Alfred E. Newman

David Cowles

Sep 13, 2021

As a child of the ‘50s, I thought I had witnessed the virgin birth (1956) of 12 year old Alfred E. Newman in the pages of Mad Magazine. Four years later (1960), I followed closely his Quixote campaign for the Presidency against Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. (Spoiler alert: Newman did not win.)

As a child of the ‘50s, I thought I had witnessed the virgin birth (1956) of 12 year old Alfred E. Newman in the pages of Mad Magazine. Four years later (1960), I followed closely his Quixote campaign for the Presidency against Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. (Spoiler alert: Newman did not win.)


His irreverent treatment of all things social and his iconic slogan, “What, me worry?”, captivated the imaginations of disaffected baby boomers in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Who saw this then as the first rebellious stirrings of a generation that would eventually integrate America (sort of), close college campuses, dethrone two sitting Presidents, and end a war?


But I was wrong. The so-called ‘birth’ of Alfred E. Newman was actually the reincarnation of Archibald Rennick, a character in a 1884 play, The New Boy; and Newman’s allegedly revolutionary slogan, “What, me worry?”, was only a pale shadow of Rennick’s Nihilist manifesto:

“What’s the good of anything? Nothing!”

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