At 87 years-old, Jaffee's work still looks and feels fresh. And he does it without computers -- or actual folding:
And Sam Viviano, the art director, seems in awe of Mr. Jaffee’s old-school technique. “I think part of the brilliance of the fold-in is lost on younger generations who are so used to Photoshop and being able to do stuff like that on the computer,” he said. “It’s matching the colors and keeping the sense of what exists at two levels, the original image and the folded-in image. We’ve never actually known anyone else who could do that.”
Mr. Jaffee does have a computer, but its main benefit, he said, has been to make the typographic tricks in the fold-in easier to create. He doesn’t draw with it, which leads to another surprise: the master of the fold-in never actually folds.
“I’m working on a hard, flat board,” he said. “I cannot fold it. That’s why my planning has to be so correct.”
I guess this is where human intelligence, which arguably reached its greatest development (thanks to new technology and tools) in the 20th Century, has since been replaced by digital intelligence. It's the same question as who will handle all those things for which we now depend on computers should an electro-magnetic wave sweep the earth and wipe out all RAM -- who would know how to manually typeset a newspaper, keep accounts in a ledger, operate a telegraph, paste up a comp?
Ah, well, time moves on, and sometime over next ten or fifteen years, we won't have Al Jaffee to fold around anymore. Per the magazine's Art Director:
“I can’t imagine a fold-in done by anyone else but Al,” Mr. Viviano said. “But the fold-in is such a part of Mad that it’s hard to imagine Mad without it.”It's such a part of Mad that it should go on, even if interpreted by a new regular artist able to settle into the job, a younger talent already skilled on digital image creation and manipulation, hopefully someone with their own point-of-view, suited to our times, but in keeping with the original spirit. Only a crank begrudges the young for their own way of doing things, as long as the ideas are there, and maybe some new ones thanks to the new tools.
At the same time it's important to enjoy something when you have it, enjoy it for what it is, even its temporal nature. Imagine a world without Jack Nicholson (10-15 years?), a world without Mick Jagger (20-40?), a world without any remaining members of The Usual Gang of Idiots? (Maybe Sergio Aragones breaks all the records and goes another 30?)
Good times, good times.
Extra-treaty: the Times presents a wonderfully interactive Fold-In gallery including some greatest hits: anti-Vietnam War protests, Charles Schultz love, and even Jamie-Lynn Spears.
Yep, Al Jaffee is still relevant. Still clever to the point of brilliance.
Not folding yet.