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If not for Mad magazine, there might never have been (in no particular order) 1960s youth culture, underground comics, Wacky Packs, “Laugh-In,” “Saturday Night Live,” R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman or an age of irony, period. Mad, which began in 1952 as a comic book that parodied “serious” comics as well as American popular culture, with an emphasis on television, movies and advertising, was conceived and originally edited by Harvey Kurtzman (1924-93), a Brooklyn-born comic-strip artist, writer and editor. Kurtzman was the spiritual father of postwar American satire and the godfather of late-20th-century alternative humor. If this seems like hyperbole, all you have to do is read The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics.

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