Ron Simon

Curator, Television and Radio

September 15, 2008

Jokerman Meets the Maddest of the Mad Men

by Ron Simon

What I like about AMC's Mad Men is that its creator Matt Weiner is very conscious of the outside forces that are implicitly shaping his characters. The fictional advertising agency Sterling Cooper is set in the very real early sixties where revolutionary ideas are fomenting. In design, George Lois is challenging the traditional advertising aesthetic. In the third episode of Mad Men conventional ad executives are mystified by his "Think Small" campaign.

The Greenwich Village folk scene is also impinging on the consciousness of Madison Avenue as well. Don and the gang visit the Gaslight Café and encounter the beat aesthetic. The avatar of this counterculture, Bob Dylan, is heard on the soundtrack ("Don't Think Twice, It's All Right") in the final episode of the first season as the protagonist of the series, Don Draper confronts a personal crisis.

I recently wrote an article for the cultural webzine Popmatters about the collisions between these two major forces of the sixties, Lois and Dylan. They will connect several times after the turbulent decade is over. Take a look and you will see how these sixties icons intersected with the MTV era.

Here is the landmark video for "Jokerman," which combined the lyrics of Dylan and the design of Lois.


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Ron Simon

Curator, Television and Radio


Ron Simon has been a curator at The Paley Center for Media since the early 1980s. He is also an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University, New York University, and Hunter College, where he teaches courses on the history of media. Simon has written for many publications, including The Encyclopedia of Television and Thinking Outside of the Box, as well as serving as host and creative consultant of the CD-ROM Total Television. A member of the editorial board of Television Quarterly, and a judge on the George Foster Peabody committee, Simon has lectured at museums and educational institutions throughout the world. Among the numerous exhibitions he has curated are The Television of Dennis Potter; Witness to History; Jack Benny: The Television and Radio Work; and Worlds Without End: The Art and History of the Soap Opera. He also discovered such lost programs as the live Honeymooners and the only video performance of the Rat Pack.


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Ron Simon

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