What Makes a Good Humor Magazine?

Filed Under Humor Magazine

Recently, Cracked hired Jay Pinkerton from the National Lampoon to consult on their burgeoning website. Pinkerton has done some great stuff online. I first became aware of him when his silly-filthy remixes of the Spider-Man comic strip went viral last year. He’s definitely a great hire, like previous acquisition Neal Pollack, though I’m not sure exactly where their two sensibilities intersect (save for each writing for McSweeney’s).

Though supposedly focusing on the web, Pinkerton posted on Cracked.com’s message board and asked visitors what they wanted to see in a humor magazine. To give some context, later in the same thread, Pinkerton classifies humor magazines into four categories: Lad (Maxim, Stuff), Catty (Spy, Radar), Ironic (McSweeney’s) and News (Onion), different directions from the one Cracked once was - Comic-based (Mad). The responses to the thread are interesting and I’m hard pressed to see much of a concensus other than a fair amount of calls for a redesign and the dropping of the mascot, Sylvester P. Smythe.

Print humor magazines have been pretty difficult to maintain in the marketplace… the only one with any longevity has been Mad and, arguably, Cracked, simply because their audience has always been younger kids, a constantly renewing resource that doesn’t have aspirational expectations from a magazine, nor the fickleness of hip. When they’re older,  a fair amount grow out of it and the next set of kids discover the mag.

The Comedy lifestyle approach that Cracked has talked about taking is a real smart one - hopefully they can find a line that appeals to both the layperson and the comedy nerd. An argument might be made for focus grouping something to death, but I think getting insight on what’s appealing to the most interested/obsessed (afforementioned comedy nerds) is a good start for something that seems a fragile as a print humor mag.  If you know what will make you plunk down $5 at the newsstand for the humor magazine, you should definitely post on their message board. The revamped magazine’s first new issue arrives in January.

Full disclosure: I was a former editor at Cracked in the 90s and have talked with the new management about working with them, but with no real agreement. I do plan on submitting material to the publication.

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Posted by Betty Russell on 06/25  at  10:41 AM

Hey - you said Mad was the only humor magazine with any longevity. I work for The Funny Times (funnytimes.com) which just celebrated its 20th anniversary last summer and has over 75,000 subscribers. And ad-free too! Also, I don’t see that we fit into any of the four humor magazine categories you list. Be happy to send you a free subscription.

Posted by Greg on 09/28  at  12:58 PM

I’m really glad I came across this article…

I was just searching for humor magazines, in print form, to submit some new stories to, and I’ve had a hard time finding them.

I’ve been published on McSweeneys.net and some other sites, and I’m always grateful to have my work accepted. I think McSweeneys.net is the world’s wittiest online magazine.

But, like many, I want to be published on an actual page. There’s that stigma against online magazines, literary or humor, that many writers have. There’s that thought that online zines have lowered the bar… and the legitimate writers should find their way into Glimmer Train, Zoetrope, et al.

My absudist stories and satire are getting harder and harder to place in the print world… My search isn’t bearing much fruit.

Besides Mad and Cracked, can you direct me to any other print magazines that are open to weird humor and witty point-outs? Perhaps some lit mags that have been known to print good humor?

Betty - I love Funny Times. I lived in Cleveland Heights for years and picked up my copies at Mac’s Backs. I would submit there, but most of my work is over your word count. Perhaps I’ll start working on some shorter pieces…

Any info anyone can provide would be very appreciated.


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