Taking A Crack At It
For Tufts graduate Monty Sarhan, the attempt to relaunch the humor magazine Cracked as a successful comedy publication is no laughing matter.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.18.06] Though Cracked has been around for 50 years, it has long been considered an “also-ran” to Mad magazine, never quite living up to the esteem of its main competitor among humor magazines. But Monty Sarhan, a 1995 graduate of Tufts, has a goal to turn Cracked into a respected, successful magazine that not only attracts eyeballs, but guffaws.
"I knew I wanted to cover comedy the way Rolling Stone covers music," Sarhan explained to The Boston Globe about his decisions to buy Cracked. "I want to become the definitive voice on the subject."
Comedy has long been a passion of Sarhan's. As a grade-schooler, he told the Globe, he sent jokes to David Letterman. While at Tufts, he performed comedy routines at Boston's renowned standup venue, Comedy Connection, and dreamed about becoming a writer for "Saturday Night Live."
But after graduating from Tufts, he received his law degree from Duke University and worked for three years at a New York law firm. Soon, he became an entrepreneur, launching a cell phone venture in Iraq.
In early 2005, the opportunity to purchase Cracked came around.
"[I] couldn't get Cracked out of my head," Sarhan told the Globe. "I had dismissed it out of hand as just a comics’ magazine, with maybe a very limited play for their archives. Then I started thinking about its potential. It's got huge brand equity among 18- to 34-year-olds, and that's the demographic that everyone wants to sell to."
The demographic was one in which Sarhan saw himself.
"Instead of thinking about it as [just] a comic magazine that was no longer funny, I started saying to myself, Cracked a comedy brand that all men, growing up, have picked up and read,'" he told The New York Times.
Cracked has been around for decades, but the magazine's popularity had dropped precipitously since the 1970s, when it boasted a circulation of one million, the Globe reported. The magazine had also shifted away from political satire to more juvenile humor.
"From Stalin and Mussolini, they eventually got to Mr. T and ALF," Sarhan told the Times.
But for Sarhan, publishing a comedy magazine is about more than funny characters and telling jokes.
"Comedy magazines are often born from times of crisis—war, corruption, economic and political travails, social upheaval and questioning," Sarhan writes in Cracked 's first issue, as quoted by The Washington Post. "Comedy and humor emerge to provide social commentary and clarity in the face of cultural and political challenges."
After purchasing Cracked, he ceased publication and brought in an entirely new editorial staff. Famed comedians and writers such as Michael Ian Black and Neal Pollack have signed on as contributors. Features in the new magazine include parodies of Tom Cruise and Britney Spears and interviews with comedians like Rob Corddry of "The Daily Show." The magazine's website will also feature original content.
The first issue, Sarhan told the newspaper, will have a 100,000-copy run, retailing for $3.99. While the magazine now publishes six times a year, he hopes to eventually publish monthly. But he also sees an opportunity that goes beyond the printed page.
"We want to be ubiquitous," he told The Boston Globe. "We want to be on cell phones, we want to be on the Internet, and we want to be on the newsstands.”