Award winning cartoonist, writer and producer, Garry Trudeau talks about his hit Amazon series ALPHA HOUSE and how DOONESBURY was born. Plus we begin our visit with the cast of the FXX Comedy THE LEAGUE, including talking to Jon LaJoie about how his character has become more grounded this season, Mark Duplass on making sensitive films and Nick Kroll on why the show gets hotter every year.
So that snot-nose college boys thinks he’s putting one over on me, hah? Foreign bastard. I mean, look at his name. I don’t even know how to say it. True Dough? Tree dee- you? First name Garry? Yeah, sure it is; Prob’ly something like Garovitchsky. You see what he’s doing with his comic strip…did I say comic strip? What I meant was commie strip. Anyway, you see today’s paper? This Tree-dee-you is reprinting crap he did I don’t know how long ago…twenty, thirty years!
Now, in the first place, I don’t pay for crap that’s that old. If I read the news section, I wouldn’t want to read about stuff that happened twenty-thirty years ago. You feed me stuff that’s twenty-thirty years old, what you’re doing is stealing my money ‘cause I don’t pay for stuff that’s twenty-thirty years old. It’s like them sissy-boys and their wine…just shows how stupid they are, plunking down fifty-sixty dollars for wine that’s fifty-sixty years old. Not that I seen ‘em do it. Fella on the train told me about it. Anyway, his Tree-dee-you is too lazy to do new commie strips so he’s feeding us old stuff, thinks we’re too dumb to notice.
But that ain’t the worst of it. See, the old stuff don’t even look like the new stuff and so what the snotnose is telling us is that his commie strip has changed. Sure it has. Damn well told it has. ‘Cause he changed it! What he’s trying to do is, the sneaky sonuvabitch, he’s trying to make us think that stuff changes. Planting the idea in our heads. Planting the idea in our kids’ heads! So pretty soon we’re going to believe that the earth is way old and not just the six-thousand years we know it is and that evolution is right and holy scripture is wrong and all that dumb type of stuff. Did I say dumb? Just look out the window. See anything changing? When was the last time you seen your Aunt Sadie change into a monkey? When did you see a monkey change into Aunt Sadie? Boy, they sure must think we’re stupid.
Know what I bet Tree-dee-you watches on the teevee? I bet he watches that Cosmos thing that on Fox on Sunday night and how come it’s on Fox anyway when Fox usually knows better? Anyway, it’s full of stuff about everything changing and some of it doesn’t even look like anything I ever seen. Prob’ly whoever’s making the pictures is taking drugs. Not that I really watched it ‘cause I got better things to do with my time but it came on one night and before I could find the remote I accidentally seen some of it and boy-howdy, I tell you it made me sick.
I gotta go now, but remember, they’re watching you and they’re out to get you.
In the link above, creator Garry Trudeau says, “I’ve done the strip for 43 years — 45 if you include the college edition [at Yale] — and I’m ready for an extended break.” He wants to spend his time writing Alpha House, his brilliant series on Amazon Prime that stars John Goodman and Clark Johnson.
But what about me? What about my needs?
I’ve written before about how much I love Trudeau’s brilliant newspaper strip. I’ve been reading it almost as long as it’s been running in syndication. Back before the Internets, my mom would cut each strip out of the paper and mail them to me when I was away at school. That started when I was in high school. The Beatles were still together.
Since then, I think I’ve read the strip every day it’s run. Trudeau took some time off over the years, to take a break, to recharge his creative batteries. At first, this caused something of a scandal, since no other syndicated cartoonist had done that before. The risk of losing income through losing audience and subscribing papers was too high.
Trudeau showed it could be done. These days, cartoonists take breaks when they need them.
I get that intellectually, and politically I’m with them. No one should be burned out by over-work, whether that work is drawing Pulitzer Prize-winning comics or making fries. We each deserve to live a life balanced among responsibilities, joys, family and community. If we’re going to talk about the “dignity” of work, we should treat all workers with dignity.
Having said that, I really resent this break he’s taking. He made me fall in love with these characters, to watch them live and grow, and now he’s taking them away. I’ve loved B.D. and Joannie and Mark and Duke and Mike and especially Zonker as much as — no, more — than some people in my own family.
Trudeau promises they will be back on Sundays, at least for the foreseeable future. I can read my old collections, and the archives online. It will be like going off to college, where, instead of seeing your folks every day, you call them once a week. They are still part of your life, just not as much.
Don’t forget to come home for Thanksgiving, Garry. We’ll save you a seat at the table.
Doggone that Martha Thomases, anyway! I was all set to use this week’s column to dissertate on Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip, but Martha stole my idea before I even had it and wrote a piece on the same subject. Probably did a more thorough job, too, but now we’ll never know, will we?
For those of you who have spent the whole of the last week in your local theater watching and rewatching John Carter and so have missed the news cycles, what that scamp Trudeau did this time was to use the platform his strip affords him as a venue for bleak humor about the indignities forced by Texas poobahs – those are male poobahs – on women seeking abortion. Trudeau wasn’t attacking the right-to-lifers per se, but only an unnecessary and humiliating “medical” procedure done down where the stars at night are big and bright.
Trudeau isn’t new at this kind of activity. He’s been doing it for the past 42 years, ever since his work began gracing the nation’s funnysides. He was once called an “investigative cartoonist” and he is that, often calling attention to stories local newsfolk might have neglected. (There’s additional detail in Martha’s piece so go on, read it! I certainly don’t care!)
Trudeau is more than a cartoonist, though – he’s something very valuable; he’s one of our national jesters. I’d nominate him, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, and Stephen Colbert for jesterhood and I bow to them all and aver that this quartet is worth a long ton of conventional pundits. They use humor to help us swallow some pretty bitter pills. We laugh, but we also swallow.
One example: From Stewart’s Daily Show, I learned that GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum claimed, publicly, that in the Netherlands, the elderly were being euthanized against their will – a lie so egregious that it should have immediately disqualified Santorum from elected office. I didn’t see it anywhere else (though surely Stewart wasn’t the only source of the item. But it wasn’t splashed big in my local paper – the one that’s banished Doonesbury to a website – and it should have been).
These entertainers have a long and honorable provenance. Remember King Lear’s jester, all you English majors? He was a teller of truth in clown’s clothing. And Shakespeare didn’t pull the character from thin air: In Renaissance times, jesters were given license to both jest and criticize their masters. It’s said that Queen Elizabeth the First once chastised a jester for not being critical enough.
You think Rollickin’ Rick got on the horn with Stewart and said something like, “Hey, Jonny, what’s the haps? You should’ve reamed my ass”)?
No, I don’t either.
RECOMMENDED READING: As I’ve mentioned in an earlier column, I try not to recommend books I haven’t read. I don’t know if there’s a Doonesbury collection somewhere in this house, but since I’ve been reading the strip on and off for about 40 years, and a lot more on than off for the past decade, I feel confident in urging you to hurry to your local bookstore and get anything with Garry Trudeau’s name on it. If you really scamper, you might get there before Martha Thomases…
This week, the nation’s pundits have focused on a controversy on the comics page. Garry Trudeau’s long-running strip, Doonesbury, has a storyline about a woman in Texas seeking an abortion after the passage of the state’s invasive and insulting new laws. A number of newspapers have declined to run the strip because of the subject matter and the language. A number of others decided to run the strip on their op-ed page rather than the comics pages.
You can find a decent sampling of editorial responses to the controversy here.
Since he started the strip for his college paper in the late 1960s, Trudeau has followed a group of characters, students at Walden College, their extended families and their friends. By 1970, it was a sensation, syndicated in newspapers around the country. From the beginning, it reveled in political arguments, whether among Trudeau’s characters or real political figures, including then-president Richard Nixon.
The Watergate scandal was the first political firestorm I remember being covered in the strips. They were fabulous. So fabulous, in fact, that he won a Pulitzer prize for them in 1974.
Over the years, a number of newspapers decided to move Doonesbury to their editorial pages. I’ve always thought it was a cowardly move, but then, I think most newspaper strips have some political content. It may not be as overt as Trudeau’s, but it’s there. Beetle Bailey? Political. Cathy? Political (which is why so many men hated it so much). Prince Valiant? More political now than at any time I can remember.
Still, there is a long tradition of editorial cartooning in this country, much of it exuberantly partisan and foul-mouthed. Most of them are single gag panels, with only a few extending to three or more. None of them include recurring fictional characters, nor do they have anything approaching a storyline. Doonesbury doesn’t really fit in that environment.
I was especially struck by the waffling tone of the Star-Telegram, a Fort Worth newspaper. To me, the key quote is this: “On Wednesday we published an editorial taking to task radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his crass language about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who testified before Congress about health insurance coverage for contraceptives. Trudeau’s language, accompanied by graphic images, is equally crude.”
Except Trudeau was using the language of Limbaugh, and the Texas legislature. He was commenting on a discussion that was already in the marketplace of ideas. He didn’t make up new words to enflame the situation; he commented. And although it’s only Tuesday as I write this, I have seen no particularly graphic images in the strip.
I suppose there’s an argument to be made that children might see these strips on the comics page and ask their parents about abortion. I’d be more persuaded if one could find any actual children reading any actual newspapers.
Meanwhile, I look forward to Trudeau’s strips about this proposed law, which I hope passes with as much ease as those that apply to women.
Doonesbury was the first media source to call tomorrow’s election for Barack Obama. Garry Trudeau delivered strips via the Universal Press Syndicate last Wednesday including one for Wednesday where soldiers in Iraq are seen watching a television where the announcer calls the election for the Illinois Senator.
Newspaper editors around the country have been put in a difficult position considering the pages that normally run the strip tend to close long before the polls. There’s concern of looking silly should Arizona Senator John McCain be declared the victor.
When queried by the Los Angeles Times about this, the comic strip’s creator Garry Trudeau replied, “polling data gives McCain a 3.7% chance of victory. There’s a greater risk that their presses will break down on Election Day. So I’ve been encouraging editors to choose hope over fear. And reminding them that if I’m wrong, it’ll be my face that’ll be covered with egg, not theirs.
I’d be a lot more worried about the country than the strip. One reporter has already suggested I just carry on with an alternative universe in which Obama wins. It’s not a crazy idea . . . "
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds told the paper, "We hope the strip proves to be as predictive as it is consistently lame."
Nervous newspaper editors were offered repeats of August comic strips to run the remainder of the week. Ther’s no knowing howmany of the 1400 clients will carry the strip or cave in and go with the repeat. Opinion among editors nationwide has been diverse although not as divisive as the opponents have been.
"I thought it was funny," said Michael Weinstein, features editor for the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. "But it’s an accuracy issue. We won’t know the outcome of the election until Wednesday.
"It’s just a matter of humor. Is the strip funny if McCain wins? Satire humor is a real difficult subject."
The Chicago Tribune’s Tim Bannon said, "we are reserving the option of running the strip on Wednesday, but we of course would not typeset until we confirmed the result of the election." The Cleveland Plain-Dealer is running the strip as is. "If he’s wrong, he’s wrong," said Debbie Van Tassel, assistant managing editor/features.
Editor John Robinson agrees and wrote at the News and Record of Greensboro NC’s blog, “Risky? Reckless? Not for a cartoonist, but there’s some discussion on the journalism listservs that suggests that this assumed outcome of Tuesday’s election is a limb too far for newspapers.”
"I don’t understand that concern, given Trudeau’s cartooning history," he adds. "I’m thinking that if McCain wins, the embarrassment is Trudeau’s, not ours. Isn’t there anyone who doesn’t think he’s liberal? Besides, if McCain does win, just imagine how much fun it will be to watch how Trudeau handles the turnabout.”
The Los Angeles Times announced they were hedging their bets, not running the strip Wednesday but Thursday if Obama wins. Should McCain win, they will opt for the repeat strips through Friday.
Over a month ago, I was assigned to find out each presidential candidate’s favorite super-hero or heroine.It seemed like it would be a fun assignment, a chance to find a bit of insight into how pop culture affects politics and vice versa.
Alas, only Ron Paul felt self-confident enough to answer our question.I was impressed that not only did Dr. Paul know one super-hero from another, but he also knew one creator from another, specifically citing Paul Pope’s version of Batman.
Why didn’t the other candidates respond?John Tebbel thinks it’s because the race is so close that no one wants to risk saying something stupid that will alienate a segment of voters needed to gain percentages in the early primaries and caucuses.Can the Marvel vs. DC split be so wide?Do indy fans resent superhero fans this much?I don’t think so.
Or maybe the question is considered too goofy for a future President of the most powerful country in the world.However, in the last few days, I’ve heard how the candidates like their coffee and what their least favorite food is.
I’ve had to conclude that these candidates simply don’t read comics, or graphic novels, or the funny pages.Therefore, in the Spirit of the Season, I’ve decided to recommend the following:
Mike Huckabee:This Baptist minister turned Governor of Arkansas seems like a personable guy.His story about losing 100 pounds is inspirational, and he seems, in interviews, to be a friendly sort.However, as he’s climbed in the polls, he’s become disturbingly more evangelical about the role of religion in public life, especially the federal government.It would do him good to read Garth Ennis’ and Steve Dillon’s Preacher: Gone to Texas.
The world has come to this: The Hampton Roads, Virginia Virginian-Pilot is in the mood to drop some comic strips; Mutts is already on probation. Now they’re asking their readers to choose between Rex Morgan MD and Doonesbury.
I’ll run that by you again: kill one – Rex Morgan MD, by Woody Wilson and Graham Nolan, or Doonesbury, by Garry Trudeau. Vote now.
O.K. Now I can understand choosing between any number of mindless talking animal strips (note how I just exempted Mutts). Or any of those mindless "my wife’s a bitch" strips. Or any of those strips that think running a golf gag four times a week is the height of humor. But if you don’t think Rex Morgan MD and Doonesbury is apples and oranges, then I’m not letting you anywhere near my cherry orchard.
Rex Morgan MD copyright 2007 King Features Syndicate. Inc. All Rights Reserved. Doonesbury copyright 2007 G.B. Trudeau. All RIghts Reserved.
Remember when Doonesbury’s Duke ran for president back in 2000? For some of us, that no longer seems like such a weird choice.
Evidently, Garry Trudeau and the folks at Universal Press Syndicate feel the same way, as they have started to make available free of charge their short animations from the "Duke 2000 — Whatever it Takes" campaign. According to Editor & Publisher magazine, six videos will be uploaded twice a month through 2008 to Doonesbury.com and YouTube.com.
In the March 4 Doonesbury, Duke (based upon the late author Hunter S. Thompson) disclosed his campaign videos would appear on the Web. "This is incredible — one click to immortality! What a great tool!," he said. Duke’s son replied "Dad, you can’t put that up! Are you crazy? How many people have seen this?" Duke stated "Only a couple million — I just posted it."
While visual controversy is said to boost the sales of newspapers just as sensationalism ups the ratings of cable news shows, it’s also true that many people in charge of these institutions tend toward the conservative or timid.
For those of us who’ve often wondered where we can see the cartoons these editors have rejected as being too hot to handle, David Wallis’ new book Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the War on Free Expression presents about a hundred of them all in one place, from creators like Kirk Anderson (above), Garry Trudeau, Ted Rall, Anita Kunz and Doug Marlette, as well as " unearthed gems by legends like David Low, Herblock and Norman Rockwell," complete with the stories behind the rejections. Guaranteed to get a good discussion going about the fine line between editors doing their jobs and cartoonists answering their calling.