The producers of MAD talk about reanimating the magazine for TV on Cartoon Network, Adult Swim

MAD Magazine gets a new shot at TV life tonight with the Labor Day series premiere of MAD on the Cartoon Network, with 26 episodes airing Mondays in the 8:30 p.m. slot that kicks off an earlier version of the net's Adult Swim block. I spoke to the show's producers, Kevin Shinick (creative director on Robot Chicken) and Marek Marek (lead animator for Crank Yankers, and DJ & the Fro; animator and director of music videos for Tenacious D and They Might Be Giants, among others).

But first, here's the official 30-second teaser clip:

Why now?

Shinick: "Since 1952, actually, we've been asked that question at lot. Why now? It just seemed right. I don't know why it's taken so long…I've talked and read about people who worked on The Simpsons, I worked on Robot Chicken. Everybody cites MAD as an influence…it just seemed right that the pendulum should swing back to MAD. MADtv didn't really capture the magazine. To really do it, you had to be animated. Plus we're able to do things like enlist Sergio Aragones, and Tom Richmond."

Marek: "Now that you've seen this, the weight of expectations is even bigger."

Shinick: "I'm standing on top of my desk with a rope hanging around my neck now."

Did you have to wait for MADtv to end its TV life before doing this?

Marek: "I think to some degree yes, once the MADtv era came to an end and the brand came back to Warner Bros., they decided it was time to do it the right way."

Shinick: "And the animated world had changed, too. Cartoon Network was formed, Adult Swim evolved, so now that MADtv was off the air…"

Marek: "More weight on us."

Was it difficult at all getting the magazine's icons onboard with the TV show?

Marek: "Well, Don Martin has passed on, so he wasnt available."

Shinick: "Everybody just wants to be involved. I'm hoping once this airs, he wants to be on this again. Sergio was always onboard."

What's left for Seth MacFarlane to parody once MAD is on the air? Both laugh.

Shinick: "The great thing I find working on MAD, it's just become this style of animation, style of humor, so it's not like putting all of our eggs in one basket. And that's what MAD the magazine did. They had so many writers, so many artists…we're able to focus on the artists everybody loves…but joking about Seth MacFarlane. It's like this. We're very incestuous. We do voices on Family Guy. They do voices for us. It has a very same vibe to it. One of the marching orders was they wanted to extend the hours of Adult Swim to 9, which they did, and they wanted MAD to help do that. It's still with things, that as a kid you felt we shouldnt be reading this, it's not that it's dark, but it's pushing the envelope a little bit."

Marek: "MAD always used to be a Don Martin look at, or a Sergio look at. We're not getting Seth, but we're getting all these different filtered looks at humor."

Shinick: "Yeah, it's many different views. In one episode we've got flash, we've got photo collage, we've got stop-motion. So it really becomes this whole family of animation. In terms of humor."

How are you going to incorporate the famous Fold-Ins?

Marek: "You get three monitors."

Shinick: "We've hired James Cameron," then adds: "We all looked at the fold. I don't think you're ever going to top the joy of staring at it with the magazine…that being said, we wanted to pay an homage to that, so we do use a folded image with the credits."

How was your experience screening MAD to the fans at Comic-Con this summer? (see previous footage of MAD at Comic-Con 2010 here)
Shinick: "I was very excited to show the stuff at Comic-Con and the response was incredible. The group really varied in age, which was great….we want the show to be funny for everybody. It becomes like a film festival of animation for different humor styles. It seemed like we tickled everybody's funny bone for at least one point."

Marek: "I didn't go, but I did like your wookiee outfit, Kevin."

Shinick: "Thank you, I've worn it around the office."

What's your sense of what people really think about MAD coming to TV?

Shinick: "People want this show to do well. They're happy to see it back in the spotlight. They're happy to see Alfred E. Neuman back, and people are really pulling for us. What's funny is that, in writing the show, there'll be critics out there, but no one's going to be more critical than me and Mark, and the staff. We really want to do MAD justice. Do I want it to do well? Yes, but I want to serve the canon well. I want to do MAD justice."

Marek: "We want to do it right. I joke about the weight (of expectations). I want to give it everything I'd want to see if I were sitting on the sideline watching it."

Shinick: "I do everything from an audience's point of view. I do things I want to see. I do things I find funny….all you can do is just try to make the best show possible."

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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