From Rag To Comedy Riches

Jul 13 2013 @ 12:43pm

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George Meyer’s late-’80s humor magazine Army Man had a staff that went on to fill the ranks of The SimpsonsSNL, and The New Yorker.  James Folta scans old copies of “America’s Only Magazine” and marvels that it isn’t more well-known:

[W]hat makes Army Man‘s humor so relatable is that many of the pieces are pointedly critical and, like much great humor, evidently reflect the writers’ frustrations. The jokes land with more honesty and truth as a result. … It’s the density of the jokes that makes them more than just a quick laugh. They are able to pull in large ideas, universal gripes, and pain. This universality and relatability is what would make the Simpsons one of the greatest shows of all time. …

In the age of Twitter, it can be tempting to compare Army Man‘s short, punchy humor to tweets. But unlike Twitter, Army Man has no chaff. This is the power of an editor with a strong vision. Meyer chose the funniest of funny. Careful attention is given to each joke but also to the unity of the absurdist, off-kilter voice. With Twitter and democratic or algorithmic organization, the steading hand of an editor is lost. Meyer’s editorial guidance makes Army Man more than what it would appear to be.

The magazine’s success would be its ultimate downfall.

One of Army Man‘s biggest fans was producer Sam Simon. When Simon needed to quickly pull together a writing staff for the first season of The Simpsons, he opened a copy of dish_AMpetpeeveAmerica’s Only Magazine and hired George Meyer, Jon Vitti, and John Swartzwelder. Later, most of the masthead of Army Man would end up writing for The Simpsons. Which was great for The Simpsons, but it doomed the magazine. Meyer didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of either by trying to juggle his attention. So after just three issues, the magazine stopped.

Army Man‘s ranks also included Jack Handey, Andy Borowitz, and Bob Odenkirk.