I Don't Think Doonesbury Should be Censored, But I Do Wish It Was Funny Once or Twice a Year.


Ziiing! That's one of the controversial Doonesbury abortion/contraceptive mandate strips that many outlets are deciding not to run this week. And by controversial, I mean about as funny and insightful as a daily Crankshaft strip or a Mary Worth peregrination on milk of magnesia. And despite all the pretense that Doonesbury is a serious venue for serious thought, the strip is about as intellectually daring as a Mark Trail Sunday strip about tidal waves and fauna.

For the record: I think it's totally within the rights of newspapers not to run particular strips whenever they feel like it; that's not censorship, that's editorial oversight.

I am old enough to remember a time when Doonesbury was considered hip and cool and smart and funny. It never was really any of those things; we just had better drugs back then.

More signs that it's all downhill for comic strips after the first one: Here's the original Peanuts strip. There were some that equalled this one, but none of the subsequent ones ever topped it (IMO).

A decade ago in Reason, Jesse Walker wrote of "the decline of Garry Trudeau—and baby-boomer liberalism." A big part of the problem was the safe-as-milk controversies in which Trudeau engaged. Here's a snippet:

Controversy and quality are not the same thing, of course. But there is a direct link between Doonesbury's declining relevance and Doonesbury's declining merit, a common cause for both afflictions. Trudeau's career arc mirrors the evolution of baby-boom liberalism, from the anti-authoritarian skepticism of the 1970s to the smug paternalism of the Clinton years. 

Ten years on, Trudeau is still widely published and suffered all around the country. Good for him and good for the rest of us, who live in a world where censorship is largely a thing of the past and reader empowerment (especially the power to ignore and go elsewhere) just keeps getting stronger every day.

Read Walker's whole piece.

NEXT: Ronald Bailey on Newt Gingrich's Despicable Gasoline Price Promise

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  1. You’ve got forgotten how to alt-text? Perhaps you should ask Lucy about that new-fangled technology.

    1. Nick hates it so I hate it.

      1. Ten years on, Trudeau is still widely published

        That’s odd. He sucks so bad, and people still want to read him? What is wrong with the non-libertarian majority? What don’t they understand about free minds and markets?

        1. Google the phrase “niche market”. It’ll help you understand how a product that few people like can still be successful in a free market.

          If you’re still confused, check back with me — I’ll do my best to walk you through the concepts involved.

        2. He only needs to be popular with newspaper editors for this scheme to work.

          1. What is this “newspaper” about which you speak?

  2. *ack*

    1. Fuck Doonesbury. At least Berke Breathed knew to quit while he was ahead.

      1. Then he started right back up with that horrible sequel to Bloom County. Gagh, I can still taste the bile in my mouth.

  3. What the fuck is Doonsebury?

    1. Hey! I know of it, but mostly from my big brother who loved it. There was one about the government proposing a bunch of clinics for Vietnam vets and Trudeau making fun of the idea via the radio call in show. Guess that was a rare one.

      1. I liked the one about the idealist who went to visit a dictator and had a “peace, love and understanding” dialogue going with the dictator’s translator while the dictator was saying things like, “who is this idiot? Why haven’t you killed him yet?”

        1. And when Duke was envoy to China, talking with Honey, discussing Woodcock as the appointed ambassador:
          ‘Yes, he’s sympathetic to the working man; he’s spent his entire career trying not to be one’

          1. “I was ambassador to China so I understand minorities.”

          2. Okay, that’s a great line.

            Reminds me of Master P when questioned about the authenticity of being a rapper who lived in a mansion instead of the ghetto pretty much saying that the most genuine feeling of someone who lives in the ghetto feels is the desire to get the fuck out.

            1. I think the China line might have been a dig at GHWB.

              1. Then that makes little sense. The heir to Prescott Bush was never at risk to becoming a working man.

        2. The one where Uncle Duke was going to smuggle stuff and Zonker was alarmed that it might be pirated records.

  4. Calvin & Hobbes quit while it was still funny.

    1. I wrote a letter to my state’s largest newspaper about it being canceled. I think my parents might still have that on our fridge.

    2. But Calvin lives on in the back windows of pickup trucks.

  5. Where have you gone Berkeley Breathed? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

    1. Give Berke a break. He put out a lot of fantastic material. He deserves his retirement.

    2. He went vegetarian in the 90s (like so many others) and became kind of insufferable.

      1. Eh, animal rights were part of his thing almost since the beginning of Bloom County. Even when I disagreed with him he usually managed to make it funny. The Mary Kay storyline was brilliant.

        1. Breathed was, certainly in the Bloom County days, reliably funny.

          1. Goddamned celebrity impersonation handles.

            1. I will agree that his quality slid somewhat after the transition to Outland.

              1. Way ahead of the curve on hackers and hacking though!

              2. Outland was still funnier than 99% of other comic strips. But he was smart to retire when he did. Not quite as well timed as Waterson, but still smart.

                1. he was smart to retire when he did


      2. Paraphrased a bit:

        Congressional Rep: How are you holding up with all these cuts in your farm subsidies?

        Farmer: Doing fine!! Growing pot!!

        1. Killaz,

          I think it was more like:

          Congressional Rep: Looks like a farm corn crop! How are you holding up with all these cuts in your farm subsidies?

          Farmer: Taint corn…it’s dope! Doing fine!!

          1. MUch better! I did a search, but couldn’t find the original. Much thanks for the correction.

            1. One of my favorites as well!

              1. Shit I botched it!

                “Looks like a fine corn crop”!

                Not bringing the A comics game today!

  6. “I honestly don’t see any end in sight. I think it’s possible that the show will become too financially cumbersome… but right now, the show is creatively, I think, as good or better than it’s ever been. The animation is incredibly detailed and imaginative, and the stories do things that we haven’t done before. So creatively there’s no reason to quit.”

    1. An interview from before Season 11!

    2. He made his plans clear the night Cosby went off the air.

      There was a non-show bit aired, with Bart and Homer watching the lost episode of Cosby. Bart asks why it was going off and Homer explained that Cosby wanted to end the show while it was still good. Bart replied, “If I ever have a show, I will run it into the ground.”

      Matt G is living up to the words he put in Bart’s mouth.

  7. Thanks for the Mark Trail link, Nick

    The world needs to know that house-sized mutant squirrels will attack in the wake of a radioactive tsunami.

    1. I always kinda liked “Prince Valiant.”

      1. Oh you poor, poor man.

  8. Hey, say what you will about the rest of the Peanuts gang, but Snoopy as the WWI Flying Ace was bad ass.

    1. Lucy with the football provided the central metaphor of my life.

  9. I was all set to mindlessly agree to this article the same way any Reasonable newsgoer would, but then I came upon the unpardonable insult: claiming Crankshaft isn’t funny. I’m not sure what sort of sick joke this is, but I must say: shame on you, Nick Gillespie, shame on you!

    On a side note, I agree that hating on Charlie Brown signaled the beginning of the end of the “Feel-Good” news era. It was surely the first of but many blows to intelligent, witty, entertaining newsprint comics, such as “Calvin and Hobbes” ending due to threats from anti-humor advocates, and culminating with the monstrosity known as “Garfield minus Garfield.” Truly, the modern day can only be known as the “Era of Despair.”

    1. When is the last time the newspaper comics made anyone laugh?

      1. One word:

        1. Two more:

          Far Side

          1. Far Side

            Crocodile on the witness stand, “Of course I killed him in cold-blood, you idiot. I’m a reptile!”

            1. Two polar bears, discussing an igloo:
              “Crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle!”

        2. Dilbert???

          I do admit to getting a snicker or two out of the chutzpah of Adams still recycling the same joke for the past century.

          Engineers are logical, but socially awkward! We get! Move the fuck on already.

          1. Does Adams even write Dilbert anymore? For some reason I thought he sold the rights and the new owner is still trying to milk the concept with truly lackluster results.

          2. “Engineers are logical, but socially awkward! We get! Move the fuck on already.”

            OK, but I find the pointy-haired boss’ attempts to bypass reality amusing.

            1. Fair enough.

            2. Didn’t Dilbert really start down the glide slope of irrelevance after the dotcom bust?

            3. Ratbert’s evilness. Wallie’s work ethic. The boss’ technological cluelessness. (Dilbert gives him an etcha-sketch, tells him it’s a laptop and to turn it upside down and shake it to reboot it. Dilbert gets the boss to craw around on the floor looking for the token that fell off the token ring network.) Dilbert’s mothers lack of respect for the difficulty of Dilbert’s job.

              There’s a lot more to Dilbert than just an engineer’s logic and awkwardness.

      2. The Family Circus never ceases to please.

      3. “Baby Blues” and “Pearls Before Swine” can be lol funny sometimes.

        1. I always enjoy Ziggy. He just reminds me of… me?

          1. Tony Spoof?

    2. I was all set to mindlessly agree to this article the same way any Reasonable newsgoer would

      We see what you did there.

    3. Hey, Garfield Minus Garfield is brilliant….

    4. xkcd.

  10. It never was really any of those things; we just had better drugs back then.

    1. That is where you are wrong.

      1. (holding a polycyclic aromatic…)

        “Snip here, and Legal as Sea Salt!!”

    2. Also leaded gas.

  11. While I normally don’t find Doonesbury’s political strips particularly funny either, I think the various streams he’s done on servicemen and their lives are fabulous, and not political at all.

    1. That is where you are wrong. He built up that one eyed vet kid then used the character to give an authoritative voice to his gun control message. Nothing in Donnesbury is as cynical as the service member stories, and obviously by your comments, they have done a number on you as they were so designed.

  12. Personally, I find this particular strip pretty damn funny. But then, I utilize Planned Parenthood for my contraception (they’re covered by my private insurance), and as a woman I’m kerfuffled by the number of men who think they should have a say about what my use of contraception implies about my “slut” or “not-slut” status.

    Most of Doonesbury, though, not so much the funny these days. There’s no Dubbya to make fun of.

    1. There’s no Dubbya to make fun of.

      Uh, actually there is. He just has a different skin color.

    2. Jane, you ignorant slut.

      1. God, I miss the old SNL days. Thanks for tweaking my nostalgia.

        1. I wished ‘slut’ wasn’t such a swear word. I hate nuns and virgins, and sluts should put on a pedestal for being the compassionate and giving people that they are.

          1. That’s a good point. A real traditional, conservative definition of “slut” would probably include about any woman who has sex with someone they are not married to. So in that sense, women should embrace their sluttiness.

            1. One day, “slut” will be a compliment and nuns will be used for target practice.

              Turn me over, I’m done on this side.

          2. I feel similarly about the pejorative term “cocksucker.” I hold the highest respect for pepple who suck my cock.

        2. If you go back and watch them, it really sucked back then too. But the high points were much higher. And it was fun to guess who was doing what drugs that night.

      2. I often want to say “Jane, you ignorant slut,” but fear that it will be misunderstood.

        Happily there are more good webcomics than one person can follow. None on my list are political.

    3. Shut up, slut.

    4. I’m kerfuffled by the number of men who think they should have a say about what my use of contraception implies about my “slut” or “not-slut” status.

      I’m kerfuffled by the fact you want everyone else to pay for it!

      Don’t care if you fuck and suck coast to coast and back! Pay for your own hobby…or negotiate with your employer to include your birth control in an insurance plan. Don’t have Uncle Sugar get it for you.

      1. I’m kerfuffled by the attempt to tell me what I can or cannot say. If you don’t like being called a slut, don’t be a slut, slut. Also, slut.

      2. She did say that it was covered by her private insurance. The strip didn’t actually say anything about who paid for it either.

        1. Touche Zeb! My reading skills are as bad as my comics recognition skills today!

          Mea Culpa Cowgirl!

      3. You never see them advocating handing out free coupons for sexual services to hobos who can’t pay for it. Funny, how one way this reproductive freedom right goes.

        1. actually, just as there are some countries where the govt. will pay for dopers to get dope, they will also pay for (for example) the handicapped to get sexual services provided to them. not only is prostitution legal, but it can be GOVT FUNDED if you meet certain criteria

          i’m not sure if average reasonoidz social inaptitude would count as a disability.

        2. some countries WILL and DO pay for sexual services, for (for example) the disabled, etc. not only is prostitution legal there, but it can be paid for by the govt.

          not sure if the average reasonoids social ineptitude would count as a disability, though

          1. Good think you have your wife, Morgan Fairchild.

            1. i am ALMOST tempted to post a pict, just because my wife is infinitely hawter than morgan fairchild. plus, morgan fairchild cannot kickbox.

              speaking of that, i am totally psyched to rent that movie starring gina carano (haywire or something like that) as she is insanely smokingly bad-ass hawt

              1. Let me guess, you’re married to Rectal

                1. heh

                  i haven’t seen those pictures, but the description is enuf

              2. Her family owns a casino too! What’s not to like?

                1. darnit!

                  you guyz know much i love poker. great source of income until the stupid WA legislature made online poker a felony, and then of course there was black friday…

                  WA casinos suck because they don’t do no limit at all. indian casinos can do a spread limit, which is ALMOST true no limit, but the rake is much worse than vegas as far as i know

                  i cleaned up in vegas last week.

                  so many people who think watching poker on tv means they can play it

                  it’s incredibly fishy, especially at low stakes tables

                  free money

      4. Here’s a great way to stop the funding of contraceptives. All men should refuse to fuck any females using subsidized contraceptives. I know this will work!! (I am NOT in favor of subsidizing contraceptives at all. I just was chuckling at the thought of righteous libertarian (or any political-bent) men turning down promiscuous, indiscriminate sex on political principle to be funny…)

    5. “There’s no Dubbya to make fun of.”

      There sure is an BHO to make fun of, and Trudeau can’t seem to find any humor there.
      To be honest, I’d say Trudeau was washed up the day Nixon resigned. He needed Nixon to kick around.

      1. I remember there were a few good Reagan jokes.

      2. Wait, who’s BHO? I get all my news from Doonesbury; so I figured we were in year 4 of the Sarah Palin presidency.

    6. I don’t think the word “slut” should be an insult. Women should be able to have as much sex with as many men as they please and I wouldn’t look dis-favorably on them for it (unless they were my wife or GF).

      But I don’t think they should go before congress to complain about their employer not covering their birth control. I find that behavior far worse than being a “slut.”

      1. Women should be able to have as much sex with as many men as they please and I wouldn’t look dis-favorably on them for it

        That much, at least, is under your control.

      2. “…go before congress to complain about their employer not covering their birth control. I find that behavior far worse than being a “slut.”

        Ding Ding Ding….you win the thread veemee.

      3. Hey sashimi, what about your daughter? I mean I agree with you about slutting out, but the whole daughter thing is usually where I find men to draw the line. For some reason, dudes go ape shit thinking about their daughters having promiscuous sex.

    7. Are you demanding free contraceptives too?

  13. It’s just hard to be funny for a long time. SNL, Doonesbury, Dilbert, Bloom County, etc., like professional athletes, just don’t understand that it is better to leave the game while still respected.

    Then there’s Al Franken …

    1. Here’s a question: Has “The Simpsons” gone on too long?

      1. Yes.
        But it’s still funnier than Family Guy ever was.

        1. Whoa, whoa, first season Family Guy was pretty good. “Go Cyborg!!!”

    2. Wait, you can’t include Bloom County in that list. Breathed knew it was time and hung up the gloves before it went to crap, unlike the other examples.

      1. Ok, scratch Bloom County from the list.

    3. Come to think of it, The Wizard of Id still gives me a chuckle now and then.

    4. Then there’s Al Franken

      Saw him in Trading Places the other day. This clown is a senator?

      Oh, wait, I guess that’s not funny at all.

      … Hobbit

      1. He’s funnier as a Senator than he ever was as a comedian. Most comedians start funny and then get old and cranky, eventually turning nasty and bitter. Al Franken started out nasty and bitter.

        1. I watched some old SNL with Franken on. And he was not funny. It’s like he’s the straight man and he’s missing half his act.

  14. It never ceases to amuse me how hippies went from protesting the Vietnam War to sucking up to the same government who started it. The saddest part is they are the status quo, yet still pretend to be rebellious and anti-authority.

    1. The original hippies were nuts, but they were anti-authoritarian. But that didn’t last long. Perhaps it is because I grew up around a lot of aging hippies, but I still have a soft spot for them.

      1. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t exposed to aging hippies until I was in my mid-twenties and I have nothing but contempt for them.

        1. the original hippies were behind the berkeley free speech movement

          now, they are in charge AT berkeley and working vigorously to oppress free speech via campus speech codes.

          ditto – pretty much everywhere else on campus, with the exception of BYU

    2. What happened to all the Afghanistan/Iraq war protestors? Guess the counter-culture is afraid to rock the boat now that their token negro is in office. Or more likely they are afraid to get their teeth kicked in by OweBlamer’s thugs. Urkel is one mean dude.

      1. Urkel is a mama’s boy. It’s his Chicago machine friends who are the real meanies.

    3. protesting the Vietnam War

      OK, let me tell you something. It wasn’t just the hippies.

      Picture yourself as a high school student in the late 1960’s. If you can’t finagle your way into school then you’re cannon fodder on the way to Viet Nam. Those are your options. You might be able to knock some chick up or get a cushy job to protect you but not everyone who didn’t want to sent off to die was a “hippie”.

      … “Dammit!” Hobbit

  15. I remember as a young lad laughing my ass off at Don Martin cartoons.

    1. Poit!

  16. Day by Day is still great

    1. If I was a conservative who was into porn, I’d read The Handmaid’s Tale and shush anyone who tried to tell me it wasn’t a documentary.

      1. Natasha Richardson was a piece back then.

  17. Trudeau’s so not sexist, he used a different body model, hairstyle, and face shape for each picture of the womb-man, even though he only knows how to draw one face. That’s how not-objectifying-this-slut he is. To the point of incompetence. For the ladies.

  18. That Peanuts strip is hate speech.

  19. I know I am old because, when I look at television and movie writing, comic strips and stand-up comics, it just seems like the quality has dramatically degraded during my lifetime. The creativity just seems to be dying.

    1. I’m just the opposite. Most movies before the 1970’s bore the piss out of me as they writers seemed to care little about integrating the exposition into the narrative. Three studios in Hollywood were the only game in town and behaved like a utility monopoly.

      1. Yeah, like I said, I know I am getting old although I do find anything before 1970 pretty lame as well. Things improved a lot when movie dialog got less stilted and artificial and when some realistic dirt and grime was added to sets and costumes. It’s hard to suspend disbelief when a working auto mechanic doesn’t even have a smudge of grease on him.

        1. Shmenge makes a good point below. There are still plenty of good writers out there, but they are also prone to be more interested in the possibilities of long series where more intricate stories can be told than what is allowed in a 90 minute format.

      2. Spoken like someone who’s only seen Casablanca. Suggest you spend a little more time examining your head.

        1. Don’t project on my dime, Paps. The golden age of Hollywood is bullshit wrapped up and sold to you like it was prime rib.

      3. I reserve part of my Netflix quota for old movies, because of the occasional gem. In particular, they don’t make screwball comedies anymore (e.g. Libeled Lady, 1936; Love Crazy, 1941).

    2. I would say television is better than it’s ever been, what with Breaking Bad, Justified, Mad Men, Parks and Rec, Game of Thrones, etc. Not to mention older defunct shows like the Wire, the Shield, Sopranos or Deadwood. There’s lots of excellent shows out there, but not on network TV.

      I agree about the rest though.

      1. Luther, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Sons of Anarchy, Friday Night Lights, Archer, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, Walking Dead…etc., etc.

      2. Better Off Ted, Pushing Daisies, My Name Is Earl, Veronica Mars, Day Break, Invader Zim, Arrested Development, Coupling, Firefly

        Incidentally, in ~2002 I watched the whole run of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and was surprised at how tedious the animations had become since the first time around.

        1. I don’t suppose your intake of entertainment chemicals has dropped off since the first time you watched?

    3. when I look at television and movie writing, comic strips and stand-up comics, it just seems like the quality has dramatically degraded during my lifetime.

      you’re insane, at least with respect to television. This is practically television’s Golden Drama Age. There are so many good shows that one can’t even keep up with them.

  20. Controversy and quality are not the same thing, of course.

    The Hell!

  21. I like to read Sally Forth when Ted is talking to Aria in hopes an affair will brew. Otherwise, I ignore it. It is amazing how long that strip can dwell on a single subject. I slipped it through on a day in September when she was talking about inviting her mother to Thanksgiving. A month later that conversation was still going on.

  22. Piranha Club, anyone?…..n/Piranha/
    Not a single sympathetic character.

  23. The Peanuts is amazing. Probably the best comic strip of all time, with a surprising amount of pathos.

    The only thing that sucked was Rerun. What an unnecessary character.

    1. I see what you did there.

    2. Totally agree. The appeal was just in seeing kids that were cynical beyond their years interact with each other. And the fact that most of them were such a dick to a decent guy like Charlie Brown accurately reflects the way kids really are.

      1. I agree. The good ones were all variants of the initial entry shown here. But there were fewer and fewer of those over time, and none after about the 1st decade.

        I think he just ran out of material. Paradoxically, the changes made his strip much more popular. Different audience, though.

        1. Snoopy vs. The Red Baron never got old, though.

          1. I always liked the ones where Snoopy pretends he’s a vicious stalking animal or a snake or such.

            1. or a vulture

          2. It never got old, but it never got good AFAIK.

      2. I love the whole “kids are cruel, beasts” theme. It’s so anti-Rosseau “noble savage” bull shit and it’s basically the premise for South park.

  24. Just heard a hilarious story. Bobblehead dolls of John Wilkes Booth have just been pulled from the Gettysburg gift shop.

    What, too soon?

    1. Does bobblehead Lincoln’s head have a hole in the back?

    2. We’re already deconstructing JFK. You’re 100 years too late.

  25. Ziggy says “The New Yorker is stealing my cartoons.” Seinfeld had the funniest take down on pretentious cartoons.

    1. my wife is a slut

      1. Now that’s a complaint!

      2. Could you have her give a pep talk to my wife/

  26. Milkman Dan is always good for a laugh.

    1. Red Meat has faded a bit but the Milkman Dan strips still rock.

  27. I had the strangest dream the other day that I was writing a three panel comic strip. The comic was about a late middle-aged campaign manager and his adoring but serially unfaithful wife. He was currently working on a relatively small local campaign, but his heyday was in the 90’s working on the Clinton campaign. Art style was Berkely Breathed-ish. Anybody ever seen a comic strip like that? It was really vivid.

  28. I Don’t Think Doonesbury Should be Censored, But I Do Wish It Was Funny Once or Twice a Year.

    92 comments and no joke about this headline wrt Friday Funnies? Son, I am disappoint.

  29. Axe Cop is brilliant
    Not sure if Achewood is still going regularly.

  30. This is like the worst chat room ever.

  31. I am old enough to remember a time when Doonesbury was considered hip and cool and smart and funny.

    Geez Nick. You don’t look a day over 59.

    1. Nick Gillespie – the Keith Richards of the commentariat.

  32. Doonesbury? Is that still around?

  33. Doonsbury was in the Daily Lobo during the late 1970’s when the Duke character (representing Hunter Thompson) was running amok. As an HST fan it was howlingly funny.

    Leftist boilerplate gets old after awhile. He should have retired long ago.

    BTW, spot on about Bloom County and Calvin. Genius.

    … Hobbit

  34. Doonesbury was good up until the early 80’s. All I can think is that when he took that long vacation during the Reagan years he was replaced with his evil twin from the Talentless Dimension.

    1. I liked the representation of Quayle as a talking feather.

  35. Civilization ended on the day the last “Born Loser” strip was published…

    1. Eh? The Born Loser was in my paper this Sunday.

  36. I miss “Makin’ It”.

    Get a job!
    Get a tan!

  37. Proud owner of the compleat Calvin and Hobbes and Dilbert (which was still top-flight into the early ’00s, BTW.

    Must Google now for compleat Bloom County.

  38. It Really makes you wonder, who comes up with all that stuff.

  39. Where have you gone, Gary Larson? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo.

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