Book: Cartoonists are 'Mad' about sports

Here is a photo gallery of 10 sports covers of Mad in the new book, out Tuesday. James Bennett, Jack Rickard

Mad magazine has been around for 60 years and has published 518 issues -- but NBA legend Michael Jordan has never made the cover.

Mike Tyson. Shaquille O'Neal. Even "Rocky."

All have made it for the legendary satire magazine, which now comes out six times a year.

"Jordan has had a pretty clean image, so there isn't much to go after," magazine editor John Ficarra said. "But his buddy Dennis Rodman made the cover. When you have more things to poke fun of, it makes our job a little easier to do."

What wasn't easy for Ficarra and his "Usual Gang of Idiots" was to take the best of the past 60 years and compile it in a book called "Totally Mad: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity," which is on sale Tuesday.

"We went through 26,000 pages of material to boil it down to the 250 pages," said Ficarra, who has been editor since 1984. "It was so hard."

Playbook had a few minutes to talk with Ficarra and has a slideshow of 10 Mad sports covers in the new book.

How does sports weave into your Mad world?

"I always found sports more challenging than other things. You can do a spoof on a movie and it can be around for six months and there is some universality about it. With sports, things happen so quickly. There is another game or something that can overshadow the joke we created."

How did you condense 60 years down to 250 pages?

"I realized that I wanted to serve a lot of masters at once. I wanted to put out a book that is a historical overview of Mad. I wanted to make sure we had the favorites: Spy vs. Spy, Snappy Answers and our usual satire. I wanted to make sure each decade was represented well. I wanted to make sure we made fun of movies, TV and politics that spoke to that decade. I wanted all the major writers/artists represented. Then my head exploded. I got my putty knife and scooped it up and put my brains back in. There was so much stuff left on the cutting room floor."

Humor and satire are a crowded field these days but you don't seem to mind, right?

"For a long time, I was jealous of 'Letterman' and 'The Daily Show,' because they would have humor the same day or the previous night. Now we have a blog. At least that has given us a ticket to the game. It was very frustrating to have a great idea but we couldn't do it because our next issue doesn't come out for six weeks. By then, who would care about it?"

What does the future hold for Mad magazine?

"I think there is talk of a Spy vs. Spy movie. Digitally, we're just beginning to explore the possibilities. I like to think that we will continue to make fun of the staples that kept us in business. We need to continue to hit those cultural touchtones. We have to keep true to our mission to question authority and think for yourself."

Any sports stories on the horizon for the magazine?

"We just met to talk about our regular feature 'The 20 Dumbest People, Events and Things of 2012,' and for the first time, we'll have a sports figure on the cover."

Has to be Lance Armstrong.

"Did I say that? If you call me back in December, I'll tell you. But you do have some reporter's instincts."