Larry Siegel's famous 'Godfather' parody, illustrated by Mort Drucker (Mad #115, 1972).

Larry Siegel was an American comedy writer who scripted numerous theatrical plays, TV sitcoms, comedy records and books, but was best known as a long-running comics writer for Mad Magazine between 1958 and 1990. Together with Frank Jacobs and Stan Hart, he wrote the feature 'Sights and Sounds of the U.S.A.' (1964-1965), Mad's satirical look at various cities and other locations in the United States. He and Jacobs also created the long-running annual comic strip 'Mad's ... of the Year', which debuted in 1964 and usually featured a satirical take on a certain profession or media celebrity. Like many others of the "usual gang of idiots" Siegel furthermore penned a lot of TV and film satires, including Mad's classic parody of 'The Godfather' (1972). Outside Mad he was a regular writer for Hugh Hefner's Playboy, sometimes helping out Harvey Kurtzman with the erotic comic 'Little Annie Fanny' (1962-1988).

Early life
Lawrence H. Siegel was born in 1925 in New York City. He was barely 18 when he wrote the satirical poem 'Oh Dear, What Can Sinatra Be?' (1943), targeting crooner Frank Sinatra and his adoring female fans. It appeared in Earl Wilson's column 'It Happened Last Night' in the Washington Post. Soon after, Siegel was drafted to serve his country during World War II. He fought in Italy during the final stages of the war and was decorated with a Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, American Theater Ribbon, EAME Theater Ribbon with Two Bronze Stars, Victory Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and a Good Conduct Ribbon. Back in civilian life he studied at the University of Illinois, where Hugh Hefner was also a student. He too wrote articles for the college magazine Shaft and when Hefner graduated, Siegel succeeded him as chief editor. During his university years, Siegel published short stories in American Legion Magazine and Fantasy and Sciencefiction. After graduation he returned to New York City in 1950.

Playboy
In 1953 Hefner experienced overnite sensation success with the first nudie magazine Playboy, which became a lucrative enterprise. He hired Siegel as Playboy's Eastern Promotion manager and writer of humoristic articles. In 1962 Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder's satirical erotic comic strip 'Little Annie Fanny' (1962-1988) was launched in its pages and became one of Playboy's most well known features. While the pay was good, Hefner often asked for alterations to keep the comic's tone in line with Playboy's readership. This often demoralized Kurtzman, especially since he couldn't always come up with alternatives in such a quick notice. Siegel was sometimes asked to step in and alter the script here and there to make the necessary changes, while still keep it consistent with Kurtzman's writing.


'Fun with Hamlet and his Friends', from Humbug #7 (art by Jack Davis).

Work in the 1950s
Siegel wrote funny articles in Harvey Kurtzman's short-lived humor magazine Humbug, which ran for about 11 issues, published between August 1957 and October 1958. Most of his texts were illustrated by artists like Russ Heath, Al Jaffee and especially Jack Davis, Will Elder and Arnold Roth. Siegel's most often reprinted article for Humbug was 'Fun with Hamlet & His Friends' from issue #7 (February 1958), drawn by Jack Davis. It reinterpreted Shakespeare's classic play as an episode of the children's novel series 'Fun with Dick and Jane'. Some time later the National Observer reprinted the article without crediting Siegel. He wrote them a sarcastic letter of complaint, only slightly joking: "If I don't receive credit, I will sue, sue, sue you. What fun it will be to sue you!" But it was his article 'Rivke - The Years of Angst' in Nuts & Bolts, home magazine of a hardware store in Passaic, New Jersey, that drew the attention of Al Feldstein, who asked him to become a writer for Mad.


'Hokum's Heroes', Larry Siegel's parody of 'Hogan's Heroes' (Mad #108, art by Jack Davis). Sgt. Schiltz is a nod to Sgt. Schultz (played by John Banner). 

Mad Magazine
Siegel published his first article in Mad issue #43 (December 1958). He was responsible for several comic strip parodies of popular TV shows, including 'The Price Is Right' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #51, December 1959), 'Candid Camera' (art by Jack Rickard, issue #64, July 1961), 'Hogan's Heroes' (art by Jack Davis, issue #108, January 1967), 'The Flying Nun' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #121, September 1968), 'All in the Family' (art by Angelo Torres, issue #147, December 1971), 'Webster' (art by Angelo Torres, issue #251, December 1984), 'Family Ties' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #252, January 1985), 'The Cosby Show' (art by Angelo Torres, issue #255, June 1985) and 'The Morton Downey Jr. Show' (issue #286, April 1989). The most notable and personal satire for him was his send-off of 'Hogan's Heroes', a TV sitcom set in a Nazi POW camp. As a veteran of World War II, Siegel found ridiculing the war in particular poor taste. So much that he ended his spoof with a very controversial splash panel called 'Hochman's Heroes', about a supposed "spin-off" of 'Hogan's Heroes' set in Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald, where all the inmates "have so much fun in this fantastic place", which they call: "American Television Humor at his best." In his parody of 'All in the Family' Siegel also had Hitler move in with ultraconservative bigot Archie Bunker, only to have network executives go ecstatic over the idea of making a sitcom about Hitler. In an example of "life imitates art" a British TV sitcom called 'Heil Honey, I'm Home' (1990) would later effectively try to make Hitler a sitcom character, though the show was pulled off the air after only one episode.


'Gall in the Family Fare', Siegel's parody of 'All in the Family' (Mad #147, art by Angelo Torres).

Like all Mad writers, Siegel also wrote a great number of film parodies, including 'The Guns of Navarone' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #68, January 1962), 'Lawrence of Arabia' (co-written by Frank Jacobs and Stan Hart, art by Mort Drucker, issue #87, June 1964), 'Fantastic Voyage' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #110, April 1967), 'Easy Rider' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #135, June 1970), 'Patton' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #140, January 1971), 'Love Story' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #146, October 1971), 'The Godfather' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #155, December 1972), 'The Exorcist' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #170, October 1974), 'Chinatown' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #173, March 1975), 'The Godfather Part II' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #178, October 1975), 'Jaws' (art by Mort Drucker, issue #180, January 1976), 'Star Wars' (co-written with Dick DeBartolo, illustrated by Harry North, issue #196), 'The Shining' (art by Angelo Torres, issue #221, March 1981) and 'Scarface' (art by Jack Davis, issue #248, July 1984). When Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton read his parody of their movie 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' (illustrated by Mort Drucker, issue #109, March 1967) both Hollywood stars bought the original artwork. Siegel, on the other hand, considered his spoof of 'Lawrence of Arabia' his personal best. 

The 'Mad' scriptwriter was furthermore honoured by the fact that two of his Mad satires were singled out for a media adaptation. His spoof of 'All in the Family' was recorded as an audio play and added as a bonus record to Mad's Special issue #11 (Winter 1973). The intro and outro of the recording were voiced by Nick Meglin, while Thomas J. Valentico, Inc. wrote the music. Al Feldstein and Meglin were creative supervisors. The voice imitations were provided by Allen Swift, Pat Bright and Herb Duncan. In 1974 a Mad animated TV special was made, complete with an adaptation of Siegel and Drucker's 'The Godfather' parody. Unfortunately the special was never broadcast, because network executives found the comedy too family unfriendly for prime time.


'Jaw'd', Siegel's parody of 'Jaws' (Mad #180, art by Mort Drucker).

Magazine and lyrical parodies
Within Mad Siegel enjoyed writing parodies of other magazines. Some were general satires, like a typical teenage magazine (art by Joe Orlando, issue #51, December 1959), a teacher's magazine (art by George Woodbridge, issue #84, January 1964), or a gun magazine (art by Jack Davis, issue #131, December 1969). Others were direct spoofs, like Reader's Digest (art by Joe Orlando, issue #67, December 1961). Siegel was also keen on writing parodies of poems and song lyrics. His musical-themed special, 'Songs of Business, Publishing, National and World Politics' (Mad Trash issue #4, 1961), co-written with Frank Jacobs, outraged Irving Berlin Inc., who - together with music publishers Chappell & Co, T.B. Harms and Leo Feist sued EC Comics on 10 January 1964 for copyright infringement. On 23 March the judge ruled that it was obvious parody, which is protected by the U.S. constitution. This landmark case also ensured that Mad could create many other song parodies over the decades. In 1966 Mad even produced a humoristic Broadway musical, 'The Mad Show', co-written by Siegel, Stan Hart, Steven Vinaver, Marshall Barer and Stephen Sondheim, while Mary Rodgers composed the music. It was a huge success and stayed on the bill for months.

The Sights and Sounds of the U.S.A.
Perhaps Siegel's greatest legacy at Mad was that he created two long-running features for them, the first being 'The Sights and Sounds of the U.S.A.', which he co-wrote with Frank Jacobs while Paul Coker provided illustrations. Each episode offered a sardonic look at various American locations, including New York City, Hollywood, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami Beach, Ft. Worth and a general small town. It ran between issue #88 (July 1964) and issue #95 (June 1965).


'Mad's Movie Theater Owner of the Year' (Mad #76, art by Jack Rickard). The columnist Dorothy Killfith is a caricature of real-life columnist Dorothy Kilgallen. 

Mad's ... of the Year
His second series with longevity was 'Mad's ... of the Year'. This annual comic strip, which took off in issue #76 (January 1963) with 'Mad's Movie Theater Owner of the Year', illustrated by Jack Rickard, typically featured someone interviewing a certain person about his profession. The interviewee would then describe his daily routines or answer questions, which were a leeway for the writer of the article to make all kinds of satirical observations about this profession. Some common examples were a Chinese restaurant owner (issue #83, December 1963), a teen idol promotor (issue #90, October 1964) or a summer camp owner (issue #162, October 1973). Siegel's most controversial episode was 'Mad's Punk Rock Group of the Year' (illustrated by Harry North, Esq., issue #199, June 1978), because it was obvious that he had only heard some vague rumors about the Sex Pistols, which he then generalized and overly exaggerated to all punk bands, because he knew too little about this faraway British phenomenon.

Nevertheless, 'Mad's ... of the Year' was a great satirical concept. Over the decades Lou Silverstone, Dick Debartolo, Tom Koch, Earle Doud, Chris Hart and Mike Snider all wrote their own entries. In some cases 'Mad's ... of the Year' targeted an actual media celebrity. Siegel also pioneered the idea of making the interviewer a celebrity journalist, for instance Howard Cosell, while other writers made it even more absurd by turning the reporter into someone from outside the press industry, like a celebrity sports star, comedian or musician.

Mad Paperbacks
Siegel also wrote several Mad paperbacks with original material. The most often reprinted is 'Mad's How To Be A Succesful Dog' (1984), originally illustrated by Angelo Torres, but re-illustrated by John Caldwell in 1999. This funny educational book is written from the viewpoint of a dog and offers tips on "how to choose the right master" and get away with bad behaviour, while still maintaining a "puppy-eye look" to fool humans.

TV scriptwriting
Siegel wrote three episodes of the British sketch show 'That Was the Week That Was' in 1964, which was hosted by David Frost and featured future celebrities on its writing team, like Roald Dahl, John Betjeman, Dennis Potter (of 'The Singin' Detective' fame) and John Cleese and Graham Chapman, who'd later become famous as members of Monty Python. He furthermore penned material for 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In' in 1970, followed by the first three and final season of 'The Carol Burnett Show'. He also wrote the 'Chico and the Man' episode 'The Big Brush-Off' (1976) and 7 episodes of another sitcom, 'That's My Mama'. Siegel was also a writer for the never-aired pilot 'Wonder Woman: Who's Afraid of Diana Prince?', based on William Moulton Marston's creation 'Wonder Woman'.

Comedy records
In 1962 comedian Vaughn Meader released a comedy album mocking president John F. Kennedy, 'The First Family'. The record was a best-seller and in 1981 Rich Little made another album, 'The First Family Rides Again', mocking president Ronald Reagan. For this specific record Larry Siegel wrote the material.

Recognition
Larry Siegel won three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Variety or Music (1972) (1973) (1978) for his scripts in the 'Carol Burnett Show'.

Final years
Siegel published his final article in Mad in 1990. He was a teacher at the UCLA for three years, where he taught comedy writing. He later joined the Screen Actors Guild and became an actor in stage musicals in L.A., as well as TV commercials for IBM and Northwest Airlines. Siegel was a regular improvisation comedian in sketches at the Broad Theater in Santa Monica, California. In the late 2010s he suffered from Parkinson's disease, from which he eventually passed away in 2019 at age 93. His death happened a month after the sad news that Mad Magazine would be discontinued. 

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