A pop-culture prodigy and shameless self-promoter, DeBartolo manages to make MAD's 42-year history as sanitized as a Disney classic. There's something truly Orwellian about the effort to write Harvey Kurtzman, the creator of MAD, out of the magazine's history. Which is what DeBartolo does, commemorating instead his late boss, William Gaines, the owner of EC Comics, MAD's parent company. DeBartolo didn't join the ``usual gang of idiots'' until the early 1960s, long after Kurtzman had left because Gaines refused to give him a larger share of the comic book. DeBartolo doesn't seem to know the simple reason MAD eventually changed from a comic to a magazine: The oppressive Comics Code Authority did not regulate magazines. Frank Jacobs provided a much better biography of Gaines (The MAD World of William Gaines, not reviewed), and Maria Reidelbach's Completely MAD (1991) demonstrated a more certain grasp of the facts. So why DeBartolo's gimmicky memoir? Partly to recount his own precocious career: first contribution to MAD at 15; writing for TV at 16; saving The Match Game from an early death by adding humor to the questions; and contributing more pieces to MAD in 33 years than any other writer. Though coy about his own personal life, DeBartolo contributes to the legend of Gaines: his combination of cheapness and extravagance; his sloppy demeanor; his insatiable appetites; and his proclivity for adolescent pranks. DeBartolo loves promoting MAD so much that he reproduces the publicity slide show he hawks around college campuses. He also adds to the stories about MAD's famous group bonus vacations around the world, though a number of his anecdotes are recycled. Missing from this memoir are the great MAD artists Wally Wood and Will Elder, though there are endless ``forewords'' by some of the magazine's stalwart contributors. For MAD purists, this lumpy narrative is further proof that, after Kurtzman, it's been all downhill.
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