G.B. Trudeau (1948–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
(Garretson Beekman Trudeau, Garry Trudeau, Garry B. Trudeau)
Born 1948, in New York, NY; Education: Yale University, B.A., 1970, M.F.A. (graphic design), c. 1972.
Office—c/o Universal Press Syndicate, 4400 Johnson Dr., Fairway, KS 66205.
Cartoonist and writer. Cartoonist for Yale Daily News, 1969–70; operator of 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. Former columnist for New York Times.
Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, 1975; Academy 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; honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Yale University, Colgate University, Williams College, and Duke University.
"DOONESBURY" COMPILATION BOOKS
Doonesbury, foreword by Erich Segal, American Heritage Press, 1971.
Still a Few Bugs in the System, Holt (New York, NY), 1972, selections published as Even Revolutionaries Like Chocolate Chip Cookies and Just a French Major from the Bronx, both 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, selections published as Bravo for Life's Little Ironies, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1975.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) Doonesbury: The Original Yale Cartoons, Sheed & Ward (New York, NY), 1973.
Call Me When You Find America, Holt (New York, NY), 1973.
(With Nicholas von Hoffman) The Fireside Watergate, Sheed & Ward (New York, NY), 1973.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) Joanie, Sheed & Ward (New York, NY), 1974.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) Don't Ever Change, Boopsie, Popular Library, 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 & Ward (New York, NY), 1975.
(Under name Garry Trudeau) I Have No Son, Popular Library, 1975.
Wouldn't a Gremlin Have Been More Sensible?, Holt (New York, NY), 1975.
(With Nicholas von Hoffman) Tales from the Margaret Mead Taproom: The Compleat Gonzo Governorship of Doonesbury's Uncle Duke, Sheed & Ward (New York, NY), 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 for Broke, 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), 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 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 (New York, NY), 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, 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.
Talk to the Hand, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2004.
The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 2005.
(With David Levinthal) Hitler Moves East: A Graphic Chronicle, 1941–43, Sheed & Ward (New York, NY), 1977.
A Doonesbury Special (animated film), National Broadcasting Co. (NBC-TV), 1977.
Doonesbury (musical; produced in Boston, then on Broadway 1983), Holt (New York, NY), 1984.
Rap Master Ronnie (musical; produced off-Broadway, 1984), Lord John, 1986.
Tanner '88 (television series), Home Box Office, 1988.
Also lyricist for Doonesbury musical cast show album. Author of television mini-series Duke 2000, 2004. 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. Contributing essayist for Time. Editor of "Cartoons for New Children" series for Sheed.
Rap-Master Ronnie was filmed by Cinemax in 1988.
When G.B. Trudeau's comic strip "Doonesbury" debuted in syndication in the fall of 1970, Richard Nixon was president, the Viet Nam war was ongoing, and campus unrest made headlines across America. The popularity of the seven-days-a-week strip earned Trudeau a Pulitzer prize in 1975, a Time cover story in 1976, as well as a healthy measure of controversy. Run in more than 1,400 newspapers throughout the United States on its thirtieth anniversary in 2000, "Doonesbury" has achieved sustained popularity among liberal-minded baby boomers due to its hard-hitting and confrontational nature. Trudeau's partisan political commentary took aim at targets that included U.S. presidents George Bush, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, as well as highly charged topics such as the War on Terror, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and abortion. "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."
Trudeau was born in New York City and raised in upstate New York in an affluent family with a lengthy pedigree that includes former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. His parents divorced when he was twelve, and the following year he was sent to a New Hampshire boarding school. Shy, small for his age, and more interested in art and theatre 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. 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.
After graduation, Trudeau enrolled at Yale University, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in graphic design, edited the campus humor magazine, and wrote a column for the Yale Daily News. "Doonesbury" was born as "Bull Tales," a strip Trudeau produced during his junior year and which poked "sophomoric fun at mixers, campus revolutionaries, Yale President Kingman Brewster," and the fuss over a college football superstar, according to a Time contributor. Other recognizable figures from the early days include Yale's Reverend William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (the Reverend W.S. Sloan, Jr.), campus activist Mark Zanger (opinionated "Megaphone" Mark Slackmeyer), and the late "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson (Uncle Duke), the author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Trudeau's alter ego is low-keyed optimist Michael J. Doonesbury.
Picked up by Universal Press Syndicate and debuting in twenty-eight newspapers, "Doonesbury" was an immediate success. For many years, the action centered on 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, a Vietcong terrorist. The town was also a haven for characters like 1960s throwback Zonker Harris, among others. In the early years, Trudeau introduced fortyish wife and mother Joanie Caucus, and she became one of Walden's most popular residents. Joanie left her husband and enrolled in law school when one night Mr. Caucus put his arm around her and declared, "My wife. I think I'll keep her." "I broke his nose," Joanie subsequently explains, in true feminist fashion.
As "Doonesbury" continued its run, the strip has shadowed the evolving perceptions of politics and society that Trudeau shares with his predominately liberalminded fan following. In its first decade it addressed the Watergate scandal, women's liberation, and the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. In 1976, the strip attracted attention when Joanie Caucus and her boyfriend, Rick Redfern, engaged in sexual relations before marriage. That same year "Doonesbury" referred to President Gerald Ford's son as a "pothead." In 1985 Universal Press Syndicate refused to distribute a controversial "Doonesbury" strip that parodied a antiabortion film titled Silent Scream by introducing Silent Scream II: The Prequel, which follows the short life of "Timmy," a twelve-minute-old dividing cell. The political correctness of the 1990s prompted a "Doonesbury" plotline focusing on mega-popular conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. In the ever-more-politically sensitive post-9/11 world, "Doonesbury" has 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. As Trudeau explained in his interview with Alter, "if you bring a certain amount of taste and judgment there's nothing that can't be addressed in comic strips."
While Trudeau's editorialist tendencies have been praised, his artwork has been less-highly commended. Calling his early work "crudely executed," the cartoonist himself quipped to 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," particularly after the late 1980s.
Working in his New York City studio, Trudeau first draws his strips in pencil, which gives him the freedom to make changes. An inker redraws the penciled lines, keeping the final product virtually identical to Trudeau's pencil originals. The strip is submitted about ten days before publication, while the Sunday color panels must be finished five weeks in advance. To keep "Doonesbury" as current as possible, Trudeau 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." 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.
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." In creating his sequence about the Iraq war, in which character B.D. loses a leg in the fighting, Trudeau went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to interview wounded soldiers, invited by the Pentagon. The sequence, collected in book form as The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time, featured an introduction by Republican maverick U.S. Senator and former POW John McCain. "How cool is that?," Trudeau commented to Nancy Shute in U.S. News & World Report. "I thought his participation would underscore the point that caring for our veterans isn't a partisan issue."
Despite the widespread attention given his comic strip, Trudeau has guarded his privacy; to evade a Baltimore Sun reporter, he once reportedly hid in a bathroom for four hours. During his early career he was occasionally sighted at political conventions and Congressional hearings, and even accompanied President Gerald Ford's press entourage during a trip to China in 1975. Into the 1990s and 2000s Trudeau became increasingly visible, however, and participated in several print interviews, as well as a televised interview on ABC's Up Close with Ted Koppel in 2002. While his audience has broadened in the years since "Doonesbury" first ran, the demographic of Trudeau's readership has not. "I have a feeling my audience is aging with me," the cartoonist was quoted as commenting in Editor & Publisher.
In addition to the daily newspaper, the "Doonesbury" strips have been collected in dozens of soft-cover books and are available via the extensive online archives at Doonesbury.com. In a a Nation review of the 1984 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."
As "Doonesbury" entered its thirtieth year in 2000, 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-to demonstrate, as Mike Doonesbury says, that, 'even revolutionaries like chocolate-chip cookies.'"
As Trudeau views it, his comic strip "has always been a kind of Rorschach test for its readers," telling a contributor to the Washington Post: "To the extent to which it is a diary for a certain generation, it becomes a way of mirroring both change in the culture and change in the individual who is reading the strip."
Although Trudeau 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." 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, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980.
American Enterprise, September, 2001, David Schaefer, "When Politics Becomes a Joke," p. 14.
Booklist, June 15, 1986, p. 1492; September 1, 1988, p. 25; October 1, 1990, p. 241.
Chicago Tribune, September 16, 1981; September 14, 1985.
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.
Christian Science Monitor, January 27, 1982.
Editor & Publisher, September 30, 1995, David Astor, "'Doonesbury' Man Discusses His Strip," p. 30; May 25, 1996, p. 34; 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.
Esquire, December, 1985.
Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1983; September 11, 1983; December 3, 1989; July 8, 1990; December 23, 1990, p. 10.
Ms., November, 1985, pp. 101-102.
Nation, October 27, 1984, Robert Grossman, "Zonker's Reagan," p. 427.
New Republic, August 1, 1988, Maureen Dowd, "Eighty-eightsomething," p. 37; April 27, 1992, p. 14.
Newsweek, 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, February 28, 1980; November 22, 1983; November 27, 1983; September 30, 1984; October 4, 1984.
New York Times Book Review, December 7, 1975, p. 7; May 4, 1980; 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; June 24, 1985, p. 66; December 8, 1986, William A. Henry III, "Attacking a 'National Amnesia': Garry Trudeau Breaks His Vow of Silence to Skewer Reagan," p. 107.
U.S. News & World Report, June 6, 2005, Nancy Shute, "A Tragicomic Strip," p. 17.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1981, p. 42; December, 1981, p. 46; December, 1982, p. 46; April, 1985, pp. 69-70; April, 1988, p. 49; February, 1989, p. 307.
Washington Post, May 31, 1973, Robert C. Maynard, "The Comic Strip Isn't a Court," p. A18.
Washington Post Book World, December 2, 1973, p. 4.
Doonesbury Web site, http://www.doonesbury.com/ (March 10, 2006).
Duke2000.com, http://www.duke2000.com/ (July 6, 2004).
Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (November 2, 1999), David Rubien, "Garry Trudeau."
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