Today Cracked is launching ComedyNerd, our daily comedy vertical. To celebrate, we're bringing back our mascot Sylvester, who has been missing in action since 2007. Sign up for the ComedyNerd newsletter below.
You might not be aware of this, but Cracked was founded as a comedy magazine in 1958. Back then, we existed primarily as a 3rd-tier Mad clone and a 9th-tier substitute for rolling papers. Our mascot was a janitor named Sylvester P. Smythe, who was a knock-off of Mad's everyman mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, who in turn was a knock-off of an 1890s ad for meat pies.
Sylvester's appearance was disturbing by modern standards, as selecting a silent homunculus as your magazine's spokesman was the only way the 1950s print industry could compete with the emerging threat of television.
Over time, Sylvester's appearance became less frightening and unmarketable, and Cracked magazine hung around the periphery of American pop culture for decades. Nobody was dressing up as Sylvester for Halloween or anything, but he was a regular presence at the 20th-century American newsstand, alongside William F. Buckley, Joe Camel, and Celebrity Skin magazine.
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That is, until 2006. The internet had happened, and Cracked stopped trying to duke it out with Mad and tried to run with such Entourage-era periodicals as FHM and Maxim. The magazine announced this editorial shift by recruiting an attractive giant to rob Sylvester of his clothing. The message was, “This isn't your pappy's Cracked, with all the trenchant commentary a parody of Home Improvement called Home Impoopment entails. No, this is Cracked 2006. We will leave you naked and destitute by the side of the road.”
Sylvester would appear once more in the third (and final) issue of the revamped Cracked magazine, but his last cover appearance really resonated with Cracked's staff. It felt like a historical wrong to leave Sylvester forever denuded. Imagine if every time you went to a grocery store and bought a bottle of Mr. Clean, you did so with the full knowledge that Mr. Clean's body was slowly decomposing in an open grave somewhere outside of Reno. This is exactly how we felt.
So starting today, Sylvester is Cracked's mascot again, thanks to staff illustrator Shea Strauss. For the time being, Sylvester will be living in the ComedyNerd logo like a tree vole. Maybe he will show up on a t-shirt, maybe he will show in our production logo, maybe he'll star in a no-budget Cars rip-off about haunted-yet-amiable sedans called Ghostmobiles! The important thing is that he finally got his clothing back.
And Sylvester's return comes at an auspicious time for Cracked. We have a new office in Brooklyn, and a new group of comedy creators coming from places like College Humor, The Onion, and The Second City. (A few of us are even holdovers from Cracked's Los Angeles days.) Thanks to the efforts of Cracked video head Jordan Breeding, Honest Ads is back. We're planning more live comedy shows, video series, and podcasts. Cracked has a Tiktok page now. We've launched a bunch of newsletters. Our accountants tell us no she-titans will steal the overalls off of our bodies. And perhaps most surprisingly, we somehow outlived Mad.
The internet is a strange industry, and making comedy in the year 2021 is even stranger. It's entirely possible that market pressures will force us to pivot to meat pies. The point is, we're eternally grateful for your readership and hope you enjoy ComedyNerd (you should definitely check out this piece on Eddie Murphy saving Saturday Night Live).
And if you're interested in contributing to Cracked or ComedyNerd, you can pitch us at Workshop at Cracked dot com and ComedyNerd at Cracked dot com. (Just a heads up, we get a lot of messages, like Santa Claus.) Thanks again for reading Cracked, and we'll see you on the internet.
Cyriaque Lamar is the managing editor of Cracked. He is on Twitter.