< Teasing Your Book on the Funny Pages

Transcript

Friday, September 16, 2011

BOB GARFIELD:

This is On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.

In the spring of 2010, author Joe McGinniss made headlines when he decided to move into a vacant house next door to Sarah and Todd Palin in order to write a book about them. Here's Todd Palin talking about McGinniss on the reality TV show Sarah Palin's Alaska.

TODD PALIN:

Our summer fun has been kind of taken away from us because of a--a new neighbor nextdoor who's writing a hit piece on my wife. I mean, life's about being productive but these people want to - seek and destroy.

BOB GARFIELD:

The Palins responded to McGinniss' presence by building a 14-foot fence. Meanwhile, in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury, the fictional FOX News reporter Roland Hedley moved in next door to McGinniss and began watching his every move.

Now the real world and the world of Doonesbury have collided, as Trudeau has gotten first serial rights for Joe McGinniss' book "The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin". And this week he worked excerpts into the narrative of the comic. Garry, welcome back to the show.

GARRY TRUDEAU:

Thanks very much, Bob.

BOB GARFIELD:

So let's talk about the mechanism you used to make McGinniss' book "The Rogue" fit within the, the framework of the Doonesbury strip and you do it through your character Roland Hedley, who is a FOX News reporter. What's his [LAUGHS] brief with respect to "The Rogue"?

GARRY TRUDEAU:

Well, he acquires the manuscript for ten dollars from someone who has no idea of what its value might be in the media market and takes it to his boss at FOX and proposes that he tweet its contents. And his boss, Roger, counsels him to make sure that he's got Sarah's back because Sarah Palin is, of course, a FOX contributor. So his challenge is to reframe the contents of the book in such a way that puts her in the best possible light, and that turns out to be a huge challenge for him.

BOB GARFIELD:

To spin McGinniss' revelations into something that, that redounds to the benefit of Sarah Palin.

[OVERTALK]

GARRY TRUDEAU:

Right. In terms of finding the comedy in it, that was probably the best approach. And I can't really justify doing it if I can't make it funny. That is sort of the agreement I have with readers.

BOB GARFIELD:

You have described the manuscript as an embarrassment of riches for a cartoonist, right?

GARRY TRUDEAU:

Palin is in an elite club of, of public figures that cartoonists and comedians just can't stay away from. I would put in that club Dan Quayle and Donald Trump, somebody whose aspirations and grandiosity just outstrip what's possible in the real world.

It's almost impossible for someone in my line of business to resist.

So having this manuscript, if I hadn't done something with it, it would have been professional malpractice.

BOB GARFIELD:

The McGinniss book got slaughtered by Janet Maslin in The New York Times because she said it was petty and gossipy and often uncorroborated, and maybe most indicting, very thin on the very salacious material that it seems to, to promise.

GARRY TRUDEAU:

The reason that I considered the book was that Joe McGinniss has written some classics of investigative reporting through the years, and - and this isn't a question of me taking somebody with an axe to grind or somebody without a reputation and fanning the embers and making more of it than should be. This is somebody whose book is going to be widely considered in the next week.

You know, I had a choice to make. Am I going to take this opportunity to comment on the book before everybody else or with everybody else?

BOB GARFIELD:

The Chicago Tribune and, and a couple of other papers declined to run the strip this week because they say it does not, on fairness grounds, meet their journalistic criteria for evenhandedness. What's your take on that?

GARRY TRUDEAU:

Well, I'm a cartoonist so I'm by definition unfair, I mean, that's what satire is. And for the first 25 years of my career, I was routinely thrown out of newspapers. And every editor has that judgment call to make, and I've never second guessed them on that.

You know, I, I think that I got the balance right in the six strips that appear this week. The first three are about Sarah in office and her behavior in, in office. Today's strip about Glen Rice —

BOB GARFIELD:

He's the former NBA star –

GARRY TRUDEAU:

Right.

BOB GARFIELD:

- whom the book alleges had a, a fling with young Sarah Palin 24 years ago.

GARRY TRUDEAU:

Well, it should be said, as does Glen Rice.

BOB GARFIELD:

And that's all you got for me, Garry, you know? An affair 25 years ago with a basketball player?

[OVERTALK]

GARRY TRUDEAU:

[LAUGHS] It's not all I got for you. I have –

[BOTH AT ONCE]

BOB GARFIELD:

Who cares?

GARRY TRUDEAU:

I have, I have a, a half-a-dozen strips, and you can decide how important each of them are and appraising. The, the following two strips on Friday and Saturday involve her family life. Well now normally, I think most people say well, stay away from the family. Certainly, Palin would prefer us to stay away from the family, except on her terms:  Watch my reality show in which I trot them all out.

BOB GARFIELD:

One final thing on the issue of the liberal media, predictably attacking Sarah Palin, yet again. Do you expect that at Tea Party rallies all around the country, people will be brandishing newspapers with the Doonesbury strip in them and citing them as seven days of smoking guns about bias in the media and the destruction of American values?

GARRY TRUDEAU:

[LAUGHS] I, I have no idea. I mean, I’ve — [LAUGHS] you're talking to somebody who's receive hate mail for 40 years. So professionally, I, I have a fairly thick skin or I wouldn't be in this business.

But the Sarah Palin week is actually one week in a six-week story involving half-a-dozen characters. So, you know, I've already written the week that follows. I'll, I’ll  move on, and I'm sure everyone else will too.

BOB GARFIELD:

Garry, thank you so much.

GARRY TRUDEAU:

Well, my pleasure, Bob.

BOB GARFIELD:

Garry Trudeau is the author of Doonesbury.

[MUSIC/MUSIC UP AND UNDER]