Born Garretson Beekman Trudeau, 1948, in New York, NY; son of Francis (a physician) Trudeau and Jean Amory; married Jane Pauley (a television journalist), June 14, 1980; children: Rachel, Ross (twins), Tom. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1970, M.F.A., c. 1972.
Home—New York, NY. Office—c/o Universal Press Syndicate, 4400 Johnson Dr., Fairway, KS 66205.
Cartoonist and writer. Cartoonist for Yale Daily News, 1969-70; operator of a graphic arts studio in New Haven, CT; writer and illustrator of syndicated comic strip Doonesbury, 1970—. Co-producer, with Robert Altman, of television film Tanner '88; co-creator, with Dotcomix, of Duke2000.com (animated Web site), 2000.
Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, 1975; Oscar Award nomination for animated short film, 1977, for A Doonesbury Special; Special Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival, 1977; Drama Desk Award nominations for book and lyrics, 1983, and Grammy Award nomination for cast show album, 1984, for musical Doonesbury; (with Robert Altman) Cannes Television Festival gold medal for best television series, British Broadcasting Press Guild award for best imported program, Emmy award, and four ACE award nominations, all 1988, all for Tanner '88; Reuben Award for outstanding cartoonist of the year, National Cartoonists Society, 1996; National Endowment for the Arts grant; several honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Yale University, Colgate University, Williams College, and Duke University.
"DOONESBURY" BOOKS; UNDER NAME G. B. TRUDEAU, EXCEPT AS NOTED
Doonesbury, foreword by Erich Segal, American Heritage Press, 1971.
Still a Few Bugs in the System, Holt (New York, NY), 1972, sections published as Even Revolutionaries Like Chocolate Chip Cookies, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1974, and Just a French Major from the Bronx, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1974.
The President Is a Lot Smarter than You Think, Holt (New York, NY), 1973.
But This War Had Such Promise, Holt (New York, NY), 1973, sections published as Bravo for Life's Little Ironies, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1975.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) Doonesbury: The Original Yale Cartoons, Sheed, 1973.
Call Me When You Find America, Holt (New York, NY), 1973.
(With Nicholas von Hoffman) The Fireside Watergate, Sheed, 1973.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) Joanie, Sheed, 1974.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) Don't Ever Change,Boopsie, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1974.
Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!, Holt (New York, NY), 1974. The Doonesbury Chronicles, Holt (New York, NY), 1975.
Dare to Be Great, Ms. Caucus, Holt (New York, NY), 1975.
What Do We Have for the Witnesses, Johnnie?, Holt (New York, NY), 1975.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) We'll Take It from Here,Sarge, Sheed, 1975.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) I Have No Son, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1975.
Wouldn't a Gremlin Have Been More Sensible?, Holt (New York, NY), 1975.
(With Nicholas von Hoffman) Tales from the MargaretMead Taproom: The Compleat Gonzo Governorship of Doonesbury's Uncle Duke, Sheed, 1976.
"Speaking of Inalienable Rights, Amy . . . ," Holt (New York, NY), 1976.
You're Never Too Old for Nuts and Berries, Holt (New York, NY), 1976.
An Especially Tricky People, Holt (New York, NY), 1977.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) As the Kid Goes forBroke, Holt (New York, NY), 1977.
Stalking the Perfect Tan, Holt (New York, NY), 1978. Doonesbury's Greatest Hits, Holt (New York, NY), 1978.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) Any Grooming Hints for Your Fans, Rollie?, Holt (New York, NY), 1978.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) A Doonesbury Special:
A Director's Notebook (book version of animated special; also see below), Sheed Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1978.
We're Not out of the Woods Yet, Holt (New York, NY), 1979.
But the Pension Fund Was Just Sitting There, Holt (New York, NY), 1979.
And That's My Final Offer!, Holt (New York, NY), 1980.
A Tad Overweight, but Violet Eyes to Die For, Holt (New York, NY), 1980.
Guess Who, Fish-Face!, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1981.
(With Nicholas von Hoffman) The People's Doonesbury: Notes from Underfoot, Holt (New York, NY), 1981.
In Search of Reagan's Brain, Holt (New York, NY), 1981, sections published separately as We Who Are about to Fry, Salute You, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1982, and Is This Your First Purge, Miss?, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1982.
He's Never Heard of You Either, Holt (New York, NY), 1981.
Do All Birders Have Bedroom Eyes, Dear?, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1981.
Ask for May, Settle for June, Holt (New York, NY), 1982, sections published separately as It's Supposed to Be Yellow, Pinhead, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1983.
Gotta Run, My Government Is Collapsing, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1982.
Unfortunately She Was Also Wired for Sound, Holt (New York, NY), 1982.
You Give Great Meeting, Sid, Holt (New York, NY), 1983.
The Wreck of the Rusty Nail, Holt (New York, NY), 1983.
The Thrill Is Gone, Bernie, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1983.
Sir, I'm Worried about Your Mood Swings, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1984.
Confirmed Bachelors Are Just So Fascinating, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1984.
Dressing for Failure, I See, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1984.
Doonesbury Dossier: The Reagan Years, Holt (New York, NY), 1984.
Check Your Egos at the Door, Holt (New York, NY), 1985.
That's Doctor Sinatra, You Little Bimbo!, Holt (New York, NY), 1986.
Death of a Party Animal, Holt (New York, NY), 1986.
Calling Dr. Whoopee, Holt (New York, NY), 1987.
Downtown Doonesbury, Holt (New York, NY), 1987.
Doonesbury Deluxe: Selected Glances Askance, Holt (New York, NY), 1987.
We're Eating More Beets!, Holt (New York, NY), 1988.
Talking about My G-G-Generation, Holt (New York, NY), 1988.
Give Those Nymphs Some Hooters!, Holt (New York, NY), 1989.
Read My Lips, Make My Day, Eat Quiche and Die!, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1989.
Recycled Doonesbury: Second Thoughts on a Gilded Age, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1990.
You're Smokin' Now, Mr. Butts!, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1990.
The Doonesbury Stamp Album, Viking Penguin, 1990.
I'd Go for the Helmet, Ray, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1991.
Welcome to Club Scud, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1991.
What Is It, Tink, Is Pan in Trouble?, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1992.
Quality Time On Highway 1, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.
The Portable Doonesbury, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1993.
In Search of Cigarette Holder Man, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1994.
Washed out Bridges and Other Disasters, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1994.
Flashbacks: Twenty-five Years of Doonesbury, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1995.
Doonesbury Nation, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1995.
Virtual Doonesbury, Virtual Doonesbury, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1996.
Planet Doonesbury, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.
The Bundled Doonesbury: A Pre-Millennial Anthology, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1998.
Buck Wild Doonesbury, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1999.
Duke 2000: Whatever It Takes, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2000.
The Revolt of the English Majors, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2001.
Peace out, Dawg!: Tales from Ground Zero, Andrews & McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2002.
Doonesbury Redux, Gramercy Books (New York, NY), 2004.
(With David Levinthal) Hitler Moves East: A GraphicChronicle, 1941-43, Sheed, 1977.
A Doonesbury Special (animated film), National Broadcasting Co. (NBC-TV), 1977.
Doonesbury (musical; produced in Boston, 1983, produced on Broadway, 1983), Holt (New York, NY), 1984.
Rap Master Ronnie (musical; produced Off-Broadway, 1984; broadcast on Cinemax, 1988), Lord John, 1986.
Tanner '88 (television series), Home Box Office, 1988.
Duke 2000 (television series), 2004.
Also lyricist for Doonesbury musical cast show album. Contributor to books, including Comic Relief: Drawings from the Cartoonists' Thanksgiving Day Hunger Project, Holt (New York, NY), 1986; and Tribute to Sparky: Cartoon Artists Honor Charles M. Schulz,
Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center (Santa Rosa, CA), 2003. Contributor of articles to Rolling Stone, New York, Harper's, Washington Post, and New Republic. Former columnist for New York Times; contributing essayist for Time. Editor of "Cartoons for New Children" series for Sheed.
Rap-Master Ronnie was filmed by Cinemax in 1988; Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream introduced "Doonesbury" sorbet, flavored with raspberries and blueberries, in 1996, to raise funds for charity.
Known for his acerbic humor and political acumen, Garry Trudeau is the creator of Doonesbury, a ground-breaking comic strip that has satirized a variety of social and political issues for more than thirty years. Appearing more than 1,400 newspapers throughout the United States on its thirtieth anniversary in 2000, Doonesbury achieved sustained popularity among liberal-minded baby boomers following its debut in 1970 due to its hard-hitting and confrontational nature. Trudeau's commentary on the current political scene often rankled his Republican targets—including U.S. presidents George Bush, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, as well as U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle—and elicited cheers from his readers. In addition to the game of partisan politics, Trudeau has taken aim at such charged topics as the Persian Gulf War, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and abortion, thereby creating strips that are thought-provoking as well as entertaining. "He is as much journalist as artist—an investigative cartoonist," Jonathan Alter wrote in Newsweek. "Trudeau," Alter continued, "is the premier American political and social satirist of his time." In fact, in many newspapers, Doonesbury often appeared on the editorial, rather than the comics page.
A Quintessential Baby-Boomer
Trudeau was born in New York City and raised in the resort town of Saranac Lake in upstate New York. Several generations of the Trudeau family also lived in the area. Trudeau's great-grandfather, Dr. Edward Trudeau, moved to Saranac Lake when he developed tuberculosis—a disease affecting the lungs—near the turn of the twentieth century. While the doctor expected to die from his illness, the fresh country air alleviated his symptoms and he was credited with discovering the "rest cure," which became the first therapy for the tubercular. Trudeau's great-great-grandfather, James Trudeau, also a doctor, was chased out of New York City after his caricatures of his colleagues created an outrage. Prominent family members on Trudeau's mother's side include a treasurer of the United States under President Abraham Lincoln and one of the founders of International Business Machines (IBM).
Despite his privileged background, Trudeau "avoided the life of a pampered rich kid," according to Alter. The cartoonist's early love was theater; as a young boy Trudeau was producing plays in his basement and was careful to include such details as scripts, tickets, and programs. "Theater was my earliest life's passion," he told Rick Kogan in the Chicago Tribune Book World. "I formed a theater group at the ripe old age of seven. At first, I wrote the shows. Then at ten I decided it was time to stop doing amateurish pieces and get on with the real business of theater. I sent away for the catalog of Samuel French plays, and I'll never forget the rush when my first package of plays arrived. I devoured them."
At age thirteen, Trudeau enrolled in St. Paul's boarding school in New Hampshire. His parents had divorced the year before, making this a particularly difficult time for him. More interested in art than in football, he was unhappy at St. Paul's, where jocks were popular and where he was teased for his lack of athletic prowess. Although he later became known for his wit, "I was not the class clown," Trudeau revealed to Alter. "In fact, I was pretty shy. One of the reasons that adolescence was such a tortured time for me was that I was the second or third smallest in my class." Trudeau did gain some positive attention from his peers when his first cartoon character, "Weenie Man," appeared on advertisements for hot dogs at school football games. He was also coeditor of the school yearbook, president of the school's art association, and winner of the senior-class art prize.
Birth of Doonesbury
Trudeau's talents were more highly valued at Yale University, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in graphic design following high school and where he was editor of the campus humor magazine and a columnist for the Yale Daily News. During his junior year, Trudeau developed the comic strip "Bull Tales," which centered around Yale's star quarterback Brian Dowling—whose cartoon alter ego is B. D.—and lampooned everything from campus radicals to Yale President Kingman Brewster. "Bull Tales" soon caught the attention of Jim Andrews, who was then launching the Universal Press Syndicate with his partner, John McMeel. Andrews was impressed by "Bull Tales" and convinced Trudeau to syndicate his work nationally. To give the strip widespread appeal, Trudeau omitted expletives and the "Y" from B. D.'s helmet, and clothed the strip's nude coeds. He also rechristened the cartoon Doonesbury, after another character, Mike Doonesbury. The name is a combination of "doone," which Trudeau defined for Alter as "well-meaning fool," and "Pillsbury," the last name of one of Trudeau's former roommates, a flour-fortune heir, on whom Mike is loosely based.
Several Doonesbury regulars were also inspired by real people. The Reverend Scot Sloan, for example, is based on both a roommate of Trudeau's who became a lawyer and minister and on former Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Mark Zanger, a Yale activist, inspired Doonesbury's "Megaphone" Mark Slackmeyer, and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, appears in the cartoon as the amoral opportunist Uncle Duke. "The closest correspondence between a character and a real person," Trudeau told Alter, is feminist Joanie Caucus, who was modeled after the cartoonist's cousin, a woman who left her husband and children to create a new life.
Debuting nationally on October 26, 1970, in nearly thirty newspapers, the Doonesbury comic strip was an immediate success. The strip mostly centered around the Walden Puddle commune, where series regulars lived while attending the fictional Walden College. The experiences of Trudeau's characters frequently reflected contemporary social and political events. "Megaphone" Mark Slackmeyer, for instance, found his background as a campus activist helpful when he organized a trucker's strike during the energy crisis of the early 1970s. B. D. traded his football uniform for fatigues and served in Vietnam, where he befriended Phred, the Vietcong terrorist. And Joanie Caucus became an inspiration to many young women when she enrolled in law school at the University of California at Berkeley after several students there sent Trudeau an application for her. Joanie's popularity prompted Trudeau to remark in a Time profile, "I've received so much mail addressed to Joanie . . . that my mother thinks I'm living with her."
Cartoon Courts Controversy
In its first decade Doonesbury addressed such hot topics as the Watergate scandal, which prompted the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974. Trudeau developed a series of strips about Watergate and created his own controversy in the process. In one installment, Mark Slackmeyer—now a radio host—ends a balanced profile of one highlevel Nixon aide by stating "everything known to date could lead one to conclude that he's guilty. That's guilty, guilty, guilty!" Since the aide had not yet been pronounced guilty in court, several papers refused to run Doonesbury even after Trudeau explained that his intention was merely to satirize over-zealous Nixon opponents. As Washington Post contributor Robert C. Maynard wrote, "The reason the Tuesday ['Doonesbury'] was dropped is that it was, in the opinion of the editors of the Washington Post, entirely too pointed and overstepped the bounds of decency, fairness and good judgement."
Trudeau's not-infrequent brushes with controversy and censorship have not dulled his sharp satire nor have they suppressed his sometimes-daring story lines. In 1976, for instance, the cartoonist attracted attention by having Joanie Caucus and her boyfriend, Rick Redfern, engage in sexual relations before marriage. That same year President Gerald Ford's son was called a "pothead" in the strip. When entertainer Frank Sinatra received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan in 1985, Trudeau called Reagan's judgement into question by pointing out in Doonesbury Sinatra's associations with organized crime. Earlier that same year, Trudeau's syndicate refused to distribute a controversial Doonesbury series that parodied the anti-abortion film Silent Scream by introducing Silent Scream II: The Prequel, which follows the short life of "Timmy," a twelve-minute-old dividing cell. A 2000 strip in which the Duke states that President George W. Bush has "a history of alcohol abuse and cocaine" received the white-out treatment by Detroit Free Press editors. Such decisions on the part of the media have not angered Trudeau, although he would rather editors remove rather than censor individuals strips; as he remarked to Alter, "That's not censorship, it's editing. Each [editor] makes a daily judgment about community standards."
The political correctness of the 1990s prompted several Doonesbury plotlines, including one about controversial radio hosts that rankled conservative cartoonist colleague Bruce Tinsley enough that Tinsley devoted several of his "Mallard Fillmore" strips to defending radio host Rush Limbaugh for being unfairly attacked. In the even-more-politically sensitive post-9/11 world, Doonesbury flaunted the PC trend and continued to present its creator's opinions on politics, as well as on the subsequent war with Iraq and the politicking that surrounded it. The Doonesbury series in which B.D. goes to Iraq to fight and ends up losing a leg elicited a great deal of mail, but that was nothing compared to the response to Trudeau's full-color Sunday strip depicting a severed head, which appeared in newspapers only days before an American civilian was beheaded by Islamic fundamentalists. Because of tight deadlines, the strip appeared in many papers that would otherwise have pulled it, and audiences were shocked. The following Sunday Trudeau atoned, publishing the names of the seven hundred Americans who had died in Iraq since the war on terror began.
Trudeau's forthright portrayal of issues and public figures in Doonesbury has won him numerous devotees as well as the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. However, some of his targets have been less enthusiastic about the cartoonist's sardonic pen. President George Bush, whom Trudeau depicted as a void in Doonesbury to indicate the chief executive's perceived lack of image, told the Miami Herald: "My first reaction was anger, testiness, getting upset. I thought, what the hell? Who is this elitist who never ran for sheriff, never [took] his case to the people?
Who is this little guy that comes out of some of the same background as me? So I had that personal feeling that I wanted to go up and kick the hell out of him, frankly." Hunter S. Thompson had a slightly different reaction to his portrayal in Doonesbury as the sketchy Uncle Duke. "If I ever catch that little bastard, I'll tear his lungs out," Thompson was quoted as saying of Trudeau in Time. And according to the New York Times Book Review, Sinatra returned Trudeau's lob by retorting that the comic artist is "about as funny as a tumor."
A Writer Who Can Draw Some
Trudeau has been lauded more for his writing than his artwork, and this opinion is shared by Trudeau himself. Calling his early work "crudely executed," he noted in an interview with Dave Astor for Editor and Publisher: "I always thought my main contribution to the comics page was that I made it safe for bad drawing, that 'Cathy' and 'Bloom County' and particularly 'Dilbert' would have been unthinkable had I not challenged the assumption that competent draftsmanship was prerequisite to a career in cartooning." Despite his rough start, critics have noted improvements in his drawing over the life of Doonesbury. As Alter explained, Trudeau became tired of the strip's "static" look in 1987, and "decided to wake up." With a series that took Doonesbury correspondent Roland Hedley on a tour of President Ronald Reagan's brain—the former chief executive's "memory vault" was described as "shrunken and calcified from chronic disuse"—Trudeau's artwork visibly improved.
Trudeau first draws his strips in pencil, which gives him the freedom to make changes. "I don't laugh when I'm writing. I don't even smile. It's very serious," he told Alter. Working from his studio in New York City, he then faxes the panels to his "inker," Don Carlton; like many cartoonists, Trudeau employs an inker as a time-saving measure. Carlton redraws the cartoon in ink, keeping the final product virtually identical to Trudeau's pencil originals. These ink versions, complete with Carlton's reproduction of Trudeau's signature, sell for about $600, with the proceeds going to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Trudeau sends out his daily strips about ten days before publication, while the Sunday color panels must be finished five weeks in advance. To keep Doonesbury as current as possible, he often works right up to his Friday deadlines. "If I'm lucky there will be two or three ideas that kind of jockey for position in my mind through the week, which I will bone up on," he explained to Alter. "Somewhere around Wednesday or Thursday, I'll start making the final cuts and commit to one story line. The process for me is very much sitting down and holding a casting call to marry an idea with the right characters and the right story."
Broadway Doonesbury and the Ronnie Revue
After thirteen years of deadlines, in 1983 Trudeau raised the ire of newspaper editors everywhere by taking a twenty-month break from "Doonesbury." Rekindling his love of the theatre, he joined composer Elizabeth Swados in staging a musical version of the strip on Broadway. The production, which opened in 1983, earned Trudeau two Drama Desk nominations for the book and lyrics. In the production, hippie and perpetual student Zonker Harris finally graduates from Walden College, Uncle Duke schemes to develop pristine Walden Puddle for condominiums, and Joanie's daughter J.J., an artist, is romanced by Mike Doonesbury. The show also features White House news breaks read by an actor portraying President Reagan. As Trudeau explained to Kogan, the stage version of Doonesbury "was about transitions, about people caught at a crossroads, who were no longer sheltered by collegiate life, who were forced to challenge their belief systems in order to survive the '80s."
Although Doonesbury the musical received mixed reviews—several critics opined that Trudeau's script seemed more suited to comic strips than theater—the writer/illustrator continued to write for the stage. His next collaboration with Swados was 1984's Rap Master Ronnie. A cabaret, Rap Master Ronnie lampoons Reagan and his public policies by tackling a variety of subjects, including the president's forgetfulness, his light working schedule, the environment, poverty, racism, sexism, bureaucrats, religion, and the young urban professionals or "Yuppies" that seemed to run the nation during the 1980s. "The total effect," remarked Kogan, "is a wickedly clever entertainment, a carefully crafted bit of theater with a considerable bite." Trudeau disclosed to Kogan that while "Reagan's policies outrage us in a very direct manner, . . . the trick was always to put through the filter of our art and make it palatable and accessible to people who may not share our outrage." Rap Master Ronnie played Off-Broadway and toured Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and several other U.S. cities for four years, with Trudeau and Swados continually adding and updating material. A film version, released in 1988, starred Jim Morris, the Smothers Brothers, and Carol Cane.
Back to the Drawing Board, Literally
In the fall of 1984 Trudeau returned to cartooning and continued his work as a bold, provocative satirist who "manages to combine editorial-page gravity and funny-paper levity," according to Time. The thirty-six-year-old cartoonist, who was by now married to news anchor Jane Pauley and beginning a family, decided it was time for his perpetual college students to grow up too. Mike Doonesbury and J. J. marry and have children; B.D., still wearing his football helmet, moves to California and becomes girlfriend Boopsie's talent agent; Mark Slackmeyer works for National Public Radio; and Joanie Caucus, now married to Rick Redfern, juggles the demands of family and career. In one series, Mike Doonesbury compromises his values in order to work on a tobacco company's advertising account and is haunted by an imaginary humanized cigarette named Mr. Butts. Other strips find J.J. painting murals on the ceilings of billionaire Donald Trump's bathrooms, Elvis performing a comeback concert at Trump's Las Vegas casino, Boopsie posing for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, condom sales representative Dr. Whoopee bringing his safe-sex message to college campuses, B.D. in Saudi Arabia awaiting the beginning of 1991's Persian Gulf War, and Uncle Duke becoming the proprietor of Saudi Arabia's Club Scud following the end of hostilities.
Trudeau explained in his interview with Alter that "if you bring a certain amount of taste and judgement there's nothing that can't be addressed in comic strips." A case in point is one of Trudeau's most challenging and controversial Doonesbury strips: a series involving fictional AIDS patient Andy Lippincott. Despite his fatal illness, Andy displays a wry sense of humor and attempts to alleviate the fear and sadness of friends and family. Trudeau was praised for presenting the reality of AIDS—Andy eventually dies—with sensitivity and wit, despite not personally knowing a victim of the disease. Appreciative AIDS patients sent the cartoonist bundles of letters, which were "the most moving I've ever received," as he told Alter.
The 1980s and 1990s gave Trudeau ample ammunition for one of his favorite pastimes as Doonesbury puppetmaster: poking fun at political figures of all persuasions. Vice President Dan Quayle was depicted as a feather in the strip, underscoring his alleged reputation as an intellectual lightweight, and Trudeau devoted a series of comics to a storyline wherein a convicted felon contended that he sold Quayle drugs during the 1970s. Bill Clinton was mocked during the 1992 presidential campaign for stating that he tried marijuana but "didn't inhale," and was thenceforth depicted as a floating waffle.
The first Bush administration's promotion of "family values" also earned barbs from Trudeau, and the 2000 presidential election, with its Florida ballot recounts, legal maneuverings, and volleys of accusations of all sorts, was also grist for Trudeau's mill. While he has often been seen as liberal in his political leanings, Trudeau's "dislikes are ambidextrous," a Time writer noted. "Neither radicals nor reactionaries are safe from his artillery. Stuffed shirts of Oxford broadcloth or frayed denim receive the same impudent deflation."
The nonstop and often humorous antics of politicians means that Trudeau is never at a loss for ideas, which is important in creating satire based on the rapidly changing current scene. The inspiration came so fast and furious during the 1988 presidential campaign that Trudeau worked overtime and produced the television "mockumentary" Tanner '88. The mini-series, which was directed by Robert Altman, focuses on fictional Michigan-based Democratic candidate Jack Tanner, who appears at actual newsmaking events and interacts with actual candidates Gary Hart, Bob Dole, and televangelist Pat Robertson. Maureen Dowd commented in the New Republic that in telling the "classic story of a decent, intelligent man struggling to keep his ideals through the corrupting, trivializing, media-dominated, image-fixated process of politics," Trudeau "writes . . . with his usual deft sense of the hip and the hypocritical." Sixteen years later, as Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry started sparring in the political ring, Altman and Trudeau decided that the time was ripe to reprise the film, and planned to release an updated and appropriately retitled 90-minute revision of Tanner '88, in time for the November, 2004, elections. The election campaign of Doonesbury character Duke, a former governor of Samoa who advocates mandatory gun ownership.
In addition to the daily newspaper, the Doonesbury strips have been collected in over sixty soft-cover books, as well as made available in the extensive archives of the Doonesbury.com Web site. In a Nation review the 1984 published collection Doonesbury Dossier: The Reagan Years, Robert Grossman noted that the anthology "may be the most entertaining and lucid chronicle of the present era we have." The critic added that the book "reads as smoothly as a novel, and its characters exhibit far greater realism than we have come to expect from the funnies." Of Doonesbury.com, Reason essayist Jesse Walker described it as "one giant hypertext novel, a nearly complete guide to the Doonesbury universe."
Public Debate, Private Life
Despite the widespread attention given his comic strip, early on in his career Trudeau gained a reputation for guarding his privacy; to evade a Baltimore Sun reporter, he once reportedly hid in a bathroom for four hours. While avoiding the press, he was occasionally sighted at political conventions and Congressional hearings, and he even accompanied President Gerald Ford's press entourage during a trip to China in 1975. Into the 1990s and 2000s he has become increasingly visible, however, granting several print interviews, as well as a televised interview on ABC's Up Close with Ted Koppel in 2002. Finding fodder for his humor keeps him well-read and in touch with the media; Trudeau scans numerous newspapers and magazines and keeps files of clipped articles. With a reputation for thorough research and timeliness, he was praised by a Time contributor as "more than any of his comic-page contemporaries,. . . a true journalist." While his audience has broadened in the years since Doonesbury began, the demographic of Trudeau's readership hasn't. "I have a feeling my audience is aging with me," the cartoonist was quoted as commenting in Editor and Publisher.
As Doonesbury entered its thirtieth year, many critics, as well as the strip's own creator, marveled that something so timely could run such a long course without becoming stale. "I think all the cartoonists admire Garry's originality," Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz once told a Time interviewer. "He's gone into areas that haven't been touched before." A Time writer surmised that "Trudeau's greatest gift is the ability to present . . . satire without bile, to put strong statements in the mouths of gentle characters-o demonstrate, as Mike Doonesbury says, that 'even revolutionaries like chocolate-chip cookies.'"
Although the cartoonist downplays his contribution to American culture, a Time reviewer maintained that "for most readers, to be tired of Doonesbury is to be tired of life." Noted Washington Monthly contributor Joshua Wolf Shenk: "In a fictional world populated by a carrot-nosed ad man, a retired sustaining champion, two homeless eccentrics, and two Slackmeyers—the inside-trading, Reagan-loving, tobacco company-lobbying father and his liberal, gay, public radio host son—Trudeau creates a world that is in many ways more real than the world viewed through traditional journalism." Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once quipped that the only thing worse than being in Doonesbury was not being in Doonesbury, and therein lies perhaps the reason for the cartoon's longevity. As David Rubien noted in a Salon.com profile of Trudeau's virtual world, "Doonesbury, harsh as it can be, has a warm, fuzzy quality that celebrates the inherent absurdity of Homo sapiens."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 12, Gale, 1980.
Newsmakers 91, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
If you enjoy the works of Garry Trudeau
If you enjoy the works of Garry Trudeau, you may also want to check out the following:
Boondocks, a comic strip by Aaron McGruder. Dilbert, a comic strip by Scott Adams. Non Sequitur, a comic strip by Wiley Miller.
American Enterprise, September, 2001, David Schaefer, "When Politics becomes a Joke," p. 14.
Chicago Tribune Book World, November 24, 1985, Rick
Kogan, "Why Would a Popular Cartoonist Turn to Theater?: Listen to Rap Master Garry," pp. 4-6.
Editor and Publisher, September 30, 1995, David Astor, "'Doonesbury' Man Discusses His Strip," p. 30; February 7, 1998, David Astor, "Tinsley vs. Trudeau in Funny Page Flap," p. 40; October 23, 2000, Dave Astor, "Trudeau Is 'Amazed' His Comic Endures," p. 31; December 9, 2002, Dave Astor, "G. B. Trudeau: TV or not TV?" p. 5.
Nation, October 27, 1984, Robert Grossman, "Zonker's Reagan," p. 427.
New Republic, August 1, 1988, Maureen Dowd, "Eighty-eightsomething," p. 37.
Newsweek, June 24, 1985, Jonathan Alter, "Doonesbury contra Sinatra," p. 82; February 15, 1988, Harry F. Waters, "A Presidential Pretender: Garry Trudeau and Robert Altman Parody Politics," p. 82; October 15, 1990, Jonathan Alter, "Real Life with Garry Trudeau," pp. 60-66.
New York Times Book Review, May 3, 1987, Mordecai Richter, "Batman at Midlife; or, The Funnies Grow Up," p. 35.
Reason, July, 2002, Jesse Walker, "Doonesburied: The Decline of Garry Trudeau—and of Baby-Boom Liberalism," p. 48.
Time, February 9, 1976, "Doonesbury: Drawing and Quartering for Fun and Profit," pp. 57-60, 65-66; December 8, 1986, William A. Henry III, "Attacking a 'National Amnesia': Garry Trudeau Breaks His Vow of Silence to Skewer Reagan," p. 107.
Washington Monthly, July-August, 1996, Joshua Wolf Shenk, "Flashbacks: Twenty-five Years of Doonesbury," pp. 54-57.
Washington Post, May 31, 1973, Robert C. Maynard, "The Comic Strip Isn't a Court," p. A18.
Doonesbury,http://www.doonesbury.com/ (July 6, 2004).
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (November 2, 1999), David Rubien, "Garry Trudeau."*