Happy 100th Birthday, Al Jaffee

Born 100 years ago on this day: Abraham “Al” Jaffee (b. 1921), creator of the Mad Magazine “fold-in”, as well as other regular features in Mad, such as as “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions”. His career having begun in 1942, Jaffee holds the world’s record for longest career as a comic artist, which is now approaching a mind-boggling 80 years. This is apparently a job that keeps you living a long and happy life. I’ve personally known or met three comics illustrators who lived to be ancient: Al Hirschfeld, Jerry Robinson, and Jules Feiffer. It’s clearly a dream job!

In his early days, Jaffee worked for comic book mogul Stan Lee. He started at Mad shortly after it went from a comic book to a magazine format in 1955, but he left with Harvey Kurzman to work at the short-lived Trump and Humbug, before returning to Mad in 1958.

Jaffee created the “fold-in”, a parody of Playboy’s fold-out, in 1964. I used to marvel at the ingenuity of this clever feature when I was a kid. It had the structure of a riddle. There was a picture on the inside back cover, with a caption that teased you about what the image would turn into when you folded in the two sides. When you did so, a picture of something else would result. It was always very eleborate, though if you did the folding properly it would ding the magazine. I usually did it sort of gingerly so the cover wasn’t permanently damaged. At any rate, Jaffee did this feature every single month until Mad ended in 2020. Having been hired by William Gaines for his legendary staff 65 years later, it appears that he now has the last laugh.