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Colbert says 'Our Cartoon President' offers 'shared catharsis' about Trump

Many around the world are already convinced that Donald Trump is a cartoon character.

So late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert believes the new animated series "Our Cartoon President" will offer some "shared catharsis" by offering humour from the headlines.

Colbert pulled no punches while promoting the show — which premieres with back-to-back episodes this Sunday on CraveTV — at the recent winter TV press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

Asked by one reporter if audiences might be getting tired of all the Trump mockery, Colbert responded: "There's no escaping him. It's like having oxygen fatigue."

It will be a cinch to sustain a weekly Trump cartoon, he believes. "We treat this like it's a documentary crew that's able to go into the White House," he says.

There's no shortage of hilarious characters to draw from, according to writer/showrunner/executive producer R.J. Fried. He calls Trump sons Donald Jr., and Eric the "Beavis and Butt-head" of the series.

"They are so much fun to write for," says Fried. "They could have their own show."

The greatest challenge for the producers, however, was to find a way to keep up with the president. It takes nine months, for example, to bring an average episode of "The Simpsons," start-to-finish, to air. "Corner Gas Animated," coming to CTV in April, follows a similar schedule. But a Trump news cycle could turn around in a few hours.

Fried says the series will feature a "cold opening" that will, thanks to what's known as real-time animation, goof on a headline from that particular week. The rest of the production cycle will go like this: three weeks to write each script, followed by two or three months of production.

The same backgrounds will be used over and over. A limited number of characters will be featured. Beyond that, says Fried, "the show is constantly updating based on if something crazy happens."

Colbert, 53, is old enough to have grown up on cartoon classics. He has fond memories of the irreverent "Rocky and Bullwinkle" series of the '60s as well as the "Looney Tunes."

"For some strange reason I also like Chilly-Willy," he says of the benign little penguin from the Walter Lantz cartoons.

While he imitates Trump on "The Late Show," Colbert won't be doing the president's voice on the new series. That task falls to Jeff Bergman. A modern day Mel Blanc, the 57-year-old Philadelphia native has become the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and other Warner Bros. favourites. Key Hanna-Barbera characters from the '60s live on thanks to Bergman's uncanny take on Fred Flintstone and George Jetson. He also voices recurring characters on several Seth MacFarlane shows, including "Family Guy," and did the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy for years following the death of Paul Frees.

"Basically, we needed a voice that you could live with long term," says Fried, who listened to hundreds of different Trump impressions. What made Bergman's voice stand out, he felt, was that it had "the most humanity within it."

Colbert adds that the "realness" in Bergman's impression "plays so nicely against, what is in reality, cartoonish behaviour by our actual president. The realer you get to him, the more highlighted the inappropriateness of his behaviour."

On "Late Show," Colbert says he makes no attempt to do a genuine impression of Trump.

"I'm doing the spirit of the tweets mostly," he says.


— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press

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