Garry Trudeau

Garry Trudeau

Born: July 21, 1948
Age: 75
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.
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Garretson Beekman "Garry" Trudeau (born July 21, 1948) is an American cartoonist, best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Doonesbury comic strip. Trudeau is also the creator and executive producer of the Amazon Studios political comedy series Alpha House.


Background and education

Trudeau was born in New York City, the son of Jean Douglas (née Moore) and Francis Berger Trudeau, Jr. He is the great-grandson of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, who created Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis at Saranac Lake, New York. Edward was succeeded by his son Francis and grandson Francis Jr. The latter founded the Trudeau Institute at Saranac Lake, with which his son Garry retains a connection. Among his great-great-great-grandfathers were Bishop Richard Channing Moore (through his father) and the New York politician Francis E. Spinner (through his mother). Trudeau is also a descendant of Gerardus Beekman, one of the earliest colonial governors of the Province of New York. His ancestry includes French (Canadian), English, Dutch, German, and Swedish.

Raised in Saranac Lake, Garry Trudeau attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. He enrolled in Yale University in 1966. As an art major, Trudeau initially focused on painting, but soon discovered a greater interest in the graphic arts. He spent much of his time cartooning and writing for Yale's humor magazine The Yale Record, eventually serving as the magazine's editor-in-chief. At the same time, Trudeau began contributing to the Yale Daily News, which eventually led to the creation of Bull Tales, a comic strip parodying the exploits of Yale quarterback Brian Dowling. This strip was the progenitor of Doonesbury. While still an undergraduate at Yale, Trudeau published two collections of Bull Tales: Bull Tales (1969, published by the Yale Daily News) and Michael J. (1970, published by The Yale Record). As a senior, Trudeau became a member of Scroll and Key. He did postgraduate work at the Yale School of Art, earning a master of fine arts degree in graphic design in 1973. It was there that Trudeau first met photographer David Levinthal, with whom he would later collaborate on Hitler Moves East, an influential "graphic chronicle" of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Creative works

Soon after Bull Tales began running in the Yale student newspaper, the strip caught the attention of the newly formed Universal Press Syndicate. The syndicate's editor, James F. Andrews, recruited Trudeau, changed the strip's name to Doonesbury, and began distributing it following the cartoonist's graduation in 1970.

Today Doonesbury is syndicated to 1,000 daily and Sunday newspapers worldwide and is accessible online in association with The Washington Post at The strip has been collected in 72 hardcover, trade paperback, and mass-market editions, which have cumulatively sold over seven million copies worldwide.

In 1975, Trudeau became the first comic strip artist to win a Pulitzer, traditionally awarded to editorial-page cartoonists. He was also a Pulitzer finalist in 1990, 2004, and 2005. Other awards include the National Cartoonist Society Newspaper Comic Strip Award in 1994, and the Reuben Award in 1995. In 1993, Trudeau was made a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Wiley Miller, fellow comic-strip artist responsible for Non Sequitur, called him "far and away the most influential editorial cartoonist in the last 25 years." A regular graduation speaker, Trudeau has received 34 honorary degrees, including doctorates from Yale, Brown, Colgate, Williams, University of Pennsylvania, Tufts, Johns Hopkins, Duke, and University College Dublin.

In addition to his creating his strip, Trudeau has worked in both theater and television. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1977 in the category of Animated Short Film for A Doonesbury Special, created for NBC in collaboration with John Hubley and Faith Hubley. The film went on to win the Cannes Film Festival Jury Special Prize in 1978. Collaborating with composer Elizabeth Swados in 1984, he wrote the book and lyrics for the Broadway musical Doonesbury, for which he was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards. A cast album of the show, recorded for MCA, received a Grammy nomination. Trudeau again collaborated with Swados in 1984, this time on Rap Master Ronnie, a satirical review about the Reagan Administration that opened off-Broadway at the Village Gate. A filmed version, featuring Jon Cryer, the Smothers Brothers, and Carol Kane, was broadcast on Cinemax in 1988.

Also in 1988, Trudeau wrote and co-produced with director Robert Altman HBO's critically acclaimed Tanner '88, a satiric look at that year's presidential election campaign. The show won the gold medal for Best Television Series at the Cannes Television Festival, the British Academy Television Award for Best Foreign Program, and Best Imported Program from the British Broadcasting Press Guild. It also earned an Emmy Award, as well as four ACE Award nominations. In 2004, Trudeau reunited with Altman to write and co-produce a sequel mini-series, Tanner on Tanner, for the Sundance Channel.

In 1996, Newsweek and the Washington Post speculated that Trudeau wrote the novel Primary Colors, which was later revealed to have been written by Joe Klein.

In February 2000, Trudeau, working with Dotcomix, launched Duke2000, a web-based presidential campaign featuring a real-time, 3-D, streaming-animation version of Duke. Nearly 30 campaign videos were created for the site, and Ambassador Duke was interviewed live by satellite on the Today Show, Larry King Live, The Charlie Rose Show and dozens of local TV and radio news shows.

In 2013, Trudeau created, wrote and co-produced Alpha House, a political sit-com starring John Goodman that revolves around four Republican U.S. Senators who live together in a townhouse on Capitol Hill. Trudeau was inspired to write the show's pilot after reading a 2007 New York Times article about a real D.C. townhouse shared by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, and California Representative George Miller, all Democrats. The pilot for Alpha House was produced by Amazon Studios and aired in early 2013. Due to positive response, Amazon picked up the show to develop into a full series, streaming eleven episodes for its first season. On March 31, 2014, Amazon announced that Alpha House had been renewed. Production began in July 2014, and the entire second season became available for streaming on October 24, 2014.

While writing Alpha House, Trudeau put the daily Doonesbury into rerun mode. On March 3, 2014 the "Classic Doonesbury" series began, featuring approximately four weeks of daily strips from each year of the strip's run. He continues to produce new strips for Sundays.

Trudeau has contributed articles to publications such as Harper's, Rolling Stone, The New Republic, The New Yorker, New York and The Washington Post. From 1990 to 1994, he wrote and drew an occasional column for The New York Times op-ed page, and was a contributing essayist for Time magazine from 1996 to 2001.

Beginning with the Gulf War in 1991, Trudeau has written about military issues extensively. In recognition for his work on wounded warriors, he has been presented with the Commander's Award for Public Service by the Department of the Army, the Commander's Award from Disabled American Veterans, the President's Award for Excellence in the Arts from Vietnam Veterans of America, the Distinguished Public Service Award from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the Mental Health Research Advocacy Award from the Yale School of Medicine, and a special citation from the Vet Centers. He also received several unit commendations from the field during the Gulf War, and traveled with the USO to visit troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. From 2005 to 2014, his website hosted The Sandbox, a milblog posting over 800 essays by deployed soldiers, returned vets, caregivers, and spouses.

For most the strip's run, Trudeau has eschewed merchandising, but starting in 1998 he teamed up with Starbucks to create Doonesbury products to raise funds for local literacy programs. The items were offered for sale in Starbucks stores for nearly two years and raised over $1 million. Also for charity, Trudeau licensed the strip to Ben & Jerry's, which created a best-selling sorbet flavor called Doonesberry.

Private life and public appearances

Trudeau married the journalist Jane Pauley in 1980. They have three children and live in New York City. He maintains a low personal profile. A rare and early appearance on television was as a guest on To Tell the Truth in 1971, where only one of the three panelists guessed his identity. On February 8, 1976, Doonesbury made the cover of Time, under the headline "Doonesbury: Politics in the Funny Pages" but Trudeau declined to be interviewed for the story.

In 1990, Trudeau appeared on the cover of Newsweek for a story called "Inside Doonesbury's Brain," written by Jonathan Alter. This was the first interview Trudeau had given in seventeen years. Trudeau and Alter became friends after the interview and would collaborate years later as executive producers on the Amazon political series Alpha House.

Trudeau cooperated extensively with Wired magazine for a 2000 profile, "The Revolution Will be Satirized." He later spoke with the writer of that article, Edward Cone, for a 2004 newspaper column in the Greensboro, NC News & Record, about the war wounds suffered by the Doonesbury character B.D., and in 2006 did a Q&A at Cone's personal blog about his new site, The Sandbox.

On December 2, 2002, Trudeau did the first of two back-to-back half-hour interviews with Ted Koppel for ABC News's Up Close. They were the first television interviews he had done in 31 years.

Trudeau granted an interview to Rolling Stone in 2004 in which he discussed his time at Yale University, which he attended two years behind George W. Bush. He granted another Rolling Stone interview in 2010.

In 2006, The Washington Post printed an extensive profile of Trudeau by writer Gene Weingarten. He has also appeared on the Charlie Rose television program, and at signings for The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time, his Doonesbury book about B.D.'s struggle with injuries received during the second Gulf War.

On December 6, 2010, Trudeau appeared on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central to speak about 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective.

On December 17, 2013, Trudeau again appeared on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report to talk about the inspiration for his political comedy series Alpha House.

Criticisms and controversies

For more details on this topic, see Doonesbury § Controversies.

Doonesbury has been controversial since its inception. On countless occasions throughout its run, editors have removed the strip from their newspapers over content they judged inappropriate for their readerships. While Trudeau has not always agreed with the reasoning, he has consistently defended editorial prerogative, declining to characterize his strip's removal as censorship. In 2012, a series about a new abortion law in Texas was removed from at least 50 newspapers, generating far more comment and press attention than any other strip controversy in the past.

Media response through the years has been no less contentious. The Saturday Review once voted Trudeau one of the "Most Overrated People in American Arts and Letters", stating that after his hiatus, his comic strip was "predictable, mean-spirited, and not as funny as before." In The Daily Caller, Jim Treacher wrote that Trudeau is a "dinosaur" who is "incapable of writing a character who doesn't sound like Trudeau." Eric Alterman writing in The Nation, however, called Doonesbury, "one of the great intellectual/artistic accomplishments of the past half-century, irrespective of category."

Trudeau's acceptance speech on the occasion of receiving a Polk Award for lifetime achievement stirred controversy. In his speech, Trudeau criticized the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo for "punching downward..., attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons" and thereby wandering "into the realm of hate speech" with cartoons of Muhammad.

Writing in The Atlantic, the journal in which Trudeau had published his speech, political commentator David Frum criticized what he called Trudeau's "moral theory" that calls for identifying "the bearer of privilege," then holding "the privilege-bearer responsible."

Trudeau was labelled a "terror apologist" by the editors of The New York Post for his comments and particularly the venue in which he expressed them, i.e. while accepting Long Island University's George Polk award for lifetime achievement in journalism.


Main article: List of published collections of Doonesbury

Non-Doonesbury publications

  • Hitler Moves East: A Graphic Chronicle, 1941-43 (with David Levinthal), Sheed, Andrews and McMeel, 1977. Library of Congress 76-52888. The cover shows two Wehrmacht motorcyclists. The book relates the story of Nazi Germany's Army Group Centre on the Eastern Front through archival photos and new photography of model soldiers. ISBN 0-8362-0708-4
  • Finding Your Religion: When the Faith You Grew Up With Has Lost Its Meaning, by Rev. Scotty McLennan, HarperSanFrancisco, 1999. Trudeau drew the cover cartoon and wrote the introduction: "If you were twenty-three, and it was 1971, you couldn't make up someone like this, so as an aspiring artist, I didn't try. I simply appropriated him, ordaining him on the spot (so as to fulfill one of his personal goals before he could). And in filling out the character of Scot Sloan, I also borrowed from Scotty's mentor, the Reverend William Sloane Coffin, a campus hero and antiwar activist of near-mythic reputation. But the caricatured likeness was of Scotty himself, and in my mind, it was him I dragooned into service as the 'fighting young priest'..."
  •'s The Sandbox: Dispatches from Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Introduction by G.B. Trudeau, Edited by David Stanford, Duty Officer, Doonesbury Town Hall, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2007, ISBN 0-7407-6945-6 ISBN 978-0740769450. Over 100 blog posts by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, caregivers, and family.
  •'s The War in Quotes, Introduction by G.B. Trudeau, Edited by David Stanford, Duty Officer, Doonesbury Town Hall, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2008. From the cover copy: "A startling account of the Iraq War, told entirely in the words of those who conceived, planned, advocated, and executed it."

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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