Trudeau, Garry

▪ American satirist
in full  Garretson Beekman Trudeau  
born July 21, 1948, New York, N.Y., U.S.

      satirist whose literate, sophisticated comic strip Doonesbury reflected American social and political life during the late 20th century.

      Born into a wealthy family, Trudeau attended Yale University, receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1970. At Yale, his comic strip Bull Tales—the precursor to Doonesbury—appeared in the Yale Daily News and quickly developed a cult following. Influenced by Jules Feiffer, the liberal Village Voice cartoonist, and Walt Kelly, the creator of the comic strip Pogo, Trudeau utilized situational humour and complex characterization for comic effect; the deliberate, subtle pacing of the strip represented a departure from traditional daily cartoon style, which emphasized punch lines and simple jokes. Bull Tales was picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate in 1970 and began appearing in newspapers nationwide under the name Doonesbury. Trudeau was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1975, and the strip enjoyed wide readership and critical acclaim.

      Doonesbury included a large cast of appealing and extensively developed central characters—such as the good-natured everyman Michael Doonesbury, the aging hippie Zonker Harris, the liberal talk-show host Mark Slackmeyer, and the feminist attorney Joanie Caucus—who were rough composites of Trudeau and people he encountered during the 1960s and '70s. A number of characters were loosely based on actual public figures; Reverend Sloan, a liberal campus chaplain, was inspired by the Yale theologian William Sloan Coffin, Jr., and the drug-addled outlaw journalist Duke was a caricature of the radical writer Hunter S. Thompson. Public officials, entertainers, and media figures were frequently lampooned in the strip, often to devastating effect. Trudeau satirized politicians from across the political spectrum, but he approached highly charged issues such as the Vietnam War, gay rights, and cigarette smoking from a consistently liberal perspective.

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Universalium. 2010.

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