What, we worry? Spies like us? Two boys Spy out New York City's phonies and follies
THESE guys are funny. Bob and Ray kind of funny. Abbott and Costello meet the yuppie. Ten times a year, Kurt Anderson and E.Graydon Carter, co-editors of one of the country's most admired humor magazines, serve up a tangled, convoluted, brilliantly imagined compilation of biting satire that has caught the attention of New York City glitterati and funny people all over.Skip to next paragraph
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Their mutual brainchild, which they spawned a little over a year ago, is called Spy magazine.
Jay Leno has called Spy twice to ask about using material from the magazine on the ``Tonight Show.'' Syndicated columnist Nat Hentoff says he cadges his son's copies, because his own subscription request hasn't been processed yet. Atlantic Monthly Press editor Gary Fisketjon, who was skewered in a recent issue, says that ``it takes a peculiar kind of mind'' to come up with the mix of humor in that magazine, and he is glad that kind of mind is around.
What that kind of mind has accomplished is to come up with a formula for a magazine that fits somewhere between the vulgar sophomorics of a National Lampoon and the understated wit of The New Yorker. Spy engages in its own share of sophomorics; and it frequently misses. But the thing that has made it so talked about is the remarkable degree to which its borrowings from other magazines past and present get stirred into a palatable, even tasty editorial mix.
Mr. Carter and Mr. Anderson say they styled the magazine to some degree after The New Yorker of the '20s and '30s - irreverent, willing to take risks, unpredictable. In doing so, they hit at a void in current magazines. There just isn't anybody around doing everything they do.
They do their thing, appropriately, in the Puck Building. Lolling in the studied d'eclass'e of their offices, with crumpled-copper lampshades and comme il faut SoHo trappings, Carter and Anderson have the look of prosperous young men. Carter wears socks with yellow and blue stripes. His collar is open, his hair flips up in back, he looks as though he is taking a walk on the Wilde side. Anderson has a more intense, narrow face. But he wears broad striped shirts, glasses with outspoken frames, and the frequent traces of an amused smile. He sets forth the magazine's basic credo: ``We're very careful about the reputations we savage.''
How careful are they?
Not so careful that they don't run an article entitled ``How to tell the difference between the Museum of Modern Art and a hair ball.'' Or an ``annual census of the most annoying, alarming, and appalling people places and things in New York and the nation.'' Or that they don't regularly enrage the management of the New York Times by getting a Times insider to write a monthly bash at the paper's peccadilloes and bureaucratic machinations.
``People ask why we're so `negative,''' Anderson says. ``That's a little like going to a Mexican restaurant and asking why the food is so spicy. It's just sort of the thing we serve here.''
Mr. Fisketjon especially likes the monthly chart showing a box score of the New York Post's pages with small symbols - like an eye with a tear (for senseless tragedies) and a black tombstone (for dead celebrities) - plotted out on a grid to show what kind of stories ran where in the sensational tabloid.
Hard by this feature in the current issue, you could find a calendar of coming events with the following item: ``January 7-12 American Group Psychotherapy Association Convention; at the Waldorf-Astoria. The featured speaker - what a coup - is the reclusive Dr. Ruth Westheimer. We just felt we should share this information with you openly and honestly, without embarrassment.''