Nick Meglin 1935-2018
June 3, 2018
From Sam Viviano:
It’s been less than 24 hours since I learned of Nick Meglin’s passing, and in that time I’ve read many heartfelt stories posted online by friends and colleagues vividly bringing to mind his warmth and humor and put-on crankiness. So when Ed Steckley asked me to write something about Nick for the NCS, I became terribly conflicted. What could I say about him that hadn’t been said already?
Truth is, I can’t imagine a world without Nick Meglin. I first met him shortly after I moved to New York in 1976, when I brought my portfolio to MAD. I wasn’t at all ready for the big time yet, but he gave me a lot of encouragement to keep plugging away until I was. For several years after that, I would cross paths with Nick, particularly when he was moderating various MAD panels, and he would always have more words of support and encouragement. This meant a great deal to me, for in those days (and for years to come) Nick Meglin was to a large extent the public face of the MAD staff. He was smooth, charming, glib, funny and always ready with an anecdote. To me, he was MAD. For him to suggest that someday I might be ready to contribute to MAD was akin to Charlie winning the golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory.
That day finally came in 1981, when I got my first assignment for the magazine. Four years later, when Nick and John Ficarra were named co-editors, I became a regular contributor. It was unlike any professional relationship I had in over twenty years of freelancing, mainly because of Nick. He was intensely interested in everything about the people he worked with: “What were your parents like?” “Do you have a girlfriend?” “Hey, you like opera, too?” “Your jacket’s kind of shopworn — why don’t you trade it for this snazzy corduroy number I just got from John Boni?” Working with Nick was like a weekly therapy session in a used-clothing emporium.
In 1999, I joined the MAD staff as art director. For the next five years, I got to know Nick much, much better, because I worked with him every day. I have often joked that his main function at MAD was to bring a fruit plate from office to office each afternoon, but it really wasn’t a joke. Those fruit plates represented Nick’s firm belief that no matter how hard we worked (and putting out that magazine was much harder work than I had ever imagined), we should always take some time out to reconnect with the smaller pleasures in life.
Nick was many things, often quite contradictory: loveable, infuriating, smart, goofy, thin-skinned and open-hearted. As a gag man, he was fearless — in editorial meetings, he would throw out joke after joke after joke, most of them terrible, until one that would be the perfect combination of insanely clever and utterly stupid would have everyone in convulsions. He was equally appreciative when others hit that elusive mark; there was no more satisfying feeling than coming up with a punch line that would have Nick laughing so hard that his face turned red and he could hardly breathe.
When Nick retired to North Carolina in 2004, I lost the daily interaction that had become so much a part of my life. For this reason, I looked forward all that much more to our annual meet-ups at the Reuben Awards. We’d have a meal together, maybe check out an art museum, and sit together at the Awards banquet. I enjoyed my special friendship with him, and I accepted the fact that I shared that distinction with about three hundred of his other closest friends. Somehow, Nick managed to have a meaningful and usually laugh-filled interaction with what seemed like every single member of the NCS. He was in top form at these gatherings, not least of all because he had The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Him, his beloved Linda, at his side the entire time.
Perhaps it is fitting that he spent his last weekend on earth at the 2018 Reubens in Philadelphia. He not only got a chance to interact with so many of the friends he had made over the years, but he had a place of honor at one final MAD panel. I was so happy that moderator Mark Evanier pointed out Nick’s singular importance in the history of MAD, and that he had the appreciation of his peers in the form of a standing ovation.
Scratch that. Nick had no peers. He was, really and truly, one of a kind and there will never be another like him. I miss you Nick, and I hope someday to repay that twenty dollars you claim you lent me back in 1978.