“BOTH CHAPLIN and Trump are iconic clowns,” New Yorker cover artist Barry Blitt told Comic Riffs last year, when describing his political spoof of the silent comedian’s classic film “Modern Times.”
Once again, with the magazine’s latest cover unveiled Thursday, Blitt is rendering President Trump as a cartoon buffoon who is still stymied and embarrassed by moving parts.
For the new cover, titled “Thumbs-Up,” Blitt employs a visual callback to when the president-to-be descended a Trump Tower escalator during the event to announce his run for the White House.
In the wake of Monday’s controversial Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Blitt’s visual metaphor depicts Trump as falling face-first at the bottom of the escalator — yet still giving the thumbs-up sign as if everything’s great, terrific, the most fantastic we’ve ever seen.
Blitt has created iconic political covers for more than a decade, including his depictions of the Bush Oval Office overwhelmed by floodwaters shortly after Hurricane Katrina (“Deluged”) in 2005, and the Obamas as a radicalized, dap-happy couple (“The Politics of Fear”) in 2008. Yet Trump has especially emerged as a consistent character in his New Yorker work — a fleshed-out take of the president as a man constantly battling the laws of physics and ways of political machinery.
As Blitt has told The Washington Post: “I’m sort of attacking him fresh each time, visually.”
The new cover critiques not only Trump’s stumbling performance in Helsinki but also the contradictory cross-messaging by the White House in the days since — as the verbal pratfalls abound over whether the president trusts Putin or the U.S. intelligence community more on the question of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
That art harks back to the “Modern Times” cover, when Blitt said that “the iconic Little Trump character struggles to survive in a world fraught with calamities of his own making at every turn. Alas, his big red clown tie getting caught repeatedly in the works.”
Blitt told the New Yorker that he relishes rendering Trump as physical comedy. The artist has drawn Trump as belly-flopping into an electoral pool; as a political lightweight of a butterfly flitting about Putin; and as a deboarding plane passenger tugging a publicly oversharing Donald Trump Jr. by the ear.
“Half of this gig — drawing topical cartoons — is about saving some absurd or iconic moment and then bringing it up at an unexpected or odd time,” Blitt told the New Yorker. “You can expect that soccer ball that Putin gave Trump to appear in an image in a year or two, probably.”
New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly liked Blitt’s cover because of its one-two satiric punch.
“It’s a physical relief to see Trump fall flat on his face, to see the puffery deflated–it allowed me to exhale,” Mouly told The Post. “What’s funny isn’t to see someone fall — that’s painful. But the thumbs-up gesture that he gives as he hits the floor is such a pitch-perfect representation of what we’ve been experiencing for the past three years that one explodes with laughter.”
Here is some previous Blitt art featuring Trump:
This post has been updated.