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 New York politician Francis E. Spinner (through his mother). Trudeau is also descendant from 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. Although Trudeau was confident that his major would end up being theatre, he discovered a greater interest in art design. 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 editorial cartoons to the Yale Daily News, where a drawing he did of Yale quarterback Brian Dowling led to the creation of a comic strip for the paper, Bull Tales, the progenitor of Doonesbury. As a senior, he became a member of Scroll and Key. Trudeau did postgraduate work at the Yale School of Art, earning a master of fine arts degree in graphic design in 1973.
In 1970, Trudeau's creation of Doonesbury was syndicated by the newly formed Universal Press Syndicate. Today Doonesbury is syndicated to almost 1,400 newspapers worldwide and is accessible online in association with The Washington Post at doonesbury.com.
In 1975, he became the first comic strip artist to win a Pulitzer, traditionally awarded to editorial-page cartoonists. He was also a Pulitzer finalist in 1990. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1977 in the category of Animated Short Film, for A Doonesbury Special, in collaboration with John Hubley and Faith Hubley. A Doonesbury Special eventually won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Special Prize in 1978. Other awards include the National Cartoonist Society Newspaper Comic Strip Award in 1994, and the Reuben Award in 1995.
He was made a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993. Wiley Miller, fellow comic-strip artist responsible for Non Sequitur, called Trudeau "far and away the most influential editorial cartoonist in the last 25 years."
In addition to his work on Doonesbury, Trudeau has teamed with Elizabeth Swados and written plays, such as Rap Master Ronnie and Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy. In 1988, Trudeau joined forces with director Robert Altman for the HBO miniseries Tanner '88 and the Sundance Channel miniseries sequel Tanner on Tanner in 2004.
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.
Trudeau wrote the political sitcom Alpha House, starring John Goodman. The series 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 and California Representative George Miller.
The pilot for Alpha House was produced by Amazon Studios and aired in early 2013. Due to positive response, Amazon picked up Alpha House to develop into a full series, streaming eleven episodes for its first season. On March 31, 2014 Amazon announced that Alpha House has been renewed for a second season.
While writing Alpha House, Trudeau has put Doonesbury into reruns 6 days a week, producing new strips only for Sundays.
Private life and public appearances:
Trudeau married journalist Jane Pauley in 1980. They have three children and live in New York City.
Trudeau 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.
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.
In 1993, Trudeau was the Baccalaureate speaker at Princeton University.
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 Doonesbury character B.D., and did a 2006 Q&A at Cone's personal blog about his new site, The Sandbox.
Trudeau granted an interview with 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 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:
In 1985, Saturday Review voted Trudeau one of the country's "Most Overrated People in American Arts and Letters," commenting that "The most publicized return since MacArthur's has produced a strip that is predictable, mean-spirited, and not as funny as before."
In 2004, Trudeau made a widely circulated offer of a $10,000 reward (in the form of a gift to the United Service Organizations in the winner's name) for proof that George W. Bush fulfilled his military duties in the 1970s. (See George W. Bush military service controversy for more complete coverage). No one has collected on the offer.
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 Scotty McLennan. Trudeau wrote the introduction and drew the cover cartoon.,
Doonesbury.com's The Sandbox: Dispatches from Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Andrews McMeel Publishing (October 1, 2007), ISBN 0-7407-6945-6 ISBN 978-0740769450. Blogs by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license