Colbert’s Trump cartoon series features president with shades of Homer Simpson

February 9, 2018

“We are one year into my presidency, and it’s time to finally admit that I am absolutely crushing it.”

So proclaims animated President Donald Trump to open the premiere of “Our Cartoon President,” Showtime’s half-hour comedy, created by Stephen Colbert and his “Late Show” executive producer Chris Licht, that kicks off a 10-episode run Sunday evening.

The “satirical view of the president, his family and his inner circle when the cameras are off,” as Licht describes it, was born of the writers thinking about documentarylike access: What if a camera crew were invited to follow Team Trump to both wings of the White House, recording oddball moments even more faithfully than Michael Wolff did?

The striking result is that, although lines such as Trump’s “crushing it” are meant as satire, this cartoon president shows some warmth. Trump might be the butt of venomous barbs five nights a week on “The Late Show,” but for the sake of a narrative comedy, Colbert’s cartoon Trump is often a yellow-orange buffoon who would not be entirely out of place on “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” or “The Flintstones.”

Much like Homer Simpson, this cartoon Trump seems most comfortable when binge-eating, yelling at the TV (in this case, “Fox & Friends”) and operating perilously close to nuclear buttons.

One reason for the character’s warmth is the voice behind him. Jeff Bergman, who has voiced Homer and Fred Flintstone on “Family Guy,” provides a lived-in delivery that does not steer into over-the-top, Alec Baldwin-like parody.

“R.J. really drove that train,” Licht says of R.J. Fried, his fellow “Cartoon President” executive producer, as well as showrunner. “It was a big discussion actually, but at the end of the day, he actually sounds like Trump and not a caricature of Trump.

That conceit of choosing character over caricature drives the entire series, says co-executive producer Tim Luecke, who is also lead animator on “The Late Show.”

Still, the key to building their cartoon president, Luecke says, was to mine the comedic contrast between “the gravity of the office” andthe “impish, cartoonish destructive force that doesn’t seem to be able to hold on to a single thought.”