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Before its name was purchased and placed on what became a humor website, Cracked was a magazine. Specifically, it was a knockoff of Mad (in their own words, their fanbase was "primarily comprised of people who got to the store after MAD sold out"), using a similar formula of movie and television parodies with deconstructive humor and otherwise (ostensibly) humorous articles, as well as its own Ugly Cute "mascot," Sylvester P. Smythe. It was by far the longest-surviving Mad knockoff, lasting in print form from 1958 until the 2000s, when a great deal of Executive Meddling reduced the mag to an erratic printing schedule and many of the original contributors left. Finally, it was retooled as a "lad mag." This format didn't last long, and the magazine went under in 2007, only to re-establish itself as a website.

For tropes related to the website, see

Tropes used in Cracked include:
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: As determined by a contest in 1998, Sylvester P. Smythe's middle name is "Phooey."
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Talking Blob.
  • Follow the Leader: By far, Cracked was the most prominent Mad clone: a parody mag with an intentionally ugly Expy of Alfred E. Neuman in Sylvester P. Smythe.
  • Inherited Illiteracy Title: It was officially Cracked mazagine.
  • Last of His Kind / Long Runners: By far the longest-lived of all the Mad knockoffs. For the last two decades of Cracked's print run, only it and Mad itself were still in print.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover:
    • They tried a Teen People magazine parody called Toon People, which was a very Shallow Parody of the mag with toon characters attached, from Mickey Mouse to Mike Lu and Og. Sadly, the only intentionally funny bit was Bobby Hill modeling "Tummy Hillfigure" jeans.
    • Given the uprise of Anime in the earlier half of the 2000s, they tried a story in which Western cartoon characters "attacked" popular anime characters. While a good idea on paper, it was written (and drawn) like a horrible Fanfic.
    • All of their 'Cracked Movies' were crossovers featuring Cracked's original characters (Sylvester P. Smythe, interviewer Nanny Dickering, cowboy Sagebrush, and the Talking Blob) joining forces, usually to stop some threat to the magazine. Many of them are are at least mildy amusing. The weakest is probably the fifth, where the regular cast gets Demoted to Extra while a bunch of heroes from 80's mystery and crime TV shows take over the action to find out who stole the magazine's logo.
    • The 'Greatest Film Ever Made' involved a crossover between Rocky, Jaws, C-3PO and R2-D2 of Star Wars, the Godfather, and a few other movies that were popular during the late 70's/early 80's. All these characters were gathered together to play a baseball game.
    • They did a parody of Survivor a few months after the first season ended(back when the show was massively popular) using the Cracked roster of characters. Simpy Dumpkins, The World's Most Hated Man was the first to go. Naked Guy(ala Richard Hatch) ended up winning.
  • Padding: The 2000s issues were rife with this: repeats from classic issues, a second Godzilla (1998) parody more than two years after the fact, several song parodies...
  • Parody Failure:
    • Many of their parodies played just like an actual episode of the series or like the movie itself, but with Parody Names and lame jokes attached. Sometimes, they didn't even go that far. This was especially true in their parodies of sitcoms.
    • Other times, the parodies were so Out of Character that any semblance of humor was lost. Their comic strip parodies in particular were known for this.
    • Still other times, there were song parodies that scanned so horribly that they didn't even work as original songs.
  • Retool: For the last few issues, it was remade as a "lad mag" akin to Maxim or FHM (i.e., suggestive photographs of females, stories about cars, etc.). Didn't work.
  • Running Gag:
    • Nanny Dickering, Cracked's investigative reporter, routinely drawn with impossible Barbie Doll-like proportions and prone to making light of every investigative subject. For instance, Cracked's response to "We Almost Lost Detroit" (a book about a narrowly-averted nuclear disaster) was "it would be no great loss... look at the CARS they make!"
    • Absolutely, positively, unquestionably, undeniably, the very very very last of The Cracked Lens (and we really really mean it this time, for sure!), part IX. These were usually still shots from old black-and-white feature films, to which silly captions and dialogue had been added.
  • Self-Deprecation: There were plenty of jokes at the magazine's own expense.
  • Take That: Countless attacks at Mad over time, including a section where they pointed out that the two mags had fairly similar cover gags (a takeoff of the cover to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with the respective mascot of each mag riding on Harry's broom). Mad, being the high-class mag that it is, never once counterattacked.
  • They Killed Kenny: One recurring sequence late in the mag's run involved a cat who kept getting killed in a most contrived fashion (lawn dart to the head while chasing a frog?).
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