5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Doonesbury

Doonesbury has been one of the mostly continually relevant and influential comic strips for decades. But did you know these five facts about the comic?

Today is Garry Trudeau’s birthday, famed cartoonist for Doonesbury. Here are 5 fun facts you didn’t know about the comic strip and the man behind it.



Doonesbury wasn’t always called Doonesbury

Image Via Amazon

During his time at Yale, Trudeau created a comic strip called Bull Tales which served as the precursor to Doonesbury. The comic developed a cult following on campus and was eventually picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate where the comic’s name was switched to what it is known as today: Doonesbury. Trudeau was only 21 years old at the time.


How Doonesbury got its name

Trudeau second from left, Pillsbury far right – Image Via Yale

In an interview with The Guardian, Trudeau described how he came up with the name for his comic strip. The word “Doone” is a sort of boarding school slang for someone who is “a good-natured dufus, a clueless sort without any mean to them.” Trudeau’s roommate at Yale was Charles Pillsbury, the type of guy who fits the description perfectly, so he combined part of Charles’ surname with the word Doone and voila!


Trudeau’s Characters Are Based In Real Life

Photo Via Slate

One of Trudeau’s characters, a drug-fueled journalist named Duke was a caricature of famed Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Apparently, Thompson was not happy about this and once (playfully?) sent an envelope of used toilet paper to Trudeau, threatening to tear his lungs out. In reality, Trudeau actually modeled many of his characters after real-life people. Another character Rick Redfern, a reporter laid off from the Washington Post, was based on Bob Woodward, one of the journalists who broke Watergate.




Doonesbury The Musical

Trudeau took a two-year break from the comic strip to write Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy, a musical that opened on Broadway in 1983. It ran for 104 performances. An original cast recording was released and a companion book including song lyrics and production photos was published as well.


Doonesbury Had Continuity


Image Via CBR

Unlike most comics, Trudeau had his characters age as if they would in real life. When Trudeau returned from his broadway stint, the main characters had also grown slightly, leaving college and starting careers. Throughout the tenure of the stip physically older characters even died, in one instance of a heart attack and another from Alzheimer’s.


Featured Image Via Rolling Stone and CBR