Mad Magazine’s 1976 Christmas Issue: Still Relevant, Still Memorized–Years Later

It was a Christmas party when my wife first called me “The King of Useless Information.” I fell into the trap and correctly answered the question, probably too quickly, “Who played Gopher on Love Boat?” Fred Grandy. Who didn’t know that??

But the title really had its roots in 1976, the year I began collecting Mad magazines as a fifth grader while waiting for my mom in the checkout at the A&P. Like my son’s favorite episodes of South Park, Family Guy and The Simpsons, each issue is a time capsule of current events and a cross-section of American culture and attitudes.


Just skimming the cover of the January 1977 issue that came out in late November of 1976, the clever artwork depicting Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers exchanging D-cells was worth it enough. But then to glance at the teasers on the cover reminds you of the classic Bad News Bears and the less memorable Missouri Breaks.

Mad magazine’s spoofs of current television and film was my favorite part, after, of course Don Martin…


The elongated feet and chins of Martin’s characters were the envy of every aspiring cartoonist in my fifth and sixth grade classes. And who could resist the under-reaction of the loss of a favorite pet (complete with Wallace and Gromit-like grin) better than this magazine?


But beyond movies, television and urinating dogs, the magazine would also tackle social issues, the same issues that plague us today…


In 1976, the bad guys weren’t yet the pharmaceutical giants, the insurance companies or even, believe it or not, Obamacare. It was the doctors, complete with fine print for the Hippocratic Oath.


And, as the back-cover’s photo would reveal, the AMA’s vampire-like thirst for patients’ blood…


But issue #188 became forever etched in my memory so clearly that I was able to retrieve the issue from my basement storage in under two minutes–I remembered the cover that clearly. It was my first exposure to another great Mad motif–the song parody, later to become a full-time job for Weird Al Yankovic. On page 32, I stumbled upon its irreverent Christmas carol-spoofs and for the next five weeks had each one memorized–me and fifteen or so of my classmates. Perhaps that contributed to our turnover of three teachers that year.

Each song kept to form, tackling current television such as Happy Days, All in the Family, Sonny and Cher, The Waltons and Welcome Back Kotter and the trap we were all in with only three networks, no cable, no streaming–nothing but holiday specials.


Or another easy target in the pre-Amazon, Federal Express, “What Can Brown Do For You?” world of snail-mail only.


Santa was certainly not off limits, particularly if he had less than wholesome habits…


The Visa card was still known by another name and this song heralded the onslaught of plastic in all of our lives…


But there were two songs that are still my favorites. Not only do I still have them memorized but I know I could call three alumni of Baker Elementary to join me. I even recently led a round with my brothers-in-law and a few of my wife’s cousins (guys of course).

The first is a universal situation that many of you may be going through this week–similar to the “fish and relatives” chestnut…


And the masterpiece of the entire issue, the politically incorrect drunk-driving classic (back when Dean Martin and the movie Arthur still made people laugh). It’s so completely part of my subconscious, that I still cannot hear the real version without thinking of these lines…


2014 Addition per a number of reader requests caused me to dig up the issue and add the following…


Completely inappropriate and completely relevant, the blend of Frank Jacobs’ smooth lyrics and Paul Coker, Jr.’s frantic artwork is part of me. Like South Park, that can turn out a Tom Cruise couch-bouncing episode faster than Mad‘s eight issues per year, satire is bold, it’s funny, it’s biting and as shocking as the Homers and Peters are in the world–the true message of Lois, Brian and Marge provides the ethical-center. Drivers (and Santas on corners) shouldn’t be drinking. And we should all leave our relatives’ home a day earlier than we planned!

A Couple More Holiday Hits from Kevin…

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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 10 years since then. Contact him at: He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion.

8 Responses to Mad Magazine’s 1976 Christmas Issue: Still Relevant, Still Memorized–Years Later

  1. winoceros says:

    Do you have access to another 1976/77 issue that bemoans the commercialization of the bicentennial sung to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”?

    “Mine eyes have seen the glory of our land’s two-hundredth year
    With the flags and coins and stickers we have had it up to here
    Not to mention reenactments of The Ride of Paul Revere
    Thank God they’ll soon be gone!

    They have got an Adams t-shirt
    that’s inscribed “We Love You John!”
    Plus a Tom Paine lamp that flashes
    “Common Sense” when it’s turned on
    Aren’t you kind of glad to know That
    They’re imported from Taiwan?
    Thank God they’ll soon…”

    All I can remember. Been thinking that song for 39 years now. Anyone have the words?


  2. DuVal Francois says:

    Thanks so much! I had these when they came out. You just brought back so many memories! I didn’t have friends so mad magazine was my escape from reality.

  3. Lorraine says:

    I’m so glad you posted these! 38 years later, I still remember the lyrics too. I’m also wondering where “It hangs down from the Chandelier” is 🙂 These carols finally saved my sister and I from “performing” every year at my great-grandmother’s apartment before a crowd of relatives that we only saw for about 1 hour every year. We belted out a couple of these and weren’t asked to perform like trained animals the following year. LOL

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      I agree,Loraine! They’re forever embedded in my mind and I sing these lyrics softly to myself while I’m walking through the stores’ muzak! (Per your and Pat’s request, I’ve just added “Chandelier” to the post. Thanks for reading!

  4. Pat says:

    I still have these pages, yellowed and stored somewhere. I’ve taught my scouts Sam And Roz every Christmas since I became a leader 14 years ago. But where’s “It hangs down from the Chandelier”?

  5. Burt says:

    Hilarious. Almost 40 years and my sister & parents still intermix these words when the real songs are sang. Haven’t seen these pages in 30+ years. We’ve had fun sharing your post. Thanks. — To us, these songs and the holidays are the equivalent of trying to get through a round of golf without quoting Caddyshack.

  6. John Maurice says:

    Are you sure we’re not brothers?!?!?