What was stupidest in 2015? It’s hard to tell. But when it comes to stupidity, no one knows it better than Mad. And with their “Dumbest of 2015” Mad #537 on shelves now, Newsarama spoke to Editor-in-Chief John Ficarra about the stupidest of this year, and what stupidity might lie ahead.
Ficarra has served as Editor-in-Chief of the Usual Gang of Idiots since 1984, meaning he’s witnessed the stupidity of multiple presidential administrations, wars, and even reality TV. Earlier this year, he commented on the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hedbo on CBS Sunday Morning.
So we decided to find out what Ficarra thought of this past year, this special issue of Mad, what lies in store, and if we could trick a certain catchphrase out of him.
Newsarama: John, tell readers about the "Dumbest of 2015" issue..
John Ficarra: Our year-end round-up of the "20 Dumbest People, Events and Things" is always our best-selling issue of the year. Hmmm, maybe that should be number 21…
I’m always amazed (and dismayed) that we’ve never, ever, in the 16 years that we’ve been doing this, have had a shortage of candidates to make the list. Over the years, because of space limitations, many deserving dumb people have escaped mockery. But I have every confidence that the truly dumb will find a way to make it onto our list at a future date.
What can you anticipate in the 2015 issue besides our list of the "20 Dumbest People, Events and Things"? Look for three staples and two of those annoying little subscription cards that fall out when you first open the magazine.
Nrama: Which of the Usual Gang of Idiots worked on this issue, and what are some of the high...uh, or possibly low points?
Ficarra: The editors are very hands-on with this issue. We select the targets and then a list out to our writers and artists. The "Dumbest" issue is always a showcase for our artists because each dumb person or thing is usually represented with a big, high-impact piece of art.
Look no further than the cover, with Mark Fredrickson’s terrific rendering of Donald Trump and Alfred as Donald Trump. Other great pieces include Herman Mejia’s homage to Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper featuring all of the Republican candidates running for President, (Donald Trump is in the center) and Roberto Parada’s sendup of the movie poster for The Great Gatsby – The Great Gasbag -- starring Donald Trump in the title role. Are you beginning to detect a star to this year’s "20 Dumbest"?
Nrama: There's a great challenge in deciding what might be stupidest in 2015, given that it appears to be a process that's constantly updating. How do you keep track?
Ficarra: We keep a running list all year and then around mid-year begin the winnowing process. But yes, we are often writing right up to the day we go to press. Dumbness knows no deadlines.
I’m especially sorry we ran out of time to go after Martin Shkreli, the slimy hedge fund manager who bought up old drug companies and immediately jacked the price for AIDS medicine by 5000%. [Newsarama Note: And got arrested just after this interview was conducted] He’s definitely on our radar for 2016.
Nrama: In reviewing the idiocy of 2015, what do you feel you've learned most about this year, or about humanity, or about, I don't know, stuff that was incredibly stupid but you'd mercifully forgotten about, and now it's come back like something you just can't flush?
Ficarra: What have I learned? Nothing, really. But that’s always been my problem. It probably has something to do with my mother’s fondness for moonshine when she was pregnant with me.
But others in the Mad offices have spoken about the exceptional dumbness of this year being a harbinger for the disintegration of our political system, the complete unraveling of the fabric of our society and, ultimately, the end of days.
I certainly hope they are wrong. I just put a big down payment on a boat.
Nrama: What's the biggest key in crafting something satirical so that it stand out beyond just being something "of the moment," like those really awful parody films that you always find on Redbox?
Ficarra: Actually we get many of our ideas from those really awful parody films on Redbox! Thanks for blowing it for us! We try to capture the dumb thing in a big, single image so even if you’re a typical lazy Mad reader and don’t take the time to read our snarky introduction, you can still understand what happened and why we think it was dumb.
Nrama: And do you feel 2016 has the potential to meet or excel the dumbness of 2015? There's hope, I mean, it is an election year.
Ficarra: Given the candidates running for president on both sides, it’s clear that dumbness is bipartisan. From a comedy writing perspective, that’s great news. From the country’s perspective, that’s horrible news.
Nrama: When people in some post-apocalyptic future find a ravaged copy of this issue and use it as a holy text in the rebuilding of society, what lessons do you hope they learn from it?
Ficarra: Given the level of dumbness that continues to afflict all of mankind, I think they will be shocked that we lasted as long as we did. Smart people learn from their mistakes but most of our politicians, celebrities and leaders seem to keep making the same dumb mistakes over and over again.
On the other hand, we’re counting on people not learning from their mistakes to be the reason that the same people who bought the last issue of MadD will buy this one as well.
Nrama: Examining the recent past like this must make you contemplate the future some. Are you worried?
Ficarra: What, us worry?
Nrama: [Laughs] This is the best day of my life…
Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Ficarra: Yes! We’re running a great Holiday Special on our web site. Give one gift subscription to Mad and give a second for free! Go to Madmagazine.com – now! Please! I have 10 years of boat payments to make!