THIS was going to be a simple artist-at-work article about Al Jaffee, a man who could lay claim to being the world’s oldest adolescent and who just now is enjoying a fresh burst of public and professional recognition. The idea was to look in on him as he created the latest installment of a feature he has been drawing for Mad magazine since, incredibly, 1964.
But because that feature is the Mad Fold-In, which embeds a hidden joke within a seemingly straightforward illustration, it should come as no surprise that the simple article ended up being not so simple after all. There were times when Mr. Jaffee, who faced a serious health scare over the last few weeks, thought it might be something closer to a eulogy.
If you were young at any time in the last 44 years, you know the fold-in: the feature on the inside of Mad’s back cover that poses a question whose answer is found by folding the page in thirds. September 1978: “What colorful fantastic creature is still being exploited even after it has wiggled and died?” A picture of a garish butterfly, folded, becomes an equally garish Elvis.