Posted by: Tom Owen | September 3, 2009

Tee Time in Berzerkistan: A Doonesbury Book (2009) – Garry Trudeau, SPS 1966

Tee Time in Berzerkistan: A Doonesbury Book

Biographical Notes (adapted from Wikipedia)
Garretson Beekman Trudeau (born July 21, 1948) is an American cartoonist, best known for the Doonesbury comic strip.

Trudeau was born in New York City, the son of Jean Douglas (née Moore) and Francis Berger Trudeau. He is the great-grandson of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, who created the world-famous Adirondack Cottage Sanitorium for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis at Saranac Lake, New York State. 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.

Raised in Saranac Lake, Garry Trudeau attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. He enrolled in Yale University in 1966 and later became a member of Scroll and Key. Garry was confident that his major would end up being theatre, but he discovered a greater interest in art design. A drawing by Trudeau of famous Yale quarterback Brian Dowling for the Yale Daily News led to the creation of a comic strip for the paper, Bull Tales, the progenitor of Doonesbury. Garry continued his studies with postgraduate work at the Yale School of Art, earning his M.F.A. in graphic design in 1973.

In 1970, Garry’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 Slate Magazine at In 1975, he became the first comic strip artist to win a Pulitzer, traditionally awarded to editorial-page cartoonists.

He married the journalist Jane Pauley in 1980. They have three children – Ross, Rachel, and Thomas – and live in New York City.

Tee Time in Berzerkistan is the latest collection of Doonesbury strips, with a release date scheduled for October 20, 2009.

Doonesbury is one of the most recognizable examples of political satire in the world.  However, most people aren’t aware that its name has roots in St. Paul’s slanguage – in the 1960’s, the word “doone” described a clueless buffoon.  (The other half of the title comes from Pillsbury, the last name of his Yale roommate.)  Characterized by witty political criticism, pop-culture references, and the occasional crossing over into the surreal, it has become a newspaper institution over the last thirty years.

Image: Wikipedia.

Image: Wikipedia.

The strip was originally about students at Yale, under the fictional name Walden College.  Main characters included Mike Doonesbury, the lovable everyman; his roommate B.D., the jock quarterback; Zonker Harris, the herbally-minded hippie; Boopsie, B.D.’s stereotypically blonde girlfriend; and Uncle Duke, a parody of Hunter S. Thompson.  As the story progressed, so did the characters – after spending some time living at the Walden Commune together in the seventies, characters eventually entered the real world.  Doonesbury is also noted for using real political and cultural figures in the strip instead of merely symbolically depicting them.

The title comes from the 50-hole golf course in the East European state of Greater Berzerkistan, built in a single night by persecuted ethnic groups.  Uncle Duke, who evolved from a Rolling Stone editor to a shady, behind-the-scenes figure of political corruption, is representing the U.S. in negotiations with president-for-life Trff Bmzklfrpz (pronounced “Ptklm”).  Since Berzerkistan borders Iran, Bmzklfrpz would be a good leader to have in the U.S.’s pocket – and Duke has no trouble spinning the state’s obvious history of genocide.

Another notable storyline is how traditional press is becoming increasingly involved in online media.  With newspapers going bankrupt, Rick Redfern, a longtime reporter at the Washington Post, is fired.  He heads to the internet as a blogger, but faces stiff competition from Roland Hedley, a Twitter-obsessed reporter who writes inane and narcisisstic posts.

Other topics covered are B.D. recovering from the loss of his leg in the Iraq war, race in Washington, Clinton administration alumni, and general chaos.  This is Doonesbury at its finest.


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