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Trudeau: how Doonesbury competes with rapid-response satire

A really good interview over at Slate by Emily Bazelon with Garry Trudeau over the dust up over this week’s abortion series. The whole Interview is worth the time to read for a good insider perspective to the controversy. Here’s a bit from a question about how Doonesbury competes with shows like SNL and The Daily Show.

Slate: Amy Poehler and Jon Stewart agree with you that the idea of an invasive ultrasound is good fodder for humor. Did either of their takes on TV feed into your thinking, or did you get everything you needed from news stories?

Trudeau: I was already well into the writing when I heard that both SNL and The Daily Show had done bits on it. So I checked them out just to satisfy myself that I was doing something a little different.

Back in the day, I didn’t have competition like this. Except for a few tame jokes on late night talk shows, there was nothing like the rapid-response satire that’s so ubiquitous now. I love it all, especially Colbert and Borowitz, but I have had to adjust, trying to avoid ground that is likely to have been well-trod by the time I get into print. The strip has never been quite as timely as I’ve been given credit for, but now I have to be even more circumspect in my choices or the strip will feel stale.

The one advantage I do have over the other guys is the slow, unfurling nature of comic strip storytelling. The reveals take place over a week or two, which can be more impactful than the one-offs of late-night comedy. It’s even more engrossing if I’m using characters readers care about. When B.D. lost his leg during the Battle of Fallujah, the reaction was pretty intense. Longtime readers were more invested than I realized. This week is a little different, as all the characters are stock, last-minute creations. The challenge was to make people sympathize with this nameless young woman.

Community Comments

#1 Joe Engesser
March/16/2012
@ 11:45 am

Sympathizing with the millions of nameless human beings snuffed out in this silent holocaust would make a truly honest and noteworthy storyline. I’m thankful to all the editors who recognize the extremely poor taste of this series and pulled it. Fodder is the “unbiased” mainstream media promoting blatant atrocities under the guise of humor.

#2 Costa Koutsoutis
March/16/2012
@ 6:43 pm

Oft-times necessary medical procedure and mocking unnecessary “medical” requirements before it that are pretty much state-mandated rape = The systematic and purposeful attempt at the extermination of a religious/ethnic group for no other reason than to scapegoat them.

Thanks for clearing that up, Joe.

Trudeau does have an interesting point about “competition,” especially as a guy who’s a few weeks ahead of deadline but still appears in print, ultimately the “last stop” on the train of news and satirical memes. I think that he’s managed to stay away from retrodding on already-covered territory…if anything, an outlet like SNL seems to mine the weekday comedy/satire/meme field for material already done to death.

#3 Gerry Mooney
March/19/2012
@ 3:37 pm

Hey Joe, Santorum could use your help driving his campaign into a ditch…oh wait, nevermind.

#4 Joe Engesser
March/19/2012
@ 8:47 pm

Can’t afford any driving with skyrocketing gas prices!

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