In Trump, cartoonists find a poisonous gift

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In Trump, cartoonists find a poisonous gift
US President-elect Donald Trump talks with the media at Trump Tower on December 6, 2016 in New York. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP.

by Thomas Uurbain / with Aurélie Mayembo in Paris

NEW YORK (AFP).- Between his wild gesticulating, linguistic tics, sweeping crest of hair and a complexion that suggests a weakness for tanning beds, US president-elect Donald Trump is a ripe target for comedy.

But many cartoonists, actors and comedians are grappling with how to strike the right tone in lampooning the divisive Republican.

Editorial cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher said that the artist in him sees his work as "playing a role of national therapy."

"When you're the artist, it is exhilarating because there's a rich vein of material," he said.

But "as a journalist, this is going to be unchartered waters. We just finished eight years of no drama Obama and this is going to be melodrama Trump.

"You find it upsetting; you find it destructive."

Kallaugher -- whose work runs in The Economist and The Baltimore Sun newspaper -- has in the past depicted the real estate tycoon as a menacing animal in both publications.

But now that Trump is ascending to the presidency, "you have to be more nuanced," the political cartoonist said.

"You attack his policies; his buffoonery," Kallaugher said.

"You try to kill him with a thousand cuts rather than a single axe to the head."

A comedic shield
While many stateside comedians have entered a period of introspection following the election, caricaturists abroad are also looking to pinpoint the right balance in representing the bombastic reality show host who will now lead a global superpower.

"It's almost too easy," said French cartoonist Plantu, whose drawings appear daily in the Le Monde newspaper.

"What is good for caricaturists is never good for democracy."

Marc Rosenthal, a contributor to the New Yorker magazine and illustrator of the book "A Child's First Book of Trump," said that he finds it "very frightening the way things are going."

"But I'm a big believer in humor as a defense against bad things."

In the first book Rosenthal illustrated, which was written by author and comedian Michael Ian Black, Trump is depicted as a shapeless orange figure akin to a sweet potato.

Rosenthal will likely stick with the same physical representation of the incoming head of state in the pair's second book, slated for a 2017 release.

But the illustrator said he hopes to get serious on "the dangerous right wing stuff."

"Now there's a lot more real things to write about," he said. "It's time to get more pointed and direct in criticism of him, not just poke fun at his orangeness or his personality."

'A wonderful playground'
On the sketch comedy "Saturday Night Live" the business tycoon is impersonated by actor Alec Baldwin, who has channeled the president-elect's strained squint and pouty, twitching lips in his role.

Trump has repeatedly taken aim via Twitter at the late-night variety show -- recently writing that the show was "unwatchable!"

"Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can't get any worse. Sad."

But the president-elect "thrives off the controversy," Kallaugher said, and "likes to live in the swamp of chaos.

"He's already creating Twitter tirades at the slightest provocation."

Kallaugher hopes that with his editorial cartoons he can tap into the segment of Americans who voted for Trump despite having voted for Democrats in the past.

These people, he said, "are still open-minded and will reflect on what is presented to them."

"You don't persuade them at this stage by painting a horrible caricature," he said. "Instead you win them with humor. It's a smorgasbord of attacks that you level."

But though he intends to deepen his approach to covering Trump's politics, Kallaugher said the president-elect's physical characteristics will provide ample fodder.

"I believe that his face will be a wonderful playground."

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

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