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Frank Jacobs (1929–2021), Mad magazine writer

by Linnea Crowther

Frank Jacobs was a longtime writer for Mad magazine, best known for his song parodies.

Mad magazine

Jacobs first joined Mad in 1957, when he first picked up a copy of Mad. He was so inspired that he reached out to the magazine’s leadership with a pitch: “Why I Left the Army and Became a Civilian.” It was published, and it was the beginning of Jacobs’ 57 years with the magazine.

Jacobs wrote a wide variety of features for Mad, but he was most associated with his song parodies, including “Blue Cross” (a parody of “Blue Skies”), “Louella Schwartz Describes Her Malady” (“A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody”), and “East Side Story” (“West Side Story”). In 1961, Irving Berlin sued Mad over Jacobs’ parodies from a pull-out section called “Sing Along With Mad;” the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in Mad’s favor.

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Unlike other greats of Mad, such as Mort Drucker (1929–2020) and Al Jaffee, Jacobs wasn’t an illustrator. His writing was often illustrated by Mad’s cartoonists. He also wrote Mad paperback books, including “The Mad World of William Gaines.”

Jacobs on how he joined Mad

“Before I started contributing to Mad, I was in a public relations company that bored the hell out of me because there wasn’t enough to do. I just sat around most of the time. About that time I’d collaborated on a musical revue for a summer stock company, and I might have tried to be a Broadway lyricist. But a week after the PR firm folded, I picked up a copy of Mad, said, ‘I can do this stuff,’ and discovered that I could. …I don’t know what I would have done if there hadn’t been a Mad. I have no idea.” —from a 2006 interview with the Mad Store

Tributes to Frank Jacobs

Full obituary: The New York Times

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