Al Jaffee and the Mad Fold-In

Al Jaffee is 90 years old, but given the subject of his work, one could argue that he has been an adolescent for the past 75 years.  Since 1964 Jaffee has been putting that snide wit to use  by poking fun at every aspect of popular culture in his amazing fold-ins for Madmagazine.  The entire concept for the feature (which has been present in all but three issues since 1964) came from Jaffee’s desire to go against the grain and poke fun at the foldout fad that began in the 60s.

Mad fold-in consists of a single drawing, with a paragraph of text underneath, and a panel across the top with a question. Each fold-in also features instructions on how to manipulate the Fold-In, as well as a picture illustrating the procedure. When the paper is folded in correctly, the remaining visible text underneath the picture becomes the answer to the question, and the picture itself changes into a fresh image reflecting the new text.

Amazingly, Jaffee creates each fold-in by hand, without the help of much technology.  Sure, he sometimes uses a computer for typographic stuff, but otherwise all the work is done with pencil and paper.  In 2008, Jaffee told one newspaper, “I never see the finished painting folded until it’s printed in the magazine. I guess I have that kind of visual mind where I can see the two sides without actually putting them together.”  

Jaffee continues to do the Fold-In for Mad, as well as creating specially commissioned artwork. Mad’s oldest regular contributor, Jaffee’s work has appeared in over 450 issues of the magazine.  Jaffee’s first three fold-ins featured gags about the Elizabeth TaylorEddie FisherRichard Burton love triangle, Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller‘s battle for the 1964 Republican Presidential nomination, and The Beatles‘ departure back to England. Since then topics for the Mad feature have covered everything from Guitar Hero and South Park to teen pregnancy and Jay Leno. “Before anyone knew it,” wrote comics historian Christopher Irving, “the hundreds of Fold-Ins created a timeline of American history, political satire, and entertainment.”

Click here to experience the joy of a fold-in on the New York Times website!


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