GARRY TRUDEAU has been drawing electoral commentary for nearly a half-century, as well as rendering GOP nominee Donald Trump for the majority of those years. And for the “Doonesbury” creator, the current presidential campaign stands out as distinct from any other.
“What I once regarded as harmless buffoonery is in fact dangerously symptomatic,” the left-leaning Pulitzer winner says of Trump today. “Whatever else this election is about, it’s primarily a referendum on mental health.”
Ahead of Election Day, Trudeau — who was satirically imagining a Trump presidency as far back as 1987 — has collected his many jabs and japes at the candidate in the new collection “Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump” (Andrews McMeel).
And ahead of Trudeau’s appearance Monday afternoon at Politics & Prose bookstore in Northwest Washington, The Post’s Comic Riffs caught up with the cartoonist to talk satire — both electoral and general — in 2016:
MICHAEL CAVNA: For many cartoonists, Trump is only a recent satiric bonanza, but you’ve been mining his gray-golden fleece for several decades. Are you still finding new facets of him to skewer, or is it more like listening to the same solid-gold hits of a reunited classic-rock act? What’s your approach in 2016?
GARRY TRUDEAU: No, no new facets — my 30-year survey of Trump in the field makes it pretty clear that nothing’s changed. Since Trump’s need for attention is insatiable, my “approach” has simply been to not miss a news cycle. What has deepened is my understanding of what’s going on. What I once regarded as harmless buffoonery is in fact dangerously symptomatic. Whatever else this election is about, it’s primarily a referendum on mental health.
MC: Hillary Clinton’s been on your radar for decades, too. What is most interesting to you about her now, for the professional perspective of an editorial archer?
GT: Nothing. When you’re obsessed with Trump, which, let’s face it, all of us are, going after Hillary feels like homework. She’s a well-intentioned technocrat, flawed to be sure, and in the interest of fairness, most of the talking heads point out her weaknesses. But they always seize the first opportunity to pivot back to Trump. Except for sex and coffee, he’s all anyone’s thinking about.
MC: What, for you, has been the single most fruitful thing or theme about 2016, from a cartooning aspect?
GT: I know you’re looking for something more substantive here, but I’m afraid it’s the hair. Whenever I sit down to make sense of it, it never fails to engage. It’s an unknowable triumph of weaving, laquering and taxidermy, and I’ll never quite get it right. The coif is my Moby Dick.
MC: You’ve talked about creating comics and streaming TV series in a world of seemingly infinite more platforms — and diversions — than when Doonesbury launched in 1970. On this current landscape, what most fascinates you about the modes of creating and delivering satire in 2016?
GT: I have to admit I love some of the satire in rapid-response tweets. Not enough to actually hunt for it, but the best stuff goes viral. Whenever Trump says something particularly inane, 10 minutes later it’s raining ripostes on Twitter.
MC: If one of your children suddenly wanted to be a satirist tomorrow, where might you start them?
GT: Animation or live-action TV. Maybe graphic novels. I don’t encourage anyone to go into editorial or strip cartooning anymore, because the number of people who can make a living at it just keeps approaching the vanishing point. It saddens me, of course, but mine is hardly the only profession that’s been upended by the digital onslaught.
MC: With Election Day near, a campaign will — presumably — come to an end that has been like none other we’ve seen before. What will you most, and least, miss about Road to the White House 2015-16?
GB: If Clinton wins, I’ll miss the daily outrage. If Trump wins, I’ll miss civilization as we know it. What will I miss least? With all due respect to Nate Silver, I’d rather not be checking FiveThirtyEight every half hour for the rest of my life.