and Mukey" ends with the two protagonists being marched to Mukey's office by his cronies, and none of the other strips included got much closure either, although "Lukey" author Bob Fingerman and "27 Club"'s Luke McGarry have said they might like to come back to their ideas someday.
  • Damned By a Fool's Praise: This is sometimes used as a joke, albeit often with the twist that someone praising the things they do is the proof that they're a fool.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: In one Melvin and Jenkins article, Melvin pockets a terminally ill boy's artwork, hoping it will increase in value once the kid dies.
  • "Dear John" Letter: One article had a "Mad Libs" for this.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the parody of Scarface, Tony guns down both Manny and Gina in the same scene.
  • Death Glare: The last panels of many "The Lighter Side Of" strips often feature people getting these from those they've offended, while the offending individuals deliver the punchlines.
  • Death Is Cheap: Boromir complains about being the only one in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring who doesn't benefit from this, noting Gandalf's upcoming return from the dead, Sauron's spirit enduring and Frodo cheating death several times.
  • Deconstruction: One of the older issues dealt with how a movie cowboy "Lance Sterling" would be different from a real life cowboy, "John Smurd". In the movie, Sterling defeats his rival in a long fistfight and gets the girl. Smurd, however, misses several shots in a shootout, gets knocked out for some time after being hit with a chair, and shoots his rival dead after taking him by surprise, but gets hanged for murder.
    • Reel vs. Real in Issue #307 took several popular movies and asked how they would play out in reality. Similarly, the ending of the Top Gun parody has the hero's actions resulting in World War III.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Unlike many examples, though, the deconstruction is typically Played for Laughs. Though not in the early Kurtzman issues, where the satire was often nasty because Kurtzman really did dislike quite a few of his targets.
    • Kurtzman's early satires were aggressive because it pointed out what was disturbing about the targets. Like his parody of Archie highlighted the slacker nature of the characters, their exploitative attitude to friends and authority and even Archie's misogyny and the shallowness of teen culture, pointing out that such a character would face worse social consequences in real life than in the world of the stories.
    • Superduperman mocks the Two-Person Love Triangle, as well as the Dogged Nice Guy trope, by insisting that "Nice Guy" obsession with being loved for their "true selves" is inherently pathetic. As Lois Pain tells Clark Bent when he finally reveals his identity, "Once a creep, always a creep."
  • A Degree in Useless: One article says that anyone who can get a four-year degree in Ancient Babylonian Astrology in two years is a genius, but anyone who expects to get a good job with that degree is an idiot.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Averted in the parody of The Shining. Danny asks his father, who is chasing him with an axe in order to punish him, if he could not send him to bed without supper like other fathers, but Jack says that with the food they have, that would be a reward.
  • Depending on the Artist: Most of the artists who drew the covers over the years have drawn Alfred E. Neuman in a style close to the design codified by Norman Mingo in the 1950s. However, there were exceptions:
    • Both Mort Drucker and Jack Davis tended to give him a more jagged appearance that fit their respective styles.
    • Al Jaffee's takes on Alfred were usually round and chubby.
    • Sergio Aragonés's four covers were closer to his loose, sketchy style, with Alfred barely resembling himself at all. Lampshaded in Frank Jacobs' anthology of MAD covers, where Jacobs recalled a conversation with Aragonés over one of his covers: Jacobs said that it was one of the only Alfreds not to follow Freas' style, but Aragonés protested it was "the best [he] could do".
    • John Caldwell's cover to #295 was closer to his squiggly style. (He drew a second cover in 2001, but it was changed at the last second because his original cover art was deemed possibly offensive after 9/11.)
    • Drew Struzan's cover for #379 (his only contribution to the mag) is eerily Off-Model, particularly in Alfred's hairstyle.
    • James Warhola usually averted this, as the covers he did in The '80s were painted. But when he was brought back to fashion a mashup of Alfred and Ash Ketchum for issue #386, the results were not particularly true to either character.
  • Deus ex Machina: Many parodies are like this, such as their Desperate Housewives parody, which ended with Dr. Phil visiting the wives.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: At the end of "The Goonies" parody, after the heroes find the treasure they need to save their homes, the police show up, arrest them for trespassing on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and confiscate their loot.
  • Die Laughing: Elijah, at the end of the Unbreakable parody. In his case, he laughs so hard that he literally disembowels himself.
  • Disney Death: Frequently mocked in parodies, especially if the writers know the death will be reversed.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Frequently brought up and Played for Laughs, with characters in parodies often threatening to kill others for inconveniencing them, committing a Felony Misdemeanor, or even doing a good deed that they don't like for a petty reason. One woman opposes the death penalty... except for a man who gives his wife a black eye.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: In the "Ecch-Men" parody, the Mutant Control Agency is not run by the government - it just gives them a building, funds them, and looks the other way when they attack mutants. Beast calls it "Federal-speak".
  • Divorce Requires Death: In the parody of The Godfather Part II, when Kay demands a divorce from Michael, he refuses because it is against God's will. He then turns to family consigliere Tom Hagen and orders a "hit" on her. Hagen then tells Michael he is a good Roman Catholic for not divorcing her.
    • Also in the parody of the Shining, in which Dinny's mother tells him that his father is trying to kill her because, as a Catholic, he cannot divorce her.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: In one still from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Ron praises Harry for claiming that the three-headed dog ate their and Hermione's homework.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: In the "Superduperman" parody, Clark Bent is this to Lois, and is played in a creepy and Stalker with a Crush sense. He spends his life savings to buy a pearl necklace for Lois, just for the chance to sniff her perfume.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: In the "Plastic Sam" parody, a guard pauses to explain why he's looking around in surprise like he did in the previous panel, before doing so again in the next.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: In one "The Lighter Side Of", a man politely refuses assistance carrying his groceries to the car, saying there are things he has to do himself. It turns out he parked in a handicapped parking space despite not being handicapped, and this attention is the reason he regrets doing so.
  • Downer Ending: Every entry in the "Monroe and…" series has one.
    • Discussed in one "Lighter Side of" strip, when a man gets depressed by reading a book with such an ending, and his friends tell him not to read books like that if they make him sad. He explains that he has no choice, since the "book" in question is his checkbook.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Invoked; many parodies will have characters expressing admiration for the villains, such as in the parody of "Bonnie and Clyde".
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: In one article about comic strip characters turning nasty, Beetle Bailey becomes one... after making Private First Class.
  • Driven to Suicide: In one article parodying how the gifts from "12 Days of Christmas" make terrible gifts in reality, the woman, having her apartment ruined, running into legal trouble and literally going insane from her boyfriend's gifts, kills herself and in her will, arranges for him to get the same gifts, which possibly makes this a Thanatos Gambit.
  • Droste Image: The cover of Issue #101 depicts Alfred reading a copy of the very same issue.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Bill Gaines did not smoke or drink, and had a strict policy against alcohol and tobacco being portrayed in a positive light. He once required Antonio Prohías to redo one initial sketch of a "Spy vs Spy" comic because the two Spies were smoking and sipping cocktails in the first two panels.
  • Durable Deathtrap: Parodied in "The Goofies", when the kids note that the amazing part about the traps is "that everything still works after being in a damp cave for centuries." It turns out, though, that they broke into Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Most notably, the first 23 issues were full-color comic books, written almost entirely by Harvey Kurtzman. Although, that became standard again at the Turn of the Millennium.
    • The early issues of the magazine format were very different. The humor was "lighter and softer", the tv/movie satires were less biting and more likely to deviate from the plot, and most notably, they had contributions by famous humorists of the day (Bob and Ray, Danny Kaye, Sid Caesar, Andy Griffith, Stan Freberg, Jean Shepherd, etc.). It wasn't until the sixties until it gained its traditional format it's most known for.
    • The first six issues of the magazine format (#24-#29) did not feature Alfred E. Neuman on the cover, although he was in the borders. In addition, the magazine had assigned various other names to him, in addition to using the name "Alfred E. Neuman" in other contexts not related to him, before permanently matching his face and name with issue #30.
    • Don Martin's early gags were often Black Comedy (for example, his first credited piece has an advice columnist showing how to tie a hangman's noose), lacking the manic pacing, cartoonish looseness, and wacky sound effects he would soon become known for. His change in tone may be in part to Don "Duck" Edwing joining as a frequent ghost-writer of his gags come the late 60s-early 70s.
    • Some of the very early (1955-56) issues had some very long essays with very little artwork, something that rarely happened in later issues.
    • Originally, articles only had an artist byline or none at all; all of the contributing artists and writers were merely listed on the first page. By the early 1960s, bylines credited everyone who worked on the article.
    • In the first couple installments of Spy vs. Spy, neither spy killed or even injured the other.
    • The Fold-Ins were black-and-white from their debut in issue #86 until issue #119. Also, Jaffee experimented with them many times before settling on a consistent style. The first one had a different caption style — instead of the answer being concealed within the letters found at either end of a longer caption, it merely relied on a paragraph written on a "ribbon", with the fold covering up an entire sentence to change the paragraph's meaning. In addition, it was the only one that did not have a "secret" image concealed within the art. Those in issues #87 and #99 have both a "ribbon" and a traditional caption, and #90's had its answer revealed vertically by concealing all but the first letter of each word in a Long List. Finally, the one in #88 had a hand-written caption within the picture itself and was the only one to fold diagonally instead of "fold in so A meets B".
    • In the earlier installments of Monroe and..., Monroe's parents were actually caring and loving towards their son but as the strip progresses by the third installment, Monroe's mother becomes more and more of a slut, Monroe's father is more of a conniving con man of a dick, and both of them become more and more uncaring and apathetic towards their Buttmonkey son.
    • Dave Berg started working for the magazine in 1957, but did not come up with "The Lighter Side" until 1961 (although a few earlier articles before that point were pretty much "The Lighter Side" in all but name). A few of his early contributions also had him doing art for someone else's script or vice-versa, whereas "The Lighter Side" had him serve as both artist and writer (except for a posthumous one in 2003 which he had scripted but not illustrated, so several other artists gathered in his honor to handle the art duties instead), and it comprised about 99% of his output for the mag.
    • In the parody of A New Hope, the series is titled "Star Roars" rather than "Star Bores." The parody also frequently references real-world dollar amounts and plays fast and loose with the story (not just the alternative ending), such as having Darth Vader kill Obi-Wan, rather than the latter performing a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Elvis Lives: Defied. One song parody, "Don't Be Fooled," has Elvis singing that he is, in fact, dead, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.
  • Embarrassing Hobby: Deconstructed. In one "A Mad Look At..." strip, a pair of jocks mock one of their peers for joining the cheer squad instead of the football team. Cut to them noticing that not only is he the only guy on the squad, not only is he surrounded by the prettiest girls in school, he's not only allowed but encouraged to lay hands on said girls in a way that would get the other guys slapped, if not expelled/criminally charged (he's holding one up in the air by way of her sitting her very pert bottom on one of his hands) as part of the cheerleading routine.
  • Embarrassing Hospital Gown: #170 had a Hospital Supply Catalogue. One listed item was "Reversible Hospital Gowns", which were guaranteed to leave something embarrassing exposed even if it was put on backwards. Available in 3 sizes: Wide gap, Wider gap, and Falling off completely.
  • Ending Fatigue:invoked Movie parodies often make fun of the film continuing even though it doesn't make any sense to do so. For instance, their parody of The Green Mile ends with a complaint that it was "long winded" despite the parody being a scant four pages. For it's part, Gollum comes back from the dead to call out Peter Jackson on LotR: The Return of the King having six endings.
  • Enfant Terrible: A planned serial Potzrebie Comic by this name told of a demonic infant and her single mother. The sperm donor was an inmate about to go on death row, and it appeared to be setting up two more deranged offspring when the strip was canned after just two editions.
  • Entitled Bastard: In one "Lighter Side of" strip, a hippie calls cops "Fascist pigs," then yells for help from the police when a man attacks him. The police then ignore him, saying that there's nobody there but them, the pigs.
  • Equal-Opportunity Offender:
    • Name a piece of Western media, political candidate, celebrity, trendy cause, or societal trend, and the magazine's probably spit-roasted it at some point. The offended parties who have sued them (and lost) could fill a small law library in regards to the protected status of parody and the press in American law.
    • Half of every politically themed article bashes Democrats, while the other half usually bashes Republicans. It leaned heavier to anti-GOP comedy by 2017, like much of American comedy.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: Used quite frequently, and discussed in one Lighter Side strip, in which it a lawyer points out that everyone hates lawyers until they need one.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Winthorpe and Valentine's conflict with the Duke brothers in the parody of Trading Places is considered this, with one person saying that the "two old sharks" were practically lovable compared to the protagonists.
  • Exact Words: Done quite often and in various contexts.
    • For example, one condemned prisoner is promised that he won't be given the electric chair, but instead is microwaved to death.
    • In another example, a prisoner is told that he will be given a "lottery execution," in which his executioner, a blind man, will only have one shot to hit him, causing the prisoner to conclude that he'll be let go if the other man misses. Unfortunately, the gun that's being fired is a cannon so large it can't possibly miss the prisoner, and the prisoner has no chance of surviving the blast. Furthermore, while the executioner is, indeed, blind, the man who gave the prisoner the news guides him as he uses a torch to light the fuse.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    • In the parody of "The Godfather"
    Vino Minestrone: Could I be harmed by that cute Italian fish peddler? By those sweet Italian kids, playing Hop-Scotch? By those nice Italian button men in their big black car... barreling down on me at 80 miles an hour? OH-OH!!
    Judo-Lee: If they register me with the Federal Mutant Agency, I'll be taken away! That means I'll never see mom and Dad again! Hey, cool!
    • In the parody of The Shining, there's one such exchange.
    Egbert Grisly: They TOLD me that I would rot in Hell!
    Wack Torrents: Well, I'm glad you learned your less- Wait a minute!! You mean THIS place is HELL?!?
  • Explosive Decompression: The fate of one worker in the Outland parody.
  • Expy: Al Jaffee's feature Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions uses the same format as Rube Goldberg's early 20th century newspaper feature Foolish Questions.
  • Face on the Cover: Nearly all issues have featured their mascot Alfred E. Neuman on the cover.
  • Fair Cop: Averted in one article of things you don't see on TV, in which two male cops refuse to have their unattractive female partner serve as a decoy because no one would attack her.
  • Fake Band: In 1959, a novelty record was released with the credit "Alfred E. Neuman and his Furshlugginer Five", a series of uncredited musicians. The A-side is a novelty song titled "What, Me Worry?", with an uncredited man singing in the role of Alfred, and the B-side is an instrumental piece called "Potrzebie".
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The parody of Gremlins often poked fun at the use of this trope, saying that the main antagonist's gruesome death is less likely to make you realize that good triumphs over evil than to "barf your guts out."
  • Fanservice:
    • Dave Berg's and Mort Drucker's women, or at least until old age took its toll on Dave's drawing skills.
    • The Grey Spy as well. Yow.
    • Bill Elder was drawing hot chicks since the book's start. The lady in red in "Dragged Net!" in #3 is a good example.
    • Wallace Wood's women. The preface to the 2002 re-release of The Mad Reader goes out of its way to point out all of the fanservice contained in Wood's Flash Gordon parody.
    • Jack Rickard and George Woodbridge drew some very attractive women as well, although their styles were a little more understated.
    • Every so often, we get full-frontal female nudity (usually in the "A Mad Look At [X]" department), although done in the trademark crude, cartoonish style. It's usually for purposes of Distracted by the Sexy towards a buffoonish male character.
  • Fantastic Measurement System: Issue #33 had the "Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures", sent in by a 19-year-old Donald Knuth, who later became a computer scientist. The base unit was the thickness of Mad issue #26, or 2.263348517438173216473 millimeters.
  • "Far Side" Island: A frequently-used trope in Don Martin's work.
  • Fat Idiot: At the end of "Up the Academy," after getting several memos about how terrible the movie is, Bill Gaines laments how miserable it is to be fat and stupid at the same time.
  • Faux Affably Evil: One mugger approaches a target, pretending to be a beggar, and acts polite while he says he has nothing to his name, before threatening his victim with a gun.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: A running gag, especially in parodies, when characters get angry with others over minor slights rather than things that would be considered unforgivable.
  • Fictional Sport:
    • 43-Man Squamish. (MAD #95, June 1965). Also an example of Defictionalization, as one group in Canada actually formed a 43-Man Squamish team.
    • An earlier example is an article (guest-written by Ernest Kovacs, the famous TV comedy pioneer) for a board game called "Gringo" (MAD #29, September 1952).
    • And again with the board game "Three-Cornered Pitney" (MAD #241, September 1983)
  • Final Speech: Mad often parodies the tendency of characters to do that in spite of injuries that should have killed them, and the "Tumbrel Cart" cliche movie prop is designed for this purpose, with a reference to A Tale of Two Cities
  • Fire/Ice Duo: Perhaps forgetting how common this trope is, the magazine accuses the second X-Men movie of ripping of "The Year Without A Santa Claus" by having Pyro and Iceman fill this trope.
  • Flipping the Bird: The cover of Mad #166, which was nothing but an illustration of someone doing just that, captioned by "The Number One Ecch Magazine". Many newsstands refused to display this issue.
    • The first Burbank issue had Alfred stick his middle finger up his nose.
  • For Inconvenience, Press "1": Parodied in one "The Lighter Side Of", in which a woman eagerly chooses the option for people who want to speak with a human being like they used to.
  • For the Lulz: At the end of the "Outland" parody, the computer doesn't do anything to stop the hero and his wife from traveling to each other's current location, because it believes that even machines deserve to have fun.
  • Forcibly Formed Physique: Issue #4 featured the short parody comic ''Superduperman", which featured the titular character engaged in a battle with Captain Marbles. Unable to harm Captain Marbles directly, Superduperman tricks him into punching himself in the face, and the comic ends with Captain Marbles lying flat on his back, his face a smoldering crater.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: In the Top Gun parody, after "Goof" dies, Maniac is told that "When a buddy goes, you've just got to let him go!" He immediately responds, "Let who go?", causing the questioner to note that he learns quickly.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: One of Frank Jacobs' favorite tropes was to write satirical versions of Mother Goose rhymes, typically in some sort of theme.
  • Freudian Excuse
    • In the parody of Quiz Show, Charles mentions that he wanted some way to impress his father, when he couldn't find a word that rhymed with Orange.
    • In the parody of Tim Burton's Batman, the Joker's maniacal speech about wanting to cut up Batman and spread him over the city is said to have been from watching WWE interviews.
    • In the parody of "Contact", "Ellie Outaways" is an atheist because her father died when she was young, as a result of her getting him his medication, but running to the bathroom and back in slow motion.
  • "Friends" Rent Control:
    • In the parody of the first "Superman" movie, it's mentioned that Superman's powers of flight are about as unbelievable as Lois affording a New York apartment on $185 a week.
    • Averted in the parody of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy refuses a vampire's offer of immortality because she and her mother don't live in a rent-controlled apartment, and she's afraid of how high the rent will rise.
  • Funny Background Event: The main premise of Sergio Aragonés' "Drawn Out Dramas" in the margins. Many of the parody artists tend to do this as well, some moreso than others; in the Kurtzman era, they were called "chicken fat". They're quite common in the direct parodies of television shows and films.
    Tom Richmond: "Doing art for MAD is not about just drawing. It’s about adding humor on a visual level. That might be using funny images or adding visual gags. No extra pay, sadly."

  • Gainax Ending: "Julius Caesar" — a comic that demonstrates typical Mad elements — ends in such a fashion.
    ...matter of fact, this MAD comic book isn't really MAD comic book...
  • Gag Nose: Appears on characters drawn by Don Martin, Al Jaffee, "Duck" Edwing, Sergio Aragonés, and pretty much every artist with caricature-like styles.
  • Gambit Pileup: In Spy vs. Spy.
  • Game Show Appearance: The magazine has done straight-up parodies of game shows over the years, including What's My Line?, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, Double Dare, Love Connection, American Gladiators, Singled Out, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, The Weakest Link, 1 vs. 100, Deal or No Deal, and The Wall. They've also done two parodies of The Price Is Right — one of the original 1950s version, and one of the contemporary version (which, bizarrely, was published in 2004). In addition to these, they've done occasional articles themed after popular game shows of the day, such as "Really Tough Categories for The $100,000 Pyramid" (1988) and "11 Ways Jeopardy! Contestants Can Really Piss Off Alex Trebek" (1999).
  • The Generic Guy: Jean Grey's status as this in the first X-Men movie was parodied, with her saying that she's so boring she doesn't even get a codename.
  • Genre Blindness: Characters who exhibit this behavior in parodies are routinely mocked for it. In the parody for Under Siege, the female lead tells Steven Seagal's character that he would have been able to foresee the cliche of her abandoning her pacifism and killing someone with a gun to save his life if he'd watched more movies.
  • Get into Jail Free: Deconstructed when they point out that Michael of Prison Break will have to serve his own sentence even if he clears his brother's name.
  • Giant Medical Syringe: MAD Magazine Issue #198 has a catalog for school supplies, such as a two-speed drinking fountain ("Feeble Drip" or "Soaking Splash"). One item is a set of four-foot-tall hypodermic needles for the school nurse's office, designed to encourage kids who are faking being sick to recover quickly. The syringes are actually designed for tranquilizing elephants, but the kids don't need to know that!
  • Gift Shake: A cartoon has a dad shake the gift from his son, open it... and discover that it's a ship in a bottle, which has been pulverized by the shaking.
  • Gilligan Cut: In the parody of "The Godfather", Micrin reminds himself of what he was instructed to do on the hit on Plotzo, and in the next panel, starts screaming and swearing at Plotzo.
  • Glad I Thoughtof It: In one "Lighter Side" feature, an editor brings up an idea his subordinate has, while mentioning that he isn't fully convinced of what his subordinate suggested. When his superior approves, the editor claims the credit.
  • God-Mode Sue: Fantabulaman is a deliberate example. invoked
  • Gold Digger: A few are parodied. In one "Ventriloquist Priest" strip, the priest forces one into an Engineered Public Confession by pretending to be God and saying that her groom's death will come in days.
  • Good News, Bad News: From the "Billy Jock" parody
    Billy: Barby Doll, I'm afraid I've got some bad news... and some good news for you! First... I shot and killed your Father!
    Barby: Okay... now tell me the BAD news!
    Billy: Oh, wow! You're even tougher than I am!
    • In the parody of Under Siege, the military says that the bad news is that a nuclear missile will hit Hawaii, but the good news is that vacations there will become much cheaper.
    • In the parody of The Fugitive, Kimble's told that while he's being sentenced to death, because he's a doctor, he can save the state some money by peforming the lethal injection on himself.
  • Grand Finale: Parodied in "The Final Peanuts Episodes You Never Saw", which gives its own closure on the strip's recurring gags and characterizations (e.g. Linus gives up his Security Blanket to take up smoking as a new coping mechanism, Peppermint Patty and Marcie move to San Francisco, Lucy gets a Literal Ass-Kicking for trying the football prank on Charlie Brown yet again, and Charlie Brown puts Snoopy to sleep after getting fed up with his constant fantasizing).
    • An actual one for Al Jaffee upon his retirement in 2020 (at age 99): An issue with the best of his material, ending with one last fold in.
  • Greedy Televangelist: One "Things We'd Like to See" installment includes a televangelist who urges his viewers not to send him their money, telling them there are countless worthy charities more deserving of it, implying most televangelists aren't so selfless.
  • Groin Attack: In one feature about honest comic book previews, Batman is shown kicking The Joker in the crotch while Harley Quinn says "Well, so much for kids!" The issue is said to be "mediocre at best," but is described as a collector's item because the numbering system has been reset.
  • Gross-Out Show: Puh-lease! They mastered this type of humor before it was considered cool!
  • Hand Wave: This trope is frequently made fun of in parodies when MAD notices it, and they sometimes come up with their own when they notice a Plot Hole.
  • Headless Horseman: This 1960 Halloween cover.
  • Helping Granny Cross the Street: The magazine had a series of comics based on this trope. The final one subverted it - the scout ignored the old lady in favor of a young attractive one, and an older scout master had to comfort the poor granny.
    • In the Casablanca parody, as Rick says that he won't stick his neck out for anybody, some onlookers note that he once helped an old lady across the street... into traffic.
  • Henpecked Husband: In one article about how various products get their names, an executive of a whiskey company invites all of his coworkers to his house for a brainstorming session, and they taste test the product they're about to name until they all get visibly drunk. His wife shows up and angrily throws all the men out of the house, and while the man complains about his wife, it leads to a "Eureka!" Moment and the name of the product- Old Crow.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Justified in the "Ecch-Men" parody, when Professor Ecch complains about Geraldo and others who "fight and scorn" them, but Cyplops points out that their out of control powers "have killed a fair number of totally innocent people."
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The introductory text of "A Booty-filled Mind" brings up some of the less than flattering aspects of John Nash, which the movie glosses over.
  • Hitchhiker's Leg: Parodied in #120. A pretty girl tries to hitch a ride by pulling up her skirt. A car stops, the driver gets out, takes a picture, then gets back into his car and drives away.
  • Honest Advisor: The magazine, especially in the '60s and '70s, was popular among kids because it was one of the few places adults would be honest about some aspects of the world.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Averted in one article, in which MAD expresses a desire to see "a hooker who hasn't got a heart of gold."
  • Hotter and Sexier: The magazine got considerably more vulgar in the late 1990s, leading to the departure of some veterans such as longtime artist Jack Davis. Lampshaded in the first "hotter and sexier" issue, which had Alfred E. Neuman photocopying his ass.
  • Human Knot: One of the magazine covers from 1999 has Steve Austin doing this to Alfred E. Neuman.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Often done, such as in the fight between Superman and Zod in the Superman II parody. Often, the puns are the subject of the joke, rather than the joke itself.
  • Hypocrite: Frequently and mercilessly made fun of. For example, in the parody of Gremlins, the main character tries to get the gremlins to live in peace with their own kind, but one of the evil ones thinks that "You HUMANS shuold talk about living in peace with your own kind!"
  • Hypocritical Humor: The parody for South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut has this, combined with Never My Fault, when the parents of the main characters drop Cluster F Bombs while complaining about their children swearing, and unsure of what caused the children to use such foul language, blame the media.

  • I Can't Hear You: In "Star Roars," their parody of A New Hope, Lube Skystalker (Luke Skywalker) tells Oldie Von Moldie (Obi-Wan Kenobi) that "Princess Laidup is in the hands of that rat, Zader! We haven't a moment to lose!"
    Moldie: Eh? What's that? You say you want to go up to my flat later and sing the blues??
  • I Have No Son!: In the parody of "Superman II", Superman's mother does this to him, along with taking his powers, prompting a joke about Superman's mother being Jewish.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: This is frequently parodied, such as one person complaining that "Durn thing don't wor-" before emptying an entire clip into his chest.
  • If It Was Funny the First Time...: Despite many changes in format over the years, some jokes in this magazine never get old:
    • Until retiring in 2020, Al Jaffee still did many of the concepts he started decades ago (like the Fold-Ins, the Mad Hate Book, and of course, "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions").
    • Dave Berg started "The Lighter Side" in 1961, a mainstay of the magazine that was only retired due to him passing away in 2002. Even then, it was brought back with a new author in 2018.
    • Spy vs. Spy was also started in 1961, and has survived Antonio Prohías's death, appearing in every issue.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy:
    • Often joked about in many parodies, such as The Matrix.
    Agent: What are these, smart weapons with stupid bullets?
    • This was also lampooned in Wally Wood's Batboy and Rubin, featured in an issue that predated even Star Wars.
  • I Just Knew: Parodied in the parody of Billy Jack, when Billy Jock refuses to say how he knows Barnyard raped Blue Jean, so as to prevent the audience from finding out how he knew and telling everyone.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Used in one article, in which MAD says they'd like to see "a perplexing problem that can't be solved in an hour.
    Police Lieutenant: I need the information on how the man died IMMEDIATELY, Queezy… or else the suspect will go free!
    Queezy: Forget it, Lieutenant! I'm a Doctor, not a Magician! This is a complicated case! It'll take WEEKS before I can give you a definite answer!
  • Incompatible Orientation: One article about the difficulties serial killers face is finding out that the actresses that they killed so many people to impress turn out to be lesbian, making the whole rampage All for Nothing.
  • ...In That Order: In Conquering the Planet that Went Ape, the intelligent ape addresses his army:
    All right! If we're going to win against the humans you need to listen up and stop embarrassing me! For example, when I tell you to put on your shoes and socks, I don't mean in that order!
  • In the Name of the Moon: The parody for Pokémon: The Series makes fun of this, noting that Team Rocket prefers this over a shorter Catchphrase to provide padding for the episode.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Often parodied, such as when Melvin, in response to the Y2K bug, does a Groin Attack on a police officer and claims that the other can't arrest him, as he was never born.
  • Insistent Terminology: The point of "When You're Poor... When You're Rich"
    When you're poor, you vomit. When you're rich... you succumb to a sudden attack of nausea.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: A parody of It's a Wonderful Life stars Bill Clinton as George Bailey and the recently deceased Richard Nixon as the angel who hopes to help Clinton, since Nixon only has his right wing. Naturally, the parody is anything but heartwarming, and features many backhanded compliments and outright insults of Clinton.
  • I Want Grandkids: In one parody of Cathy, Cathy's mom torches the abortion clinics in town and sends two pro-lifers to prevent Cathy from getting an abortion even though Cathy was gang-raped. She comments in the last panel that "the need to be a grandmother overrides all else".
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake: And there is, sort of. Traditionally, they have an annual letters page where they display photographs sent from fans with Mad-inspired cakes, which are frequently mailed in.
  • Just Between You and Me: In a feature discussing how movie scenes happen in the film and in real life, one scene had Lance Sterling and his girlfriend at the mercy of some mobsters. Instead of just shooting them, one mobster decides to take them outside to avoid drawing suspicion to the others (justified), then proceeds to tell him the plan (stupid) and then gives him a chiclet as his last request (completely unnecessary), allowing Sterling to jam his gun, defeat him and destroy the gang. In the real life version, Sterling and his girlfriend get shot on the second panel.

  • Karma Houdini: A major pet peeve of Mad's writers is when someone gets off without punishment, or a disturbingly light sentence.
    • A Running Gag is how first-degree murder will get the offender only a few years in prison.
    • Due to his huge amount of bad luck and his title of Butt-Monkey, everyone in "Monroe and..." except for Monroe himself is this. However Laser-Guided Karma does occasionally strike Monroe's father, especially in the final strip. Lampshaded in "Monroe and... Walt Disney World part 2" where Monroe is being arrested at the park and points out about his family, "Wait, these guys can torment the electric presidents and pluck and animatronic tiki bird and I'm the one being carted off?" Of course, it could be Selective Enforcement.
  • Kick the Dog: In Dave, when "Bund" forges the President's signature to cut funding for children's shoes, he offhandedly suggests that if the funding's cut in half, the children can simply hop.
  • "King Kong" Climb: One cover features Alfred as King Kong.
  • King Incognito: A king who wants to raise taxes decides to pass himself off as a beggar to see whether they're as badly off as his minister claims... and he panhandles using his crown.
  • Laborious Laziness: According to an article of Formulae for the Unformulable, your Laziness Factor = (the amount of work you avoid) - (the amount of work you do to avoid the work you avoid).
  • Lampshade Hanging: Especially in Kurtzman's early deconstructionist parodies.
  • Large Ham: The magazine often makes fun of actors who act this way.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: One Al Jaffee feature titled "Quick Recoveries for Embarrassing Situations" showed how to turn an offensive statement into a non-offensive one, often the complete opposite of what was about to be said. For instance:
    Man at party: Here's a Polish joke that really shows how stupid...
    Party host: Herb, I see you've met Tom Nozkowski!
    Man: ...people are who laugh at that kind of garbage!
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: Starting in the late 1990s, the magazine began to shift more toward an edgier and snarkier tone, with more emphasis on profanity, sexual innuendo, bodily function/grossout humor, and the like. Throughout the early noughties, the pages were changed from newspaper-like to glossy, allowing for increasing amounts of color material for the previously all-black-and-white interiors.
  • Like a Son to Me: Often parodied and even possibly deconstructed.
    • In the "NYPD Blue" parody, one character says that his boss was like a father to him, but it's pointed out that the speaker was abused as a child.
    • Nicky and Rockhead
    Nicky:I've always treated you like a Father would!
    Rockhead: What? You t'row my stuff in the street... you yell at me in front of everyone... you make me feel like a stupid useless little kid!
    Nicky: See! I told you I treat you like a Father would!
  • Like You Would Really Do It: Invoked for humor. It's often pointed out that a certain outcome to a situation would make for a very short movie, such as Billy Jack getting killed at the four minute mark, and the cops being told to "shoot to miss" against Jack Napier in the Tim Burton Batman film parody.
    • In one article parodying advertisements for comic books, they say that the comic book about Superman's death will be a hit among readers who honestly believe that Warner Brothers would kill off "a character worth billions of dollars."
  • Literal Metaphor: One back-page gag shows two mothers sitting on a park bench: one of the two says that her children "eat like a bird", which she demonstrates by vomiting into their mouths.
  • Lonely at the Top: One "Lighter Side" strip has everyone up the chain of command of a company hoping to take their immediate superior's job. The CEO says he wants nothing more than to be an entry-level stock boy again, since his position has brought him nothing but heartache.
  • Long-Runners: Some artists spent decades contributing to the magazine, Sergio Aragonés, Dick DeBartolo and Al Jaffee were particular standouts.
  • Loser Team Mascot: One magazine suggested that a way to improve attendance at football games would be to add a new rule: each team would score extra points if the opposing team's mascot is tied up and held hostage by fans for a sufficiently long period.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: A trademark of Tom Bunk's art style, especially when he works with Michael Gallagher. Also frequent in Spy vs. Spy ever since Peter Kuper took over.
  • Ludicrous Gift Request: In one piece, parents watch their son writing, "I want a horse" in a letter to Santa. The father gets dollar signs above his head and the next day, there is a live horse peeking through the living room window and a saddle, oats, etc under the tree. The final panel has the father taking the horse out while the kid shows it off to his friends and reveals that he only wanted a toy rocking horse, but look what he got!
  • Lying Finger Cross: Frequently used as shorthand to show someone lying, such as asking how anyone can believe what a politician says under oath.

  • Mascot: Subverted with the ugly Alfred E. Neuman. Covers often show Alfred inserted into various scenes, such as in the role of the main character, with everyone else reacting in disgust and/or horror.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: In their parody of the '60s Batman show, Robin's having to deal with his girlfriends leaving him because he's called away on crime-fighting business and can't adequately explain what happened without exposing himself, combined with Batman's lack of sympathy for him over having to do this, is the Boy Wonder's reason for his Face–Heel Turn.
  • May the Farce Be with You: Trope Namer. Their parodies of the first two Star Wars trilogies were all under "Departments" with this name.
  • Meaningful Background Event: In the Monroe story in which he goes to China and gets tricked into working for a sweatshop, you can see his actual host family trying to get his attention at the airport as he runs into the sweatshop people.
  • Metronomic Man Mashing: In one Don Martin cartoon, a man sees a bug crawling on the sidewalk and sadistically stomps on it. In the next few panels, we see him balanced on the tip of his shoe and then slammed to the ground this way and that ("FWAPPPPP! FWADAPPPPPP!"). In the last panel, Don focuses in on the bug walking past the man's knocked-silly face, wearing a karate gi and wiping the dust from its hands.
  • Millennium Bug: The cover of issue #388 (December 1999) featured a pixelated Alfred operating a computer with the caption "Now Y2K Compliant!" One issue later, #389 gave the issue's date as "January 1900" on the table of contents.
  • Misère Game: The board game version, befitting the parody nature of the magazine, had the required goal be to lose all your starting money.
  • Mock Headroom: A cover of the magazine shows Alfred E. Neuman dressed like Max Headroom in front of a similar background, calling him "Television Superstar Alfred E. Headroom".
  • Mondegreen Gag: invoked One article humorously does this for various national anthems, such as "The Star Spangled Banner," with illustrations of the various scenes in question.
    Oh say does our star-strangled
    Grandma smell Dave
    For the mandolin is free
    And our home is a cave.
  • Morton's Fork:
    • In "You Can Never Win With A Bigot," the prejudiced people spout off contradictory prejudices- if the elderly don't work, they are drains on society, but if they do work, they take jobs away from the young.
    • In the parody of "America's Most Wanted," a cornered suspect is given four different conflicting orders by police officers, and told that he'll be shot if he doesn't meet them. He realizes that he's doomed no matter what, and gets gunned down.
  • Mr. Exposition: In the Lethal Weapon parody, the protagonists receive their exposition on a drug running conspiracy from a young boy, of all people.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • A mugger avoids robbing several strong people, but then chooses an old woman... who then blows him away with a gun.
    • In one "The Lighter Side", a carjacker forces a woman out of her car at gunpoint; when she protests, saying her son is asleep in the back, he says he'll just hold the "little brat" for ransom. Then he finds out that her son is a grown man... who's a police officer... who now has the drop on him from the back seat with his gun.
    • In one Sergio Aragones section, a masher hits on two women, only to get a black eye from each; then he finds out both are Pro Wrestling divas.
  • Mundane Utility: One strip shows superheroes using their power in normal jobs, from Superman using his X-ray vision to spot a cavity to The Flash using Super-Speed to deliver pizzas.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: In one comic strip, a man who's set to be executed by a firing squad is told that because he's so despised, he'll be buried where he falls... because all his victims will be shooting him.
  • The Musical: The Mad Show, a 1966 off-Broadway production starring Paul Sand and Linda Lavin. With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, no less.
  • Mutual Envy: In the parody of "Thirty-something," two characters discuss that they've long been jealous of each other. The first says that the second had everything she didn't as a child, while the second contends that the first is more successful in adulthood, prompting the first to say that the second is still "out-suffering" her.
  • Nausea Fuel: Discussed in the parody of Film/Gremlins, in which Stripe's gruesome death is supposed to symbolize that good triumphs over evil, but in reality, makes you "barf your guts out."
  • Nepotism:
    • In one children's rhyme parody, a congressman gives his family jobs.
    His brother is his right hand man
    (He's never worked before)
    His father earns twelve grand a yearnote 
    (He's paid to shut the door)
    His mother is a filing clerk
    His sister mans the telephone
    (A chimp is twice as bright)
    • In another article, a woman's boss tells her that she's been passed over for promotion in favor of the son of one of the man's friends. She cheerfully announces that she doesn't mind, since she plans on stealing from the office.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Averted; Mad Magazine often likes making fun of or criticizing even recently deceased people.
    • Discussed in The Lion King parody when Simba, watching Scar flee into exile, tells his subjects to never speak well of him again, and The Simpsons in attendance note that people spoke well of Richard Nixon after his death.
    • After Michael Jackson's death, they first ran a "Brutally Honest Obituary" that pointed up all the strange and suspicious things he did in life and printed his mugshot (taken, as they put it, "in happier days") from his 2003 arrest on child molestation charges alongside it. The world essentially canonizing him as a saint was later declared the Stupidest Event of 2009.
    • One comic has a ventriloquist priest pretend to use the voice of a dead man to bring up his rapid promotion. The assembly at the funeral, including the murderer, angrily denounces him.
  • No Can Opener: In Mad in the Year 2038 in Issue #355, one bit in The Lighter Side has a family storing canned foods in a bomb shelter because of an impending apocalypse, this being the punchline.
  • No-Dialogue Episode:
    • A Mad Look At... almost never uses dialogue; if a character needs to speak, it's usually represented through pantomiming or icons in a speech balloon, or very rarely, a "gesundheit." On one occasion, bodyguards listening to soccer on their earpieces scream "GOAL!".
    • And Spy vs Spy.
    • Some Don Martin installments qualify such as one with a motorist approaching a toll booth marked 'Pay Toll 50 Feet' .... And pulls 50 disembodied feet out of his trunk and hands them to the horrified toll taker.
  • No Endor Holocaust: In the parody of Tim Burton's Batman, Batman causes the gas spewing balloons to drift away, and says that even if they poison other people elsewhere, "That's their problem!"
    • In the parody of "Under Siege," the main character proudly states that by entering the kill codes and exploding the missiles off the coast of Honolulu, he'll be "a real hero." When the female lead tells him that the fallout will kill most of Hawaii, he admits "I never thought of that! But then, neither did our scriptwriter!"
  • No Fourth Wall: Quite often, the characters in movie and TV parodies are blatantly aware that they're in a parody.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: One Nasty File article says the Police Academy movies "...prove that even Bubba Smith can seem like a talented actor if he's surrounded by a cast that's sufficiently untalented."
  • No Sympathy: Often played for comedy, with parodied characters and original ones. Fully justified in the Gone with the Wind parody, when one slave thinks to herself that her masters, who are afraid of losing their lifestyle after slavery ends, shouldn't expect any sympathy for her.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: In a Vietnam War-era "Lighter Side" strip, a man throws a Molotov cocktail at a military recruiting office, and a bunch of hippies praise him as a hero, but he says that he's just a pyromaniac.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: In the parody of the first X-Men movie, Storm's infamous "Do you know what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning?" line is italicized and in quotations.

  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Often made fun of, particularly in HMOs' heyday, when characters who need lifesaving vital medical treatment will have to fill out extensive paperwork first.
  • Oddly Specific Greeting Card: Issue #99 features an interview with the Greeting Card Manufacturer of the Year. He claims to have cards for every occasion imaginable and asks the interviewer to give an example. The interviewer says that his niece has recently been bitten by a dog, and the manufacturer asks the dog's color. Cue a rack of "Bitten by dog" cards, with one heading for brown dogs, one for spotted dogs, etc.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • In one page showing a nuclear power plant melting down, Alfred E. Neuman's smile fades, and he says "YES... ME WORRY!"
    • At the end of his storyline, Mole, exhausted after tunneling a long distance, gives one when he realizes that he's ended up in the execution chamber, going "straight to the electric chair" as had been expected.
  • Old Maid: Exaggerated in one article, which tells any woman who's still 46 and living at home, waiting for their special someone to show up, to "GIVE IT UP!" Of course, the woman's age is less of an issue of how long they've been continuing their passive pursuit of their soulmate, and how little hope they have after going so long without success.
  • Old-Timey Ankle Taboo: There is a Monroe strip where the title character went on a fishing trip with his grandfather and at one point is shown his grandfather's collection of skin magazines. Monroe is disappointed by the fact that none of the women in the magazines are naked, but his grandfather disagrees.
    Monroe: They're all wearing clothes!
    Grandpa: Not quite. You can see just a hint of ankle. And look! Toes!
  • Once per Episode:
    • Nearly every issue since the 1960s has featured a Mad Fold-In and A Mad Look At..., with several other recurring features coming and going over time. Also, Alfred has appeared on almost every cover.
    • Since January 1999, each January issue has included a countdown of the "20 dumbest things" of the previous year.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Some parodies mention that very good actors often have only a single scene in a given film.
  • Only Sane Man: The dog in the Fatal Attraction parody.
    "I hate watching my master cheat on his beautiful, trusting wife without feeling any pangs of conscience! He's acting like an animal! Not this animal, mind you- me he had fixed! Had he been fixed, it would've saved us all a lot of trouble!"
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Only a few times does Alfred look actually worried, and who can blame him:
    • The aforementioned back cover showing a nuclear power plant melting down.
    • The cover of Issue #328 (June 1994) shows Alfred as a contestant on Love Connection and the three available dates are Lorena Bobbitt, Tonya Harding, and Amy Fisher.
    • The cover of Issue #438 (February 2004) shows Michael Jackson putting the moves on a nervously sweating Alfred.
  • Paranormal Gambling Advantage: A spoof of the Spider-Man movies in had his Spider-Sense getting him kicked out of every casino in Atlantic City.
  • Parents as People: The most generous Mad will get with the parents it lampoons, showing them as benevolent, if misguided. When they're less charitable, they'll be depicted as low-grade Abusive Parents in their tendency to nag and belittle their kids, and hypocrites, if not worse.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: The parents are often portrayed as this, not letting children do the things they did when they were young. Additionally, parents are often made fun of for making children take on "adult" responsibilities but telling them they're still too young to do "adult" things.
  • Parody Assistance: Chris Houghton, who draws covers for the Adventure Time comics, also did the cover to the Adventure Time-themed issue #520.
  • Parody Commercial: A recurring motif. Sometimes the commercials themselves are parodied, while sometimes they're used to make fun of something else.
  • Parody Names: Notably averted in the Seinfeld parody (and with Ripley - but only Ripley note  - in the Aliens parody), but usually played straight.
    • The musical parodies of A New Hope ("The Force and I") and The Lord of the Rings ("The Ring and I") avert this.
    • Occasionally averted by mistake. Near the end of the first X-Men movie parody, Rogue calls Wolverine by his actual name, and in the parody of the first Superman movie, you can see "Perry White" backwards in the man's office window.
  • Pedophile Priest: A common joke; in the Road to Perdition spoof, Michael tells his son not to go to their Catholic priest, not because of his ties to the mob, but because he might be this.
  • Pen Name: Many contributors have contributed under pen names, most frequently due to conflict of interest.
    • "J. Prete" is a long-running pen name of longtime writer and former editor John Ficarra. According to one account, Ficarra once trolled writer and then-associate editor Andrew J. Schwartzberg into thinking that "J. Prete" was a real person, thus causing Schwartzberg to accuse the nonexistant Prete of joke theft.
    • Parody writer Arnie Kogen confirmed in the anthology Inside MAD that "Debbee Ovitz" was a pen name of his. "A. J. Marley" and "Josh Gordon" are also believed to be him writing under an alias. The use of pseudonyms may be due to Kogen and his son Jay both being prolific television writers.
    • After he became art director, Sam Viviano usually credited his illustrative work to "Jack Syracuse".
    • Dick DeBartolo credited himself as "Dick Bic" on the Family Feud parody, as he worked for Mark Goodson Productions at the time. This doubles as a Stealth Pun, as "Bic" is a brand of pen (meaning it is literally a "pen name").
    • If a content creator submitted to both MAD and Cracked, they had to use a pseudonym at one of the two publications. Notably, Cracked writer Barry Dutter did two MAD articles in The '90s as "Larry Sutter", and "Charlie Richards" is known to be a pen name of Cracked writer Ricky Sprague.
    • Steve Smallwood illustrated three articles in the 1990s that were all credited to "Walt F. Rosenberg". This was because all three involved parodies of Disney works (most notably the Pocahontas parody) and Smallwood also worked for Disney at the time.
    • "David Richards", who wrote the parody of The Force Awakens, is believed to be a pen name of David Shayne. This is likely because Shayne has written for many of the Star Wars cartoon spinoffs.
    • Starting in 2017, Hermann Mejía has occasionally credited himself as "Alejandro Rivas".
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Potrzebie" was a Running Gag in the magazine's first decade. A fan (Donald Knuth!) made a "Potrzebie System" of weights and measurements which got published in the magazine.
  • Perpetual Smiler: Alfred E. Neuman, who is almost always seen with that goofy grin on his face.
  • Pet the Dog: Parodied and slightly deconstructed with the article on Compassionate Conservatives, which often shows them making compromises that tend to be hypocritical (sending all illegal immigrants home except for their gardners), or largely trivial (denying appeals based on DNA evidence for death row inmates, but allowing them to choose their manner of execution and last meal).
  • Perspective Flip: One article was a series of Peanuts-style comic strips that told the conflict between Snoopy and the Red Baron from the Baron's point of view. It was so popular, they made a sequel article.
  • Plea Bargain: Often parodied, such as when a cop tells a suspect that if he pleads guilty to murder, he'll serve a light sentence, but if he takes a plea bargain, he'll be in Witness Protection for the rest of his life.
  • Plumber's Crack: One strip says that "The crack was in plain view" is normal for an officer's testimony about a drug bust, but disturbing when a plumber does work on your sink.
  • Police Are Useless: In one article, a slasher film director explains that his LEO character "can't be too bright, or he'd figure out the whole thing in a second, and where would that leave us?"
  • Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: An article on villains politely discussing their plans to kill or torture the heroes, while the heroes rudely reply. It even provides the page image.
    • In the parody of Dog Day Afternoon, Sonny uses proper manners while answering the phone, even identifying himself, and the caller greets him by announcing the presence of police outside the bank and demanding his surrender.
  • Politically Correct History: It's often mocked, such as in the parody of The Green Mile, it's pointed out that what's really unlikely about the story of John Coffey's arrest is how, as a black man suspected of murder in the Deep South, he wasn't lynched on the spot.note 
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: "Dirty Larry." Upon being told that "Libra" was planning on shooting a "Negro Homosexual" with a sniper rifle, Larry swoops in... to get to the target first.
  • Politicians Kiss Babies:
    • Mentioned in an article from 1962 (also an early version of the Russian Reversal): "Russian politics can best be understood by comparing them with American politics. For instance, in America, politicians have to kiss babies, and if they don't, the mothers can take their offices away from them. In Russia, the system is somewhat different. To get food, mothers have to kiss politicians and if they don't, the politicians can take their babies away from them."
    • One "A Mad Look At" showed a politician kissing babies, and accidentally kissing a woman's breast.
  • Popularity Polynomial:invoked Foreseen in an article from the early 1960s predicting that when rebellious teenagers of the '50s have children of their own, the children will rebel against them by doing "square" things like refusing to put off studying, and pursuing careers in medicine. Then, when those offspring have children of their own, this new generation will rebel against them by practicing the same behavior that their grandparents did as '50s teenagers.
  • Power Perversion Potential: In their parody of X-Men, Professor Xavier is shown using Cerebro to watch women shower.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: In the parody of Judge Dredd, the eponymous character, despite being a Heroic Comedic Sociopath in the parody, expresses that he has no interest in taking over the world, knowing that it's hard enough to keep order on the streets.
  • Prom Baby: One issue has a series of fake magazine covers, including one called "Prom Mom" with articles like "Drinking the spiked punch: What the hell, it's not like anyone expects good judgment from you at this point!"
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In the parody of Wheel of Fortune, one character wins a lot of useless prizes... and ends up having to pay over $1,000 in taxes.
  • Random Events Plot: Some TV show spoofs are like this. Others go through plot points in a given season, and still others create a new plot.

  • Queer Colors: One article in issue 362 was called "When Other TV Shows Finally Come Out Of The Closet", with one of the show being parodied was Sesame Street, which had the cast saying that "This episode was brought to you by the letters G, A, and Y, and by the colors pink and lavender".
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: Many of the comic book issues managed to overstuff every panel with little gags. It originated with Will Elder's work in the 1950s, when Mad was still a comic book; Elder and Kurtzman called these little gags "chicken fat." Kurtzman was reportedly pretty bad about forcing the other artists to follow Elder's example. The stalwart artists such as Angelo Torres and Mort Drucker often engaged in this to varying degrees, as does Tom Richmond in the present day. (Gary Hallgren also went all out in the two parodies he drew, of Pokémon: The Series and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.)
    • Up to eleven in the 2020 reprints, where it's rare for even the old material to take up more than three pages. The Letter to the Editor takes up half of one. The long-form Potzrebie Comics of 2018 were confirmed to be cancelled for this reason.
  • Raster Vision: Perhaps the earliest example of Raster Vision comes from "Captain TVideo," a spoof on Captain Video that appeared in a 1954 issue of MAD(still a comic book at the time). Every single panel is covered with hand-drawn horizontal lines, which add to the spoof's running joke that the production values of Captain Video were terrible (which, by all accounts, they were).
  • Read the Fine Print: This is one of the magazine's favored tools.
    • For example, the cover of the March 2017 issue features Alfred E. Neuman holding a sign which reads in huge lettering "NO TRUMP IN THIS ISSUE", preceded in much smaller print by "believe us — we really, REALLY wish there was..."
    • Another example was seen in the April 2019 issue with a take on the Homeland Security phrase "If you see something, say something." It features a full page of this in large text, but with fine print as well, so that it reads "IF YOU SEE a black person doing SOMETHING in public that it would be completely innocuous for a white person to do, then for goodness sake don't SAY SOMETHING just shut the heck up."
  • Really Gets Around: At the end of the Pearl Harbor parody, every single pilot flying in to bomb Tokyo has the picture of the same girl in his cockpit, as the commander says that they're all fighting for the same thing.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • One character gets a lengthy one in The Lighter Side of, capped off with the following exchange.
    Woman: I think you listen, but you only hear what you want to hear! And I think that's a good summary of what you are!
    Man: Hardly... All you did was talk about what YOU think! You didn't say ANYTHING about ME!
    • In the article about the end of Peanuts Charlie Brown gives Snoopy a list of everything Snoopy does that gets on his nerves, before euthanizing him.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: In one "Lighter Side" strip, a woman complains about her husband keeping loaded guns around the house. He fires a shotgun into the ceiling and says "NOW it's unloaded!", earning him a Death Glare from his wife.
    • Played for Drama in the October 2018 poem "The Gastlygun Tinies" about a school shooting.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: They once did a parody of the "Army Strong" ads called "Army Stuck." "Come for the dough. Stay for the quagmire. There's stuck. And there's being stuck in the middle of another country's war with no end in sight."
  • Recycled Script: In the parody of The Force Awakens, as the attack on Starkiller Base begins, the parody shows a few panels from the parody of the original Star Wars' attack on the Death Star.
  • Repeated Rehearsal Failure: In a Lighter Side feature by Dave Berg, a woman oversleeps on a workday and decides on an excuse for her boss. "I'm sorry I'm late, Mr. Dilly, but my car had a flat tire and the train ran late." She repeats it over and over on the way to the office. But when she finally gets there she ends up saying:
    "I'm sorry I'm late, Mr. Car, but my Dilly ran late and the train had a flat tire."
  • Retraux: As a tie-in to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the cover to issue #9 of the Burbank edition is done to tie in to that film's 1960s aesthetic, with the old 1960s-era logo, and Tom Richmond art done In the Style of Jack Davis.
  • The Reveal: Some of the parodies have one of the heroes turning out to be the main villain.
  • Rich Kid Turned Social Activist: Parodied. A typical rich-kid-turned-hippie is seen being the male equivalent of a Granola Girl and over five excruciating frames is seen declaring, to what looks like an equally stereotypical black man, about how he has tired of his life of unearned wealth and riches and has turned his back on all that so as to come to the ghetto and share the everyday poverty and suffering of poor Americans and become as you are, brother. The black guy considers the obvious BS being spouted at him, and answers: "Hey brother, I got a better idea! Why don't I go back with you to your ghetto and share your suffering with you?"
  • A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: One white-paper front cover for the magazine greatly exaggerated this phrase for laughs.
  • Right Way/Wrong Way Pair: "Melvin and Jenkins". Jenkins, a nerdy-looking chap, is polite and intelligent and always tries to do his best; Melvin, on the other hand, is a gangsta wannabe hoodlum who delights in petty mischief.
    • They're obviously a parody of Highlights for Children's Goofus and Gallant, with the order reversed so that Melvin's sociopathic and insane antics contrast with Jenkins' reasonable behavior.
    • There's also a parody of Goofus and Gallant, with Goofus (wrong way) Gallant (right way) and Donald Trump (also wrong).
  • Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue...: A Running Gag in the Quiz Show parody. Charles Van Doren's Freudian Excuse was his failure to do one with an "orange" rhyme.
  • Running Gag: Over time, the magazine has adapted a large number of icons that appear at random spots, such as a skinny bird named Flip, a potted plant named Max, a zeppelin with "MAD" written on it and the poiuyt.
    • The table of contents lists the articles in the magazine as being from various departments whose titles are various plays on words. The two constants through the run are the letters section, which is listed as being from the "Letters & Tomatoes Dept.", and "Spy Vs. Spy" from the "Joke and Dagger Dept."
    • The magazine staff is referred to collectively as "The Usual Gang of Idiots".
    • Whenever they do a parody of Batman, Alfred is always named Neuman, after the mascot.
    • In the comic book era, many protagonists bore the first name Melvin.
    • The Frog Prince spoofs have been done several times. Don Martin in particular was very fond of these.
    • In the parody of Batman Returns, on three occasions (twice with Catwoman and once with the Penguin), a character tries to rent a movie, but ends up getting another by mistake.
    • The parody of Lethal Weapon has Murtagh, who turns 50 at the start of the film, age 10 years every time he references his age. By the time he threatens to blow himself with a grenade while demanding his daughter's release, he remarks that he wouldn't mind dying, since he lived to 90.
    • The early parodies, back when MAD was a comic book, tend to throw in "which reminds me... how's your mom, Ed?" at random times as a complete Non Sequitur, after it appeared in issue 3's Dragnet parody.
  • Sadist Show:
    • Monroe and..., where something bad always happened to the title character.
    • The idea was mocked in the parody of Thirty Something, when one character tells another they are suffering because of the network's discovery that "there are millions of masochistic viewers who get off on misery!"

  • Sadist Teacher: Often made fun of. There's even an entire catalog of school supplies that are designed to break at certain points for the purpose of causing kids frustration and/or getting them in trouble.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times: One issue had a bit that looked at scenes from redneck life all over the country. It included one family in which the highest status symbol is how many times you've seen Smokey and the Bandit, with the champion sitting down to his six hundredth viewing.
  • "The Scream" Parody: The magazine has done several parodies of the painting over the years, including one with monkeys in it (appropriately called "The Screech"), one with Howard Dean in it (called "Howard Dean's Scream"), and one with Uncle Sam pulling it off.
  • See You in Hell: Done a few times, such as in one parody of an AT&T commercial, when Gorbachev tells Reagan, "I'll see you in Hell, you Capitalist Swine!" before declaring thermonuclear war against the US after mishearing Reagan during a telephone conversation.
  • Self-Deprecation: The masthead's listing of the creative team as "the usual gang of idiots".
    • The magazine has done this a lot over the years, and they sometimes take their own affected self-deprecation to the extreme: In an article on how to make a food poisoning victim throw up (in issue #256), reading Mad magazine to him is described as the very last resort, because it's so effective that he'll drown the house with puke.
    • Their Christmas-season magazines suggest giving a subscription to Mad as a Christmas present. The ads rip the magazine as dumb and unpleasant, but conclude it's good to give to someone because it's a cheap present.
    • Even Bill Gaines, the magazine's owner, was constantly mocked in the magazine due to his stinginess and obesity. A man who strongly resembles him is often seen in "The Lighter Side," and in one article about how to correct yourself when you say something wrong, a bellhop tells someone who looks like him that "bums" aren't welcome, but corrects himself when the man asks him to park his Rolls-Royce.
    • Anthologies of Al Jaffee's work are all called "The Vastly Overrated Al Jaffee", volume ___.
    • Occasionally the parodies lampshade the fact that MAD's love of Parody Names is taken to such ridiculous extremes that a casual reader can't tell what the original character name was supposed to be.
    • Those who write in to the magazine are often mocked for reading something as bad as it.
      • After Al Jaffee did a feature where magazine titles are incorporated into descriptions of what's really in there (e.g., "if you enjoy self-PLAY,BOY will this magazine help!") a reader sent in his own art showing a typical Alfred cover and "I'MADummy for reading this magazine!"
  • Self-Made Orphan: In the Road to Perdition parody, as John is killing Rooney, who protests that he's like a father to him, he declares that now he's become an orphan.
  • Self-Parody: As it overlaps with their penchant for making fun of themselves, the magazine has parodied its own features repeatedly. For instance, a Super Special in 1976 had MADDE, a parody of what the magazine would have looked like if it were published in 1776, and issue #355 (1997) had "MAD in the Year 2038", which gave futuristic spins on recurring MAD features (such as nuclear holocaust-flavored installments of "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" and "The Lighter Side").
  • Sexless Marriage:
    • In the Quiz Show parody, Stempel's wife is shocked that he lied about the show being fixed for him, and he, in turn, confronts her about not being a virgin when they married. She then says that technically, she's telling the truth- she renounced sex after they got married.
    • In one article, an old-fashioned husband and wife sleep in separate beds, resulting in the end table between them getting pregnant.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Invoked on the Roseanne parody, when the kids are discussing their frustrations with their mother. "D.D.T." starts mumbling, which typically is an almost guaranteed laugh, but is told that "this is no laughing matter!"
  • Shoot Out the Lock: A catalogue of popular movie props includes a "Detective's Gun" that does only this.
  • Shot at Dawn: Another common theme in "Duck" Edwing's one page comic features.
  • Shout-Out: Many, such as the frequent cameos from Peanuts characters early on. Schulz later returned the favor by giving Alfred E. Neuman a quick appearance in his strip, as the punchline at the end of a story arc in which Charlie Brown kept hallucinating baseballs everywhere he went. Watching the sunrise, he dreads the inevitable sight of a baseball over the horizon, but instead it's Alfred's face!
    "I'm a Commando, not a Kindergarten Cop! And what's more, I have Total Recall!"
    • In the parody of Edward Scissorhands, the final battle between Edward and Jim is said to be similar to another Tim Burton movie, although the person watching the fight isn't sure which one until the following exchange.
    Edward: Let me go, you joker!
    Jim: I'm going to bust your head with this bat, man!
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: In the parody of The Shining, after the cook arrives, telling about his "shining," Jack Nicholson's character mortally wounds him with an ax, smugly saying that he didn't foresee his own death. As the caretaker vows that his murderer won't get away with it, he's told that killing a cook will only be punished by a slap on the wrist.
  • Show-and-Tell Antics: In "Lighter Side", a boy brings in his father's favorite magazine. After he explains that it has articles by some of the best authors in the world, he yells out,
    But I like the pictures! (as a middle page folds out)
  • Silly Simian:One recurring sketch in the "Fundalini Pages" involves randomly adding monkeys to certain famous photos. Exaggerated with an issue featuring nothing but monkeys.
  • Single Mom Stripper: One strip showed two teenage boys looking at porn online, and one of them says, "Isn't that your mom?" The other boy thinks his friend is joking, until he realizes it is his mom. He runs home and asks her how could she do such a thing; she smirks and says "I made enough money in ten minutes to afford one of those Sega Dreamcasts you've been bitching about." The boy's attitude changes quickly and he offers to do chores around the house to let her focus on work.
  • Sinister Minister: Parodied in their article "When Priests Go Bad", which was followed by "When Nuns Go Bad" and "When Clowns Go Bad."
  • Skewed Priorities: This is quite common as a source of humor. For example, in one "Lighter Side Of..." strip, a teacher scolds a student for praying in class, when she's clearly doing so because a nut is shooting up the school.
    • When the "politically correct" version of James Bond sees a dolphin strapped with a bomb swimming toward a naval base, he saves the dolphin... and lets the base get blown up.
  • Slice of Life: The intent of The Lighter Side of... was to apply a humorous look at everyday topics.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Very much on the cynical side, since it ruthlessly makes fun of people's failings, whether individuals, groups or humanity as a whole, and doesn't have much faith in human nature.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Parodied in the parody of Love Story, in which the main character's wife gets more beautiful as her condition worsens.
  • Spin-Off: Mad Kids, a magazine with similar content for younger audiences.
  • Spoonerism: "Mad Switcheroos" were a couple of articles by Al Jaffee that had some nutty examples as jokes, and to make them funnier, left the punch line blank for the reader to figure out. (The illustration helped.) For example:
    Set-up line: What's the difference between a spanking and a tourist in Mexico?
    Punch line: A spanking Rattles the Buns. A tourist in Mexico Battles the Runs.
  • Springtime for Hitler: The subject of Saturday Evening Post cartoonist Tom Hudson's only contribution to MAD, "The Rejection Slip" in issue #80. Turned down by so many publications, he wishes to get a rejection slip from MAD to complete his collection by submitting a bunch of tired old gags to the magazine, only for them to accept every single one. Subverted in the end, where he gives up on his pursuit of rejection slips and submits ten gags to MAD, only for them to reject all ten.
  • Staged Pedestrian Accident: In one Monroe strip, Monroe's forced to do this for his father, after accidentally derailing the lawsuit against the pesticide manufacturer (along with their attempt to cash in on it), by inadvertently implying that the plaintiffs who got sick had been huffing the product.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Quite frequently, when the characters of a movie they parody do something illogical, and the most common response is "It makes too much sense!" For example, in the Double Jeopardy parody, it's suggested that the main character could bring to light that her husband is still alive, clearing her name and getting custody of her son.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Nivlem forces the Woman Wonder to do this, as he turns out to be her boyfriend and is jealous of her superior skills.
  • Stealing the Credit:
    • In the parody of Contact, as Ellie's research bears fruit, Drumlin tells her that it will look good for him. Ellie takes umbrage at his doing this, but Drumlin reminds her that he gave her the "credit" when her department went over budget.
    • One "The Lighter Side Of" strip played this for Black Comedy, when a group of Right Wing Militia Fanatics is angry that after all the trouble they went to carry out a terrorist attack, another group claimed credit.
  • Stealing from the Hotel: In a "Lighter Side of" feature, a husband and wife are traveling abroad, when the wife is suddenly alarmed that one of their suitcases was stolen. She rants about how those foreigners are all crooks. When her husband asks what was in that particular bag, she replies "The ash trays and the towels and the silverware" that they took from the hotel.
    • Occurs at the end of their Beverly Hills Cop spoof. While in the original Axel Foley mentions he stole three bathrobes before checking out from the hotel, here he's stripped the room bare of everything, up to and including the bathroom plumbing.
  • Stealth Insult: Many jokes involve fairly subtle insults.
  • Stealth Pun: While most parody names are typically something that sounds similar to their original name (In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn/Peppercorn is also called "Strider/Spider"), whenever Alfred from Batman appears, he's typically called "Neuman", as a reference to Alfred Neuman.
  • Stupid Crooks:
    • The two protagonists of Spy vs Spy. When they debuted, the introduction claimed that they "taught James Bond everything he knows... about what not to do!" And it shows. Generally, strips end with their plans killing their rival because of their opponent's incompetence, or backfiring and killing them because of their own incompetence.
    • Exaggerated in the Dog Day Afternoon parody; one of the robbers gives the other flowers instead of a gun (originally intended to be concealed in a box of flowers), which he put in a vase of water on the kitchen table.
  • Suicide as Comedy: Frequently done, especially with completely outlandish suicide methods (such as a Duck Edwing article where people off themselves in strange ways, such as gorging on popcorn and wrapping themselves in a heated blanket to make the popcorn burst them open, or eating so much food in an elevator that they make it exceed the weight limit).
    • A subscription ad on the letters page carried the headline "WHY KILL YOURSELF? ... Just because you missed the last issue of Mad?" The drawing would be of a man or woman about to commit suicide in an outlandish way.
  • Summer School Sucks: The magazine has often mocked people who were held back or sent to summer school in the past, numerous times.
  • Superficial Suggestion Box: In one article on How To Tell If You Work In A Sweatshop: The last guy to use the suggestion box hasn't been seen in days.'
    • MAD Magazine 144 had a piece called "X-RAYvings" where it showed the unlikely behind-the-scenes setup of things, e.g., a gas station where both the regular and premium grades draw from the same underground storage tank. One item x-rayed a department store suggestion box, revealing the shredded inside.
  • Super Zeroes: In addition to parodies of popular comic books and movies, some artists have created their own, like Don Martin's paperback The Mad Adventures of Captain Klutz and Duck Edwing's The Mad Book of Almost Super Heroes.
  • Surprise Incest
    • In a list of cliche movie props, one Arab beggar reunites his necklace with that of the Caliph's daughter, whom he loves and learns that they are brother and sister.
    • In the parody of Maverick, the final line.
    "There's still one final plot twist — you can't marry your own sister!"
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A recurring theme for humor is to show the realistic outcome to any given scenario, playing the results for laughs. Like with Take That!, there are too many examples to list specific ones.
  • Symbol Swearing: Shows up often, given that the magazine (almost) never uses some of the more colorful profanities (most notably "fuck" or "shit"), even if the work being parodied does use those. However, this doesn't stop writers (most often Arnie Kogen) from only censoring part of the word, thus making it clear what they meant anyway.
    • Lampshaded in the parody of E.T.s "penis-breath" scene. Elliot's Mum: "That's it! I will NOT have any asterisks, ampersands, or percentage signs spoken in MY house!"
    • In "Who In Heck is Virginia Woolfe":
    Dick $*&#+=*!
    Liz: %$?
    Dick: Huh? %$?"...? What kind of profanity is that, Liz?
    Liz: That's no profanity, Dick! I just wanted to know what percentage of the gross we're getting for this picture!
    • Also occurs in "Typewri-Toons", an article conceived by longtime writer Desmond Devlin showing various typewriter letters interacting. One such gag has two typewritten letters complaining about a garbage strike, which is represented by a large pile of symbols.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: In one Ventriloquist Priest comic, a receptionist falls in love with a mail clerk, who gets her pregnant but leaves her for the boss' ugly daughter in order to gain a promotion. She then poisons his coffee in retaliation.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: "Plastic Sam" is put in a freezer, essentially reducing him to a cube of plastic that can't do anything.
  • Take That!: HUNDREDS. If we listed them all, we'd be here all day, since the magazine has been running for decades, and believes nothing is sacred.
  • Take That, Audience!: They often imply that anyone who actually reads their magazine has to be a moron (this goes hand-in-hand with their constant Self-Deprecation). They also insult anyone who writes them a letter when it appears in their "Letters and Tomatoes Department".
  • Take That, Critics!: Not necessarily their critics, but in the 80s, Mad ran a piece in which film critics made several promises concerning their trade, such as dismissing all Chuck Norris films as mindless violence, and deriding them as boring if they even try to have a plot.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Sometimes parodied. For example, in one strip, a Catholic priest named Father O'Malley tries to do this with a suicidal man on a ledge, but then the man whispers something to him, at which point the priest makes a phone call and leaves. Evidently, the man said something to the effect of "I'm Jewish," because in the last panel, Rabbi Nussbaum comes in and repeats the priest's plea to the man.
  • Teeth Flying: A Running Gag in "Spy Vs. Spy". Whenever one spy is caught in an explosion, a set of teeth come flying out of the blast.
    • Mark Antony's teeth fly out of his mouth in the following exchange from the Julius Caesar parody:
      Calphurnia: ...Very well, Tony! I will pay thine fee!... Now will you take my case?
      Mark Antony: ...I will answereth you simply... Effectively...and my answer answer is... DOMM DA DOM DOMM!
  • Terrible Pick-Up Lines: In a "The Lighter Side of..." installment, a father and son are out fishing when a girl shows up on a nearby dock. The boy says he'd really like to get to know the girl, but doesn't know what to say to her. His dad replies that he just go up to her and say "Didn't you and I go to school together? So he walks over to her and...
    Boy: "Didn't you and my father go to school together?"
  • Testes Test: One cartoon shows the transformation from Bruce Banner into the Hulk. The Hulk then looks down his pants and appears pleased by what he sees.
  • Think Nothing of It: A response given at a few points, such as in one The Lighter Side strip and in the Batman Returns parody. It's then followed by the person thanking the benefactor revealing that he or she is not actually grateful. Below is a paraphrased exchange from one Lighter Side strip.
    Birthday Girl: I must thank you for this gift!
    Gift Giver: It was nothing!
    Birthday Girl: (scowling) I know! But my mom said I should thank you anyway!
  • The Ending Changes Everything:
    • In the parody of "Batboy," Batboy himself turns out to be the killer, as a "vampire Batboy."
    • In the parody of "All The President's Men," which was made before the identity of Deep Throat was widely known, Woodward and Burnstein ponder who would be willing to risk so much to come forward with information that would be damaging to the Republican Party... but are not at all surprised when it turns out to be Gerald Ford.
  • There Should Be a Law: The premise behind "New Laws Congress Should Pass Right Now", and its sequel article.
  • Thinking the Same Thought: In the parody of Batman Returns, both Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle decide not to get undressed in front of each other, both realizing if the other sees their injuries from the Batman vs. Catwoman fight, their secret identities will be revealed. Alfred mentally remarks on how they're sharing thought bubbles.
  • Those Two Guys: Many artist/writer pairings have this relationship, most notably Duck Edwing writing most of Don Martin's gags. Charlie Kadau and Joe Raiola tend to write a lot of their gags together, too.
  • Time for Plan B: Parodied in the Rocky takeoff "Rockhead," during the title fight with Appalling Greed:

    Rockhead: "Hit me all you want to, Champ! That's my 'Plan A' ... where you tire yourself out!"
    Appalling Greed: "But I never get tired!"
    Rockhead: "Well ... then ... I'll immediately switch to 'Plan B' ... where you KILL ME!"

  • Title Drop: While most parody names are funny-sounding names that sound like the title of the original work, "Bleak For The Future" references the title when Marty, having succeeded at getting his parents together and time-traveling back to the present, sees his future parents buying birth control, and declares that things look "bleak for the future."
  • Translation: "Yes": In the parody of E.T., the aliens often have two or three words to represent sentences that are several times longer.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: In "A Booty-Filled Mind", Nash's wife turns out to be a hallucination.
  • Top Ten List: A staple of the Fundalini pages.
    • There's also the annual list of the 20 stupidest events of the year, which makes fun of all the events for which it's in good taste (for example, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks don't qualify, but Jerry Falwell's controversial statements after them do).
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Parodied in the "L'Osservatore Romano" version of Blondie. Dithers gives Dagwood his subordinate in the priesthood, a Literal Ass-Kicking for a mistake, at which point Dagwood cites the Trope Namer. Dithers enthusiastically approves, then decides to "kick that cheek too," as he kicks Dagwood again.
  • Twist Ending: Especially in the EC Comics era. Most movie parodies end with an altered version of the film's ending, sometimes revealing something about the plot that had been concealed all along.
  • Two First Names: Exagerrated in the A Star Is Born (1976) parody, in which one girl finds it weird that Jim Normie Howie has three first names.

  • Underdogs Always Win: Subverted with the parody of Rocky.
    Nicky: This movie shows what can happen to an underdog who keeps his faith and fights valiantly against tremendous odds!
    Man: You mean he wins in the end?
    Nicky: No, he gets his brains beaten out!
  • Underestimating Badassery: A firing squad in one comic strip suggests there's no way a man could have killed as many people as he did on the basis that he's skinny. He then proceeds to kill them all with his hands cuffed, and then later gets recaptured, with the new firing squad saying the same thing that the old one did.
  • Unexpected Character:invoked Happens sometimes in parodies, usually involving a character from another work. For example, the parody of Batman: The Animated Series, reveals that the culprit who's been erasing heroes and villains is Adam West as Batman, who wants his old show back.
  • Unflattering ID Photo: Done with The Burger King himself, showing that even a creepy emotionless mask can be made to look even worse on a driver's license.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Parodied on the "Mary Tyler Moore" show parody.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: At the end of the American Graffiti parody, Squirt seemingly recognizes the "chick in the white T-Bird," only to find out that it's Ringo Starr from The Beatles.
  • Updated Re Release: The 2020 reprints will occasionally publish an old article in full color. An example is "The Wonderous Woodstock Fair" poem, almost a full 50 years from its initial appearance.
  • Verbal Backspace: In the "Dave" parody, Dave initially refuses to be a body double for the president, but when he's told that he'll get $200, he says "My fellow Americans...!"
  • Very Special Episode: The infamous “Gashlygun Tinies” in October 2018. A parody (if it can be called that) of ‘’The Gashlycrumb Tinies’’ taking place during a school shooting.
  • Viewers Are Morons: In the Pearl Harbor parody, this trope is suggested to be the reason why the film included a bombing mission on Tokyo; the way history is taught, viewers might have left theaters with the impression that the Japanese won the war after bombing Pearl Harbor.
  • Visual Pun: In one "Lighter Side of" strip, two office workers question if they're pawns in a corporate chess game, while standing on a black and white checkered floor.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Many of the artists have no qualms about drawing characters vomiting, most notably Al Jaffee and Tom Bunk. Mark Fredrickson also got a shot on the cover of #543, which features Alfred barfing into a "Make America Great Again" hat.
  • Voodoo Doll:
    • Frequently used in gags, usually stuck with pins, and generally used as a sign of concealed hatred for the person represented by the doll.
    • Bill Gaines owned a voodoo doll with pins representing all of the competing humor magazines. By the time of his death, the only remaining pin was for Cracked.
  • Wait for Your Date: In Lighter Side of..., this appeared at least twice:
    • One had a teenage boy picking up his date; Dad said she'd be ready in a few minutes. Meanwhile, "Would you like to play a nice leisurely game of chess or two?"
    • In another, a husband is waiting for his wife to get ready. When she is finally ready, the husband takes off his coat because "I gotta shave again."
  • Walk and Talk: Parodied in the parody of The West Wing.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: In the parody of "Signs," the aliens' weakness to water, and the blatantly obvious Chekhov's Gun that sets it up, are ruthlessly parodied. The same goes for "Unbreakable," when the main character's son is warned not to shoot him with a water pistol, but instead with his service revolver, since the former is more dangerous.
  • Well, This Is Not That Trope: In "Clooney as the Bat", it's said that despite having lackluster performances for Batman in Batman (1989), Batman Returns and Batman Forever, this "is no game of baseball like in Casey at the Bat," so George Clooney has a chance to set things right with Batman & Robin. As might be expected, though, Clooney doesn't succeed.
  • Wham Shot: Gags commonly end with shots revealing more about those involved. For example, in one "The Lighter Side Of", a man talks with his friend about how he and his wife had "chemistry" when they met and "biology" when they married, but "Now it's all history!"- and the last panel shows that they're walking out of a courthouse, presumably after his divorce.
    • In the Malcolm in the Middle parody, the last few panels of Malcolm's final monologue zoom out a window to show him in the back of a truck, being taken to an insane asylum.
    • In the parody of "Bonnie and Clyde", there's a Running Gag of Bonnie pestering Clyde to have sex with her, at very inconvenient times, usually while they're being chased. The last time, Bonnie does so in the dark, prompting Clyde to turn on the lights and show that they're in bed together.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Defied on a few jokes regarding the church panhandle. In one "A Mad Look At" strip, a priest records the collection, prompting people to give generously out of fear of being seen. In a Ventriloquist Priest strip, the priest forces the statues to talk about how people who don't give generously are going to hell.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: In one parody of how movie plots would go in real life, the film version of the scene goes on for the better part of two pages, and ends with Lance Sterling managing to not only avoid being rubbed out for knowing too much about the mob's plan, but killing or arresting all of the bad guys. The real life version, however, ends with Lance and his girlfriend getting gunned down in the second panel.
  • William Telling:
    • Inverted on an early cover, which depicts Alfred with an arrow strapped to his head, and an apple being thrown at him.
    • One Don Martin gag has William Tell swatting at a fly right as the arrow is about to strike, thus causing him to have the arrow impale his nose instead.
  • Witless Protection Program: A parody of Police Woman has The Hero use the protected witness as a Human Shield against the bullets fired by the mobsters that want the witness silenced. Almost like a mantra, this poor guy asks, "Are you sure you're not out to get me?"
  • World of Jerkass:
    • Virtually everyone in the "Monroe" series is a Jerkass of some kind or another.
    • One article discusses how newer comic strips often tend toward this trope, and reveals what would happen if other, older strips followed suit by having all their characters take a level in jerkass.
  • World's Shortest Book: They occasionally had a shelf of these, usually political- or current events-themed, such as "Etiquette" by Lyndon B. Johnson and "Truths I Have Told" by Richard Nixon.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Interestingly enough, while the "politically correct" version of James Bond is vastly more respectful toward women than the real thing, he punches out a Countess upon realizing that she wears fur, diamonds and other things that he believes were made through unconscionable means.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The Ghostbusters parody, "Ghost-Dusters," (MAD #253) featured the characters explaining the $10,000 charge for capturing the parody's equivalent of Slimer. The individual prices actually totaled $11,000. A reader wrote in and the magazine had to admit its error.
  • Writing Lines: One of the covers of #481, which spoofed The Simpsons Movie, parodied Bart Simpson's writing of lines with Alfred E. Neuman as Bart writing "I WILL NOT USE THE SIMPSONS MOVIE TO SELL MAD".
  • Written Sound Effect: Don Martin was very fond of atypical ones, such as "Dingalinga" for a bell ringing, "Ferrap" for shuffling cards, etc. Sometimes he would use Unsound Effects: "Don't Walk," "Applaud," etc. He even had a vanity plate reading "SHTOINK." There's also a dictionary of them.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: In the Double Jeopardy parody, this is defied, when the mother gets arrested for all the laws she broke in the process of tracking down her husband.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol
    • One had Archie Bunker facing the ghosts of Ratings Past, Laughs Past, Bigotry Past and Ratings Future, who confronted him over the fact that if his show is no longer bigoted, it's no longer funny, either.
    • Ronald Reagan was shown as Scrooge in one parody. After saying "Humbug!" to unemployment going up, health care going down, and farms being foreclosed, he gets a visit and an expression of approval from The Ghost of Depression Past, also known as Herbert Hoover.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Due to a large number of the founding staff being Jewish, Yiddishisms like "schmuck" have been known to show up frequently.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Inverted in Monroe, when the eponymous character's lack of a strong physique causes some white supremacists in prison to question their race's superiority.
  • Younger Than They Look: In the Edward Scissorhands parody, the narrator is offended by the young girl calling her "Grandma," since she's still relatively young, and only looks older due to the scars she gets from Edward being mistaken for wrinkles.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Averted in one "A MAD Look at Batman" strip," Batman chases a criminal into a costume party and walks out with first prize.
  • 0% Approval Rating: Several people are mentioned as being close to this level. In the "Choose Your Own Adventure" book for the 2000 presidential election, one of the paths leading to the bad ending has your own mother refuse to vote for you, and you being so far behind in the race that the networks declare your opponent the winner eight hours before the polling ends.

Alternative Title(s): Mad Magazine