Mr. Butts

Mr. Butts

Mr. Butts is a character in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury. When Mike Doonesbury was asked to create an ad campaign aimed at teenage smokers, he suffered a morality crisis, and the hallucinatory Mr. Butts was the result. An eight-foot-tall (2.5 meter) cigarette with a goofy smile, Mr. Butts is the anthropomorphic personification of the tobacco industry. Stylistically he is reminiscent of Zap Comix, as pointed out by J.J. when first described to her by Mike.

At first "Buttsy" only appeared in Mike's dreams, and he took them as a sign of his morality rebelling. But Doonesbury often bends the line between fantasy and reality, and it wasn't long before Mr. Butts was being treated as a real person, interacting with other characters and even testifying before congress.

Butts seems to have a very naive personality when it comes to the product he represents. He honestly can't see that there is any connection between cigarettes and cancer, and he is fully convinced that smoking will help make kids cool. He usually treats his appearances as public service announcements, addressing the audience directly to tell them "good news" about the tobacco industry.

In the real world, Mr. Butts has appeared in an animated anti-smoking commercial (voiced by Billy West), the only television appearance of a Doonesbury character other than the animated special aired in 1977 and the Larry King Live appearance of Duke on 2000-03-13.[1][2] He also appeared on hundreds of trashcans on Santa Monica, California's beaches as part of that city's awareness promotion of their new anti-smoking ordinance in August, 2005.[3]

Mr. Butts is sometimes accompanied by Mr. Jay, a large marijuana joint, along with Dum Dum (a personification of the NRA), and Mr. Brewski (a personification of the liquor industry). Trudeau often uses the appearances of these sidekicks to illustrate his own viewpoints on the legalization of marijuana. Jay is the misfit of the group, being the only illegal member, as well as the only non-fatal one.

Mr. Butts was also a pseudonym (inspired by the Doonesbury character) of a then-anonymous informant who in 1995 sent 4,000 pages of incriminating Brown & Williamson tobacco company documents to researcher Stanton Glantz. The documents were used extensively in litigation against the tobacco industry and were the basis of the book The Cigarette Papers.[4][5]


  1. A Doonesbury Special (1977)
  2. CNN Transcript - Larry King Live: Duke of `Doonesbury' Declares His Presidential Candidacy - March 13, 2000
  3. News Release, 8/4/2005, CCS - City of Santa Monica
  4. Tilting at Tobacco
  5. Exposing Mr. Butts' tricks of the trade
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