Trudeau Tries Television

By: Dave Astor

Garry Trudeau, in an extremely rare TV interview, appeared Dec. 3 and 4 on ABC’s UpClose with Ted Koppel.

“The last, and only other, sit-down TV interview I did was on a local Boston station in 1971,” the “Doonesbury” creator told E&P Online. “I discovered early that it wasn’t necessary to have a public profile to succeed in my business, so I decided to spare myself the aggravation.”

Why UpClose? “I’m usually up at the hour the show airs [12:05 to 12:35 a.m. EST], and I found myself immediately drawn to it when it debuted last summer,” Trudeau replied. “The conversations have this intimate, coffeehouse feel to them, and I concluded that if I was ever going to do an interview, this was probably as good as it was going to get. Of course, I made no news, Ted didn’t make me cry, and I didn’t make him cry, so technically it wasn’t good television. But I had fun.”

Trudeau did make some interesting comments to Koppel in his soft-spoken manner, which differs greatly from the biting approach he takes periodically in his Pulitzer Prize-winning strip. For instance, Trudeau said a satirist is “not paid to be fair,” noting that if he didn’t stretch the truth, he’d be “just another boring reporter” — repeating a phrase Koppel had just used. The Universal Press Syndicate cartoonist also said the last two years have been a “feast” for satirists, and that “a low tolerance for hypocrisy is part of my job description.”

In addition, Trudeau remembered that George W. Bush “showed great leadership qualities” at Yale University — when deciding how many kegs of brew to order for fraternity parties. “He knew his beer,” deadpanned the “Doonesbury” creator, who entered Yale a couple years after Bush did.

The TV guest noted that America is a country where a cartoonist can criticize a leader with relatively little risk. Trudeau said he accompanied his wife, Jane Pauley, to a White House function and shook hands with President Clinton – who appeared as a waffle in “Doonesbury.” Clinton turned to the King of Morocco, standing next to him, and observed that Trudeau “makes fun of me for a living.” The cartoonist recalled that the king looked at him and seemed to be thinking: “Why isn’t this man in a prison cell?”

Improving Or Declining With Age?

Meanwhile, E&P Online used the occasion of Trudeau’s rare tube time to ask a few insiders about the 32-year-old “Doonesbury.” Some feel the comic is as good or better than during its purported 1970s and ’80s heyday. Others see the strip as “guilty, guilty, guilty” of slippage at a time when “The Boondocks” by Aaron McGruder of Universal is perceived to offer more-pointed commentary.

Scott Stantis, former president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, praised Trudeau for tackling once-taboo topics and making the comic art form “fuller and deeper,” but said the strip has declined to some degree.

“When ‘Doonesbury’ was at its zenith, it could be harsh, yet still seem playful. Lately, instead of a deft hand, it has a mallet,” said Stantis, who works for The Birmingham (Ala.) News and Copley News Service, and also creates “The Buckets” comic for United Feature Syndicate. “Trudeau has been doing the strip forever. Any creative process cannot remain at such a high level.”

But Trudeau’s newspaper list has stayed at the 1,400 level, according to Kathie Kerr, Universal’s director of communications.

Brian Walker, author of The Comics: Since 1945, said: “‘Doonesbury’ continues to entertain me and challenge me,” even though it might not be “as shocking and controversial as people used to think it was.” He noted that the strip remains absorbing chiefly because it features characters readers care about. “It’s richly rewarding to see how the characters develop over time,” said Walker, who works on “Hi & Lois” and “Beetle Bailey” for King Features Syndicate.

“Trudeau achieves his satire through the personalities of his characters,” said cartooning critic-historian R.C. Harvey, which, he added, gives “Doonesbury” more depth than other topical comics.

Harvey and Walker also said Trudeau’s drawing is much stronger now. In the 1970s, Trudeau joked with Koppel last week, “I made the profession safe for bad art.” Now, said Walker, “‘Doonesbury’ is one of the most ambitiously designed strips on the comics page.


Column For Nadine Gordimer

NYTS Signs Nobel-Winning Writer

Nadine Gordimer, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist and political activist, will write a monthly New York Times Syndicate column starting in January.

The South Africa-based Gordimer will discuss politics, race relations, human rights, literature, art, and other topics.


Cartoonists Honor D’Angelo

He Was President Of King Features

Former King Features Syndicate President Joe D’Angelo is the recipient of a Silver T-Square from the National Cartoonists Society (NCS).

Rarely won by a noncartoonist, the honor was presented in New York during the annual NCS holiday party Dec. 7.

“The award is intended to recognize outstanding service to the profession as well as extraordinary service to the Society,” said NCS President Steve McGarry.

D’Angelo was King’s president from 1973 to 1997, and later became chairman of the syndicate and a consultant for the Hearst Corp., King’s parent. He also has served as president of the International Museum of Cartoon Art and the Newspaper Features Council.


Shortz: Long List Of News

Many Puzzling Activities In 2002

The New York Times‘ crossword editor, Will Shortz, whose puzzles go to 300 papers via the New York Times Syndicate, has had a busy year.

Last month, St. Martin’s Press released Will Shortz’s Favorite Crossword Puzzles.

Also, Shortz was recently re-elected chairman of the World Puzzle Federation. And, in March, Shortz directed the 25th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which he founded.

In addition, the number of New York Times Digital users paying $19.95 a year to subscribe to the online versions of Shortz-edited puzzles reached 40,000.

Finally, 60 Minutes recently filmed a segment on Shortz for possible airing in January or February.


Et cetera …

Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services has launched the KRT International site ( for editors around the world. …

AccuWeather redesigned its Web site ( …

“Monkeyhouse” cartoonist Pat Byrnes of Tribune Media Services is engaged to Lisa Madigan, who was elected last month as attorney general of Illinois. …

United Feature Syndicate is offering “Interiors by Design” by designer/author/TV personality Chris Casson Madden. The weekly column is also still distributed by Scripps Howard News Service. …

Perigee published Heloise Conquers Stinks and Stains, a new book by the King Features Syndicate columnist. …

Casey Shaw, USA Weekend creative director and cartoonist, won a Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications. …

“Flash Gordon” cartoonist Jim Keefe of King used guest illustrator Joe Kubert Nov. 10 and John Romita (“Spider-Man”) Dec. 1. …

Syndicated Columnists author Richard Weiner wrote “An Ode to Ann Landers and Dear Abby” (about the legendary Creators Syndicate and Universal Press Syndicate advice columnists) in the fall Public Relations Quarterly.

To see the last 20 “Syndicate World” columns, click here. Subscribers may access previous columns in our archives.

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