Hey, Let’s See You Sit Next to a Comic Strip Legend for Eight Hours and Stay Quiet

I’m on a flight sitting next to Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau and I have a lot of questions.

Questions about how Doonesbury started.  Questions about the Doonesbury strips he liked the most.  Questions about the strips he liked least.

For me, this is out of character, for I make it a point to never talk to the person sitting next to me on a flight.  Especially a long flight.  And this one qualifies.

We are flying from Washington, D.C. to Frankfurt, Germany and then on to Afghanistan.  We are on a USO trip to visit the troops in Kandahar.

But this is Garry Trudeau.  And I have questions.

Making my mouth move even more freely are the Sierra Nevada beers I pounded at the United Airlines lounge just before getting on the flight.  (My goal was to get so drunk that my buzz would carry me through the next seven days of alcohol-free Afghanistan.)

Before I know it, three hours have passed and I’m still asking questions.

That’s when Garry puts his index finger to his lips and says, “Shhh.  We should probably keep our voices down.  The guy on the other side of me is trying to sleep.”

That’s when I notice we are the last two guys with our overhead lights on.  We are the last two guys awake.

But that doesn’t stop me.  So I keep firing away.  Only quieter.

Questions about what it’s like to win a Pulitzer.  Questions about what inspires him.  Questions about any regrets he may have.

And then it happened.  I don’t know exactly when it happened.  Or how.  All I know is that I had asked him this question about regrets and then looked over at this legend of syndicated cartooning and saw it with my own two bloodshot eyes.

Garry Trudeau was wearing noise-canceling headphones.

Because of me.

The guy he had chosen to sit next to.

At least now I knew one of his regrets.

24 thoughts on “Hey, Let’s See You Sit Next to a Comic Strip Legend for Eight Hours and Stay Quiet

  1. We learn in many ways, observation and conversation are two key methods. When we meet an icon, or hero, it’s hard not to push, especially given the coincidence of your seating on the plane.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself,and perhaps he will be your mentor, and you his protege by the end of this trip.

    In the meantime, Garry had a really nice piece on CBS Sunday Morning. Perhaps you can watch it via hulu.com.

    Safe travels on your USO trip, and thanks for meeting with our troops.

    In conclusion, I have a Zebra on my desk in honor of your column. I have lots of questions for you, perhaps you could share me your next flight plan itinerary and seat assignment? Just kidding…

  2. How on earth do cartoonists entertain the troops? Is like a combination of Pictionary and mime? You draw one panel and put it up and point to it. Then you draw another and point to it. Then you draw the punchline, point to and mimic laughing? Or do you just put one strip up and wait for the laugh (and then explain exactly why they should have laughed)?

    Or does Rat just come out and punch them in the head preemptively?

  3. @CilleyGirl, I’m usually not one to take offense, and I’m definitely not one who comments often. However, your implications that 1)our troops are stupid (because they need the jokes explained to them), and 2)that that the men and women serving us so bravely deserve to get a punch in the head, forced me to say something. If you were only joking, I’m sorry, but it was at the very least off-color, inappropriate and insensitive, if not downright insulting both to Stephan and to the troops.

    Thanks, Stephan Pastis, for visiting the troops, and I wish you a safe time while you are there!

  4. I don’t care how cartoonists entertain the troops. The fact that they do it is enough.

    Thank you, Mr. Pastis, et al.

  5. I just received a beautiful and huge anthology of Doonebury strips, dating back to the start in 1970. It includes commentary by Trudeau, which might be helpful. All told, it includes 1800 strips! It retails for $100, but is much less from the big boy online vendors. Because I give a Rat’s A_ _, I will lookward to buying a major anthology of your cartoons one day.

  6. The best part of the trip? Sierra Nevada ale (great taste in ale) the worst part? Gary Trudeau. Doonesbury was great….for about 3 years…in the 1970’s. Since then ? Blah,blah, blah….

  7. @JJov I also very few times comment on these but your comment had to be addressed…Have you ever read this strip?? What CilleyGirl said was right in line with Stephan’s humor and I never got she meant troops were stupid and had to explain things to get the joke. Comics are meant to be read panel by panel so correct me if I am wrong but what she said was funny along with that Rat punches everyone and is not discriminatory or meant as hateful toward the troops. Along with being tired of stupid people I am tired of up tight people who can’t get or take a joke; those are the ones Rat likes to punch.

    And Stephan your humor is awesome keep it up. You can read and mime them panel by panel for me any day!

  8. @JJov I think you may have misinterpreted what CilleyGirl was saying. I didn’t get the feeling she was insulting the troops, but instead making fun of the cartoonists. “Pastis, your jokes are so lame that you have to explain them to your audience and then tell people to laugh.” Just some light teasing at the sake of the cartoonists.

    Stephan, stay safe and know that your visit will be 100% appreciated!

  9. Get after Lukovich from the AJC. Several pics from your trip were posted in the Atlanta paper and just about every strip author was id’d except you of course. Make sure you get your props for making the trip.

    Thanks again for taking time away for the troops. Safe travels to you and all on the tour.

  10. Well done, you! I know the troops will appreciate your visit, and I am sure Guard Duck will return with a number of new ideas for keeping the Pearls neighborhood safe for democracy.

  11. Pastis, you owe it forward. Next time you meet a guy or gal who does cartoons in her local school paper and really admires your work, you are on the hook for at least three hours of pestering questions.

  12. i think cilleygirl meant it in the sense that cartoonists entertain through their comic strips. she’s just making a joke pertaining to how they’re going to entertain without their usual medium.

    geez… can i have the diamond from your butt? must be huge. :p

  13. Thank you everyone, that is what I meant — not the troops are stupid part, but the rest of it. It’s like a ventriloquist who doesn’t bring the puppets. I would have made the same comment even if he was scheduled to present at a Mensa conference. (Well, there would be a whole ‘nother set of comments if Mensa asked him to speak….)

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