The newly launched Comics Riff blog talks to Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau about the state of satire in America today.
Is satire’s influence on politicians and the electorate any greater or lesser than, say, when “Doonesbury” launched?
I’ve never felt any of us had significant influence. The fear of public ridicule is universal, but I see no real evidence of it moderating behavior. What is different is that satire is now a pervasive part of public life, in part because every move a politician makes can be recorded. And he need not actually do something reprehensible to be vulnerable. A lot of what late-night shows do now is not just found humor — it’s manufactured. A politician can merely scratch his nose, but if the tape is sped up and looped, it can look like he’s ripping his own face off. And any kid can knock this kind of stuff off in his bedroom and throw it up on YouTube. … Satire is no longer in the hands of responsible licensed professionals like me.
Any thoughts on this election year, from a satirist’s point of view?
It’s a beaut, because everyone’s paying attention. But remember, the worst president in U.S. history is still in the White House. For Big Satire to ignore George W. Bush during his final year in office would be foolish — and wildly ungrateful. He’s done so much for our profession, and he may yet have another war in him. We still owe him our fullest attention.