Pioneering Mad magazine artist dies


Will Elder, the Mad Magazine artist who helped introduce Yiddishisms and Borscht Belt humor into the American lexicon, has died.

Elder died May 15 at the Jewish Home in Rockleigh, N.J., media reports said. He was 86.

Born Wolf William Eisenberg in New York, Elder was part of a stable of artists who illustrated the scripts of Harvey Kurtzman, who founded Mad in 1952.

His style, which he called “chicken fat” – tasty but lacking in nutrition – most closely mirrored the tangents Kurtzman enjoyed in his writing: Elder stuffed his panels with verbal and visual puns and caricatures that had little to do with the story.

Mad Magazine was enormously popular. Kurztman and Elder introduced Jewish humor and language into corners of the United States that otherwise would never have encountered them. One of Elder’s features was “Ganefs,” Yiddish for thieves.

Elder followed Kurtzman when he left Mad in 1956, and the two eventually co-created Little Annie Fanny, a racy parody of Little Orphan Annie published in Playboy.

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