Feed drop time! We’re on a break from the show as we prepare for SquadCast’s New Studio and Backstage and work on revamping the SquadCast podcast. So, we’re bringing you carefully curated feed drops from some of our favorite SquadCasters.
This week, we’re featuring the work of SquadPoddder Liz Sumner. Liz is the host of I Always Wanted To. She’s also a producer on Unpacking Peanuts, which is the show we’re featuring today!
Here’s what the show is about
Unpacking Peanuts is the show where three cartoonists take an in-depth look at the greatest comic strip of all time — “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz.
Also in this episode
- Written and produced by Arielle Nissenblatt
- Mixed and designed by Vince Moreno Jr
- Artwork and logos by Alex Whedbee
- Hosted by Zach Moreno and Rock Felder
Jimmy: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the show. It’s Unpacking Peanuts, but we are going to go deep, deep into the world of Charlie Brown, Snoopy Linus and Lucy in the year 1955. Charles Schulz is rocking and rolling. We may actually reach the point soon of something I’m going to call brilliance fatigue.
There are worse things to go through in life than have to spend a year in the life of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Let’s just get into it. I’m really, really excited. I’m your host. My name is Jimmy Gownley. I’m the cartoonist of the Amelia Rules series as well as The Dumbest Idea Ever, and Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up.
Joining me are my co-hosts. We have composer for the band Complicated People and this podcast, as well as the brilliant cartoonist behind such strips as Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A Gathering of Spells, Michael Cohen. And the executive producer and writer of the classic TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, former vice president of Archie comics and creator of the Instagram sensation Sweetest Beasts. Cartoonist Harold Buchholz.
And this is the show where three cartoonists just a get to sit, hang out and talk about Charles Schulz and Peanuts. And we’re hoping you follow along. There are 17,897 Peanuts strips. We are going to read them all and we would love for you to join us. You can do that in a couple of ways.
It’s pretty simple. Actually, you could go to gocomics.com. And for the first four years, you can follow a strip called Peanuts Begins. And after that, you can just look at the actual Peanuts strip and it will take you day by day through the comic strip Peanuts. There’s also a Peanuts Wiki, which is really handy and has I believe– I don’tI know if all of the strips, but most of the strips and the other great places to, you know, if you have some bucks, if you have some dinero, if you have some cash burning a hole in your pocket, you can go online and support the Fantagraphics a publication of the Complete Peanuts, which is a series of hardcover books, collecting the whole run of Charles Schulz’s comic strip.
And that’s what I did. I, I just splurged on it. You deserve it, you deserve it, guys. This is 1955. We are 10%. Through our project ever reading all of Peanuts. Wow. It doesn’t feel like it. I know it seems like, well, there’s most of the mountain to go, but it’s crazy that we got, we were five years in. I just want to take stock for a moment.
And what, how has this experience been for both of you? Has it changed the way you’ve seen the early strips? Has it changed the way you thought about your own work? What, what effect has just reading this amount of Peanuts comic strips? What’s it had on you?
Harold: I love how we’re seeing the development of a brilliant artist whose early work I really hadn’t read before. I, I didn’t know how he got to where he got and to see little clues along the way of, of, of his, his growth and his experimentation has been a real revelation. And it is encouraging for, for me as a cartoonist I’ve been doing, I think I’ve done about a hundred strips of Sweetest Beasts. So I’m, I’ve got a long way to go to get anywhere where Schulz was. I’d still be in the beginning of 1951 in comparison to where he was. And just seeing that you can continually grow. You can continually develop, you can continually make characters more interesting, deeper relationships more, more idiosyncratic, but at the same time, more accessible.
It’s a super inspiration for me.
Jimmy: Yeah, me too. Michael, what about you.
Michael: I’ve never been tempted to do anything like a daily strip or a comic strip. I am, I work mostly in the graphic novel or comic book format, but what it allows someone to do is to come in with an idea and develop the idea as they go along. And I don’t know if it’s responding to, to reader feedback or what, but that’s, that’s the thing you see with Schulz is he comes in with a character like Lucy, who initially it was kind of, you know, as a baby.
And the joke was that she really wanted her dad’s attention. And there was no indication that she was going to turn into this fussbudget goddess that we know and love. He definitely didn’t plan this. I think he just, he had years to understand what these characters were and to develop them. Whereas if you’re, if you’re doing a pitch for a movie or a script for a comic book or a graphic novel, you pretty much have to have the character designed and formalized before you even began.
So th this is this medium is so unique that you can do that over a span of years evolve.
Jimmy: Yeah. And that is amazing to be able to watch that, that evolution. And it’s, it’s like you say, if you want to even try to sell a graphic novel to a, even a small publisher, you have to have so much of it. You have to basically have the whole story planned out and so that they can understand it and then give you money.
But unfortunately for that process, but I feel the best art is the stuff that’s also revealing itself to the art. At the same time that it’s kind of presenting itself on the page, the artists maybe shouldn’t be a hundred percent in control all the time. They have to be open to allowing stuff to just happen.
And when you have a daily strip and you have to get it out every single day, you’re going to have to turn off a lot of critical filters. You know, one of the things I see whenever– I see a lot of, a lot of people who read Amelia books and stuff follow me on social media and I get to see their art.
First. The first thing I see is I’m blown away by the quality of art. The kids are capable of doing these days. It’s quantum levels above what it used to be. But the other thing is that they spend all their time with world building, you know, 17,000 sketches of a character and the map of the environment and all this.
And Schulz didn’t have the luxury of doing that. And I think that’s way to his benefit. It was just, it’s– one of my favorite things is the Marx brothers bit where they’re laying the track down in front of the train and they’re burning up the train to keep the train moving. I think that’s what a daily comic strip is like, you know, and if you can–
Harold: We’re watching the world-building develop before our eyes and that that’s, that’s just incredibly fun
Jimmy: Before our eyes. Yeah. And it makes a really close connection between you and that artist, because you’re, you’re sharing in the missteps. You see the things that– you know the things that never came back in live time. And that’s actually another thing that made me, I wanted to ask Michael, so 1955 here, eh, you’re the only one of the three of us who was able to read these early things roughly around the time they were coming out.
1955 is the year of the first Peanuts licensing, where he was doing some drawings for the Kodak camera. And then, then of course it just snowballs into that. Were you aware of the licensing stuff? Did it affect you at all? Did you care as a kid? I mean, I’m assuming you never would’ve thought of it as a little kid, whether it mattered one way or the other. Right?
Michael: Well frankly I was the age of the characters probably when this strip came out. So I was roughly five. And so I wouldn’t have been looking at magazines. Right. You know, my reading, you know, I’d be reading children’s books and comic books. So I don’t think I ever saw the ads till later. And maybe it may be, I think the TV ads were the first ones I saw.
I don’t know when that was.
Jimmy: 1957-58, the Falcon car ads or something.
Michael: Okay. Yeah.
Jimmy: Yeah. I, it was always this, you know, it happened before I was I was even born, there was all the Peanuts licensing, so I had all kinds of toys and lunchboxes, and I loved all that stuff. And all the TV shows were already on. And the MetLife ads were part of it and I never thought one way or the other, but at the same time, when I was a teenager, if REM had done a, a car ad, I would have jumped off a cliff, you know, in despair.
So, and it does seem to be a thing. I wonder if at the beginning of this age where, where the licensing is just starting, if it is the type of thing that affects how people view it and whether or not this podcast is a bit of a, can be way, it may be a bit of a corrective and focus it back on it being a work of art, as opposed to an intellectual property.
Michael: I wasn’t interested in any of the adaptations of Peanuts. It seemed like it was it was an awkward fit. And that includes the, the TV specials. There’s something about it that took me out of the, the world that I liked.
Jimmy: Yeah. Michael is a hardcore Peanuts, purist, which I appreciate. And Harold and I though love A Charlie Brown Christmas.
I have a proposal. I want Harold and I to sit and watch Charlie Brown Christmas. And we could do a running commentary, but I don’t ever want to have to make Michael watch a Charlie Brown Christmas. So I think he should watch the Godfather separately and then we’ll just check in and he could give an up running comment on the godfather every few minutes.
Just throw in. Okay. Sonny is at the, at the tollbooth. Now I think that could be a really fun episode. Yeah,
Michael: Well, they are parallel
Jimmy: oh 100%
Michael: So it should be interesting.
Harold: Francis Ford Coppola’s sold out.
Jimmy: Lucy also will make you so offers you can’t refuse.
Harold: I had the godfather lunchbox and the godfather, the godfather, corn chips, and licensing juggernaut.
Michael: So who is the Godfather in Peanuts?
Jimmy: You got to stay away from those Godfather corn chips,
Harold: the pizza,
Jimmy: Wow. Talk about a godfather two. All right, so,so, all right, so guys, looking at 1955, though on its own terms, what are we, what can we expect? What do we, what do we think we’re going to see you guys as the year rolls out.
Harold: 1955 is. Is an interesting year in and of itself. He’s, he cuts Charlotte Braun, which we had mentioned earlier. That’s a character that disappears this year. His look is getting more uniquely Schulz. As you go on in the year Snoopy starts to get that banana nose that he has throughout the rest of the fifties. And it seems like the the characters’ facial features start to rise a little bit on the character so that they feel like, look like they have big jaws.
It’s, it’s it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing version of Peanuts to me. I don’t know why he went that direction. And it’s something that he just continues to morph and change over time.
But as far as like, just what’s going on in his life just to check in on the kids Meredith is five during this year. Craig is, is a three and Monte is two. So that’s a great, a snapshot of Charles Schulz being surrounded by kids that are roughly the age of the strip. I mean, he is really growing into that time. And I think their richness of having that in his family is, is reflected in these early strips. There’s a lot of authenticity that comes, I think from observation, that’s just my general feeling.
The family moves to a new home, the last home that they will live in, in the state of Minnesota before they moved to, was it Sebastopol in California, but that’s a few years off. They move into 112 West Minnehaha Parkway, which still stands. It was a built house built in 1925. And apparently Joyce was a fan of the Western states.
And if you ever see this house, you can look it up on Zillow. You know, you could do the little street view on Google maps. It’s quite an impressive looking house. Charles Schulz is doing okay for himself financially. Now judging by this home. You know, obviously I’m looking at it in you know, years later, but the front of it I’m pretty sure is just the way they bought it.
It has a mission tile roof. It almost looks like a California house. It doesn’t seem like something that’s in Minnesota and it’s right across from this creek, Minnehaha Creek. And there’s a parkway between, I guess, their house and the creek, but it’s huge house it’s like it currently is 4,500 square feet.
I’m they may have added something in the back. I don’t know, but it’s a big house. You can just tell it from the front, you know, that that was the house. If you looked at it, it’s huge. It’s like five bedrooms. My sense is, I’m just guessing from what I know about Joyce, Joyce was always kind of world-building in their home.
She, you know, when she really went crazy in California and created this amazing, I don’t know what you call it, compound for, for the whole family as the kids were growing up. But in this case, they’re just in a much, much bigger house. It’s probably over twice the size of the one they were in before.
And, you know, just another representation of where Charles Schulz is in his life. And as Jim mentioned the very first advertising with Kodak is done this year. He wins his first Reuben award which is the national cartoonist society honor from his peers. They were saying, you are the best this year.
And that’s very quick, you know, and just to, and in about five years, he’s being recognized by his peers at being at the top of his game. And you definitely see that in, in the work. And then just one last thing I would I’d add is that this is also a year where Charles Schulz takes on a fad that a 14 strips are dedicated to this 1955 fad.
And I won’t give it away. I’ll just ask the audience to put on their thinking coonskin caps and see if they can remember what that might’ve been.
Jimmy: It is wild to see the amount of I’m just going to spoil it– Davy Crockett strips
Harold: We’ll talk about Davy Crockett in a bit as we start to encounter this, this onslaught of coonskin cap jokes,
Jimmy: One of the things that’s great actually about the Davy Crockett strips is that they come to a natural resolution at the end of the year at the end of the fad. It’s really kind of funny.
Harold: That’s great.
Michael: I tried to dig up the photo of me in a coonskin cap
Jimmy: no way you had one?
Michael: of course. What do you mean? Oh, you think I was going to be the only–
Jimmy: I’m so jealous. Was it that ubiquitous a trend?
Michael: I would have been the only kid on the block without one.
Harold: So let’s that’s, that’s, that’s really cool. Yeah. I can’t wait to talk a little bit about, about those Davy Crockett strips because it’s yeah. Well, we’ll wait,
Jimmy: You know, the other thing about this year, I’m talking about those trends. Like, I didn’t have a coonskin cap. I grew up in the seventies and eighties, but I wanted a coonskin cap because I was weird, but partially because I would see them in these Peanuts strips and on the old Dennis the Menace show and stuff like that.
And reading these, I was sort of thinking, you know, I grew up in the sticks in Girardville, Pennsylvania. So we were about 10 years behind the times. Anyway, you know, I might be the last little micro-generation to have actually lived a childhood similar to the one in Peanuts. I’m thinking one of the things I get to see, obviously, Michael and Harold’s choices for the strips they want to discuss ahead of time. And none of the, you didn’t pick any of the Linus’s fingers are a gun strips. There is so much gunplay in this year of Peanuts, either with the Davy Crockett stuff, or Linus goes with his route to dealing with his frustration and anger in 1955 is to pretend he shooting people.
And it’s, there is one we’re not, well, we’ll discuss it here, I guess, but it’s the funny, it’s one of the funniest strips ever, where he just walks up to sleeping, Snoopy points, his finger at him and says, bang. It was the only merciful thing to do, which to me, I have a pretty dark sense of humor. I find that absolutely hilarious. I wonder though, what, what people would make of strips like that today?
Michael: Oh, well, I mean, if kids did that, they’d be halted the principal’s office immediately.
Jimmy: Oh yeah. There’ll be a zero tolerance
Michael: Gun culture. I mean the first toy, you know, the boys would get, of course it was a gun, a toy gun, cap gun or something. Yeah. And you’re playing Cowboys and Indians, or soldiers. So yeah, it was all about violence clearly.
Jimmy: We would call that playing army or, or Star Wars, which was just army in space. And he’d just make, instead of going bang, bang you’d go pew pew which was basically the sound track of my entire neighborhood for six years.
Michael: Looking ahead at the year we’re going to do, in 1955 I think Schulz has really reached the plateau a lot earlier than I thought he would. I think these characters are totally developed at this point. They go on to have new traits introduced later, but I think he’s got everything.
There’s two exceptions. One thing I found puzzling was that Linus is at this in-between stage where he he’s always been a, a baby who can’t walk, and can’t speak. Occasionally they’d have a thought balloon that might be a little sophisticated, but he goes from being a baby to being another one of the gang walking around and running and playing this year.
But it seems like Schulz kinda jumps forward and back on, on Linus’s age. And I find that really curious. Well, we’ll talk about it when we get to those strips.
Harold: Interesting– Monte’s two and Craig is three,. so I’m wondering if he’s, he’s kind of the surrogate a little bit in Schulz’s mind of whatever he’s observing and he’s bouncing between his two sons that are in different stages of development.
Michael: And the other one in the stage of development is Snoopy, who clearly transforms as the year goes by. He looks completely different. This is the Snoopy I grew to love, and I still my favorite Snoopy, but very different from the, what you see in the seventies. And later on. It probably looks extremely weird to people who grew up on the later the later look.
But Snoopy also seems to be this year, having anger issues. I mean, Harold, earlier in an earlier show, he talked about the anger index or the number of strips in a year that dealt with anger. Snoopy this year seems very intent on frustrating everybody. And it’s like, he, he’s angry about the fact that he’s a dog and he’s treated differently than everyone else.
And he starts fantasizing about being other animals. Because he doesn’t like being a dog and then he makes a point of trying to ruin everybody’s fun by just going bezerk and, and frustrating everyone.
Harold: And sometimes it seems like it’s out of joy. I don’t know.
Michael: It’s it seems like nothing, nothing like the later Snoopy who’s, who’s sitting at a typewriter. He’s he’s angry and he’s just likes being a pain in the butt.
Harold; He’s busting loose
Jimmy: All right. Well, listen, there’s a lot of strips to get to. So how about we just jump into it right now? Well, you know, at first off, we’ll take a break and then we’ll come back and we’ll start discussing the strips of 1955.
And we’re back with Unpacking Peanuts. I’m Jimmy Gownley. I’m here with Harold Buchholz and Michael Cohen. And we are talking about Peanuts 1955. Guys. How about we just jump right in and start with the strips.
January 2nd, Lucy approaches Charlie Brown. She’s holding a book. She says “Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown thinks to himself. “Oh, good grief.” Lucy hands Charlie Brown the book. She says, “will you read me a story Charlie Brown?” “I’m trapped” says Charlie Brown. “There’s no use kidding myself. I’m trapped” Lucy begs. “Would you please read me a story? Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown says, “oh, all right. I suppose we might as well get it over.” They sit in an easy chair and Charlie Brown reads. “Let’s see what they’ve got here.” He reads. “Once upon a time they lived happily ever after. The end.” Charlie Brown walks away. Lucy flips through the book, a quizzical look on her face. She follows after Charlie Brown and says, Hey, what’s in the rest of these pages? Advertising?”
Michael: He uses a variant on this, this joke a few times. What I find most interesting about this is how Schulz is still playing with the relative ages of the characters. Right? At the beginning, when Charlie Brown was introduced, he was slightly younger than the gang. And then Lucy of course comes in a little later as a baby.
So she’s a little bit younger than Charlie Brown, but it seems like they eventually age up. So you assume they’re in school together. They’re the same age, but here she’s at the point where she can’t read. And so there are these strips with him reading to her. I find that kind of strange because. She’s definitely the big sister to Linus, but she’s also the little girl compared to Charlie Brown.
Harold: yeah. Do you get the sense right now that basically Charlie Brown, Patty, Violet, Shermy and Schroeder are all on the same plane. Lucy’s just, they’re just a tick below them. And then line is, you know, a little bit below Lucy. Is that kind of what, 1955 looks like?
Michael: I don’t know. I don’t think there were any schools strips because those are the ones where you see the characters in the same class.
Harold: Yeah. We’re really not seeing much at all in a school context. And they talk about things occasionally, but they don’t, we don’t see them in school.
Michael: We had the first one last year, the first school sitting at the school desk. And I don’t think there are any this year.
Harold: Isn’t that interesting?
Jimmy: Yeah. That’s interesting because it’s such a major component of what I think of is Peanuts and we haven’t seen much of it at all. Throughout the, all the five years. That’s, that’s really surprising to me.
Harold: And given I’m guessing Meredith– Well, I may maybe Meredith didn’t go into kindergarten until like the, the fall of this year. So maybe we’re going to start to see some more school experiences in ‘56 left to wait and see.
Jimmy: Now on the second tier third panel in Harold, that looking at Lucy that’s I assume what you’re talking about when you say the big jaw.
Harold: Yeah. Yeah. And even this is, he kind of grows into it throughout the year, but yeah, there’s this, this, I don’t know. It just seems like the, everything on the face is just moved up a little bit and it’s like, he nailed it in, in my aesthetic. Say back in ‘53, ‘54, particularly ‘54, it just aesthetically looks lovely.
And, and here it, it looks, I love it cause it’s Schulz. But I think if I had to choose between the looks, I would, I would go back towards the ‘54 version until he morphs it into something else. Again, a little bit later, which I was also pleasing to me.
Jimmy: And I do think from my experience doing Amelia for 1300 pages, which is nothing compared to this, but the character does just change from drawing there as when you’re doing it every day and all these different poses.
And every there’s something changes about you every single day. You make these little adjustments that you’re not even aware of. If you started, if you looked right now at like the third again, that third panel and the second tier, and you looked at the placement of Charlie Brown’s eyes and nose, and you compare that with 1950 it’s it’s night and day that the eyes are so much further apart in the early ones.
And they continue to get closer and closer together as the strip goes on.
Harold: Seems to start to come into this mind, particularly with Snoopy that whatever works for the joke emotionally or physically is fine. He he’s off model with Snoopy. Like he’s never been before. And I think this is a choice on his part, you know?
Cause he can do more things with Snoopy if he has a bigger mouth, a longer snout and he’s a little more rubbery. And you know, in the previous early versions of Snoopy, Snoopy feels very stiff. He’s he’s he’s, he’s this kind of blocky little dog is very cute, but like even when he’s like he’s jumping up and down or he’s doing somersaults, it’s in this little stiff form that he’s sorta sticking onto that model.
And now the model kind of goes away and it’s like, whatever makes sense for the strip is, is the right drawing seems to be the choice that Schulz’s making. And I think he’s making the right choice.
January 4th, Linus and Lucy are in their pajamas. Linus is crawling away holding his blanket. Lucy is chasing him. She yells “Linus. You give me that blanket.” She grabs the blanket and tries to tug it away saying “let go of it. Let go I say.” She pulls it over her shoulder tugging Linus along. She ends up in her crib frustrated, but trying to sleep holding onto the blanket with Linus, still holding onto the blanket, hanging off the side of her crib.
Harold: Yeah. So Linus is starting to become a little more formidable opponent to Lucy’s whims. We’re seeing that a little bit more when, before he was just the victim.
Jimmy: Yeah. You know, one thing I will just say it is hard to narrate the visual strips and I have a friend whose father is blind and she loves Peanuts. And when she was a kid, she would read it to him all the time and he hated it. He’s like, this is the most boring, depressing thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s interesting. And of course, if you, you know, if you don’t have the cute cartoon visual, a lot of the jokes, aren’t jokes, he’s a master cartoonist and, and, and it’s the interplay of the visual and the verbal that that’s making the thing work so well.
But it doesn’t make it easy for a podcast Charles M. Schulz.
January 18th, Lucy and Charlie Brown are standing outside in the snow. Lucy says “Charlie Brown, would you say that snow comes down or up?” Charlie Brown says, “Well, I–” Lucy interrupts, “don’t answer. I know just what you’re going to say and you’re wrong. Have you ever gone to bed at night with the ground all bare and then got up the next day and found it covered with snow?” Charlie Brown doesn’t know where this is going. Lucy explains excitedly. “It came up, Charlie Brown. It came up overnight.” Charlie Brown says, “oh, good grief. I can’t stand it.”
Michael: This is a gag that runs for four days straight.
And I think it’s the beginning of a new way for Schulz to frame the daily. He does it quite a lot this year and I think more and more as the years go by. There’s a, there’s a one gag that plays out through the week
Harold: Theme and variation.
Michael: So it does this snow coming up out of the ground gag goes on.They’re all really very funny. It’s it just points out Lucy seems to be, have her own take on how the world works and it’s totally wrong. So basically Charlie Brown has– cannot stand it when she’s kinda bragging about one of her theories and here we have, oh, good grief. And later on, we have him, his stomach hurts every time he hears one of these things.
So unless you’re reading Peanuts regularly in the last panel, if he goes, my stomach hurts, it seems to be a non-sequitur, but it’s like, he just cannot stand it that she does this. And this is one of her main traits, at least in the fifties is she just comes up with these insane explanations and–
Harold: She’s really becoming more and more of a major character in the strip and something else I’ve noticed this year as it, Charlie Brown is becoming less and less of a catalyst in the group overall. He’s, he’s, he’s kind of stepping back into this ensemble a little bit more in 1955 to my eye. Does that resonate with you guys?
Jimmy: It’s the center and eccentrics model of comedy. It becomes more, you know like Seinfeld or something like that, where ostensibly the least interesting person is the center and allows everybody else to be crazier around them. So, yeah, I do understand he’s not so much a catalyst, but on the other hand it feels like if you take him out, there’s no strip at all these people, it would instantly become less interesting.
Michael: Yeah. But you’re right about the, the non-interesting character seems to be a real standard way to, to frame a comic strip, like I was thinking of Pogo, who’s kind of just a nice, nice guy in the surrounding with all these crazy people. Right.
Jimmy: Even something like Dick Tracy, you know, Michael, you were saying that Lucy was the first Qanon adherent last year.
Michael: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Jimmy: Well, no, I’m going to, I’m going to push back hard here. I don’t think she is, you know what?. She’s Q. She’s not following anybody else.
And I feel for this, you know, this is such a timely strip a current strip. Every day on social media people say anything they want with the absolute sincerity and authority and it makes your stomach hurt. But, and we’re Charlie Brown because it’s Lucy and she’s right there. He can’t ignore this. He’s going to have to try to engage with this.
Harold: sometimes he tries and sometimes it’s like ooh,
Michael: I have a question for you, experts. When did Good Grief start?
Jimmy: That’s a great question. I did not notice the first good grief.
Harold: I didn’t either. It was early on
Michael: We had another one last year. I mean, that’s definitely his catchphrase.
Jimmy: Hey you know, listeners, maybe it could pull your own weight for a change. Why don’t you guys email us find out when that first good grief is, and get back to us you block heads. That would be very helpful. Thank you guys.
Harold: Hey, treat our audience with some respect.
January 24th, Linus is smiling and holding a ball, extending it to Snoopy who is also smiling and looking at it. Linus holds the ball as if he’s about to throw it. He goes into a wind up holding the ball out as far as he can behind him. And then he falls over backwards from the weight of it. Snoopy looks upset by this.
Michael: I think this is an older strip. This is like 1953 Linus. The gag for Linus when he started was he was so small that like a, a fan and a living room fan could blow him over. And he’s way beyond this now. And at first I thought, yeah, maybe this is an unused strip that he plugged in.
Harold: Snoopy looks like he’s from this era.
Jimmy: Or it’s something he saw one of his younger kids do. Well, I mean, not that they’d fall over from holding a ball, but that the, you know, the awkwardness of first mobility and Linus was the closest analog he had to, to plugging that into the strip. Maybe something like that.
Michael: That’s what I think
Harold: Yeah. Again, Monte is just, just short of two years old. Now when this I don’t. Yeah, maybe, maybe it’s again, observation, but there were a ton of strips where Linus falls over his head or
Michael: But we haven’t had one for a year and a half
Harold: That’s true. This is like, it is a throwback
Jimmy: And yeah, the art’s sketchy looking, or maybe that’s just a reproduction I’m looking at.
Harold: Yeah. I usually think of, I see a sketchy reproduction in the, in the Fantagraphics book that that’s telling me that maybe it never got reprinted and they’re pulling it from a newspaper source or something, but I don’t know if that’s true or not.
Jimmy: Yeah, that could very well be it. Yeah, that looks like it’s been reproduced almost, it looks like almost a halftone.
January 26th, Snoopy is alone in a field with his thoughts. He thinks to himself, “Sometimes I wish I were a wolf. I get tired of having depend on people for everything.” Snoopy suddenly looks like a feral wild dog and he thinks to himself, “if I were a Wolf and I saw something I wanted, I could just take it.” Then he makes the noise,” Aargh.” at this moment, Charlie Brown walks by Snoopy notices, Charlie Brown, noticing him Charlie Brown smiles, Snoopy walks away on all fours, embarrassed.
Michael: This is the first of many imitations and that becomes Snoopy’s one of his main schticks over the next, for the rest of the fifties, I think is he’s tired of being a dog and he wants to be an animal.
So I picked this one because it’s the first, but in this year he becomes a wolf and a rhino. And also he does lots of it. He starts imitating people too.
Harold: And this kind of plays into your saying, this is the year of Snoopy’s dissatisfaction and anger. Like we haven’t seen before, right?
Michael: Yeah. Well, panel two clearly He’s he, can’t just take something just is something you want something take it, he can’t do it. But if he was a wolf, he could do it.
Jimmy: You know what’s pretty funny about that drawing? A lot of times when he does something like that tries to show a more feral Snoopy It doesn’t quite look as Snoopy-ish as it should. This one, I think it’s actually really cute. It’s just a very cute Snoopy trying to look tough.
Harold: Also that drawing is interesting. This to me is the beginning of, of again, Charles Schulz going for an iconic look versus anatomical correctness. Like the rear legs is so tiny in relationship to the front legs and, and Schulz really plays with this through his main period or his major period where Snoopy his, his appendages change in length in size, the feet are bigger or smaller depending on his needs for the joke and for the needs of the pose.
And this has, seems to be the really real beginning of Schulz, having the freedom to do that, where it’s like, what makes, what, what makes this drawing in this instance? Look the most iconic, the most interesting, the most fun. And it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t match anatomical correctness anymore, to the extent that it did in the first place.
And also anger here. You’re talking about Snoopy being angry. So I’m going to bring up my anger, my angry meter. When I go back and re look through the strips to find it, if there’s any instance of anger in any given strip. And then I count out the number of strips that I think show characters with anger.
So back in 1953, I found 135 instances, 1954, there were 135 instances. Do you guys have any sense in 1955, if overall the strip is more angry, less angry, pretty much the same.
Michael: I’ll go way out on a limb and say 135.
Jimmy: I guessed to 25 in one of the most embarrassing guesses in the history of podcast guessing.
So I’m going to double down with that. I’m going to say 11, The Price is Right Strategy–whoever gets closest without going over.
Harold: You win Jim! No. So it’s, it’s a hundred, 125 instances was down 10 just slightly less angry. But one thing that I noticed, I, I believe if I remember this correctly, let me double check.
Most of them happened in the first half of the year. So it’s like, he’s, he’s got a downward trajectory in anger.
Michael: Maybe the cold weather has something to do with it.
Jimmy: Can you do a reading, figuring out how how many strips express chagrin?
Harold: Yeah, I think the chagrin-o-meter goes up this year, for sure. So he had 68 in the first half and 57 in the second half. So it’s it’s it’s going down. It’s heading down.
January 27th. Charlie Brown is playing with a paddle ball. Lucy walks up and says, “Charlie Brown, what letter comes after E?” Lucy’s interruption clearly spoils Charlie Brown’s concentration because he now has the paddle ball and string wrapped around him and he says, “F.” “Oh, come on now” says Lucy, “be serious.” Charlie Brown says, “I am serious.” Lucy says, “You’re hopeless. Charlie Brown, absolutely hopeless.” She walks away. “That’s always the trouble when you’re really want to learn. Nobody will help you.”
Michael: That’s Lucy again, being –. Yeah. I mean, it fits in with her anti-science point of view when someone gives you a logical answer, which is true she like gets insulted.
Jimmy: My underground cartoonist sensibility thinks there’s kind of a funny joke where Charlie Brown is really going gangbusters on this paddle bottle. And Lucy interrupts him. And Charlie Brown just says F. there’s something about it that I find hilarious.
February 7th, Charlie Brown is watching Linus, who is blowing up a square balloon. Charlie Brown says, “Still blowing up square balloons eh Linus?” He continues, “square balloons are so impractical. What can you do with them?” Linus crawls away leaving Charlie Brown to an entire wall created out of square balloons.
Michael: This is that’s the next phase of Linus’s progression as a character. He is a savant. He can do stuff that no one else can do. And it’s like effortless for him. And I think this is the first savant one and we’ll have lots of
Harold: Didn’t we have square balloons in ‘54?
Jimmy: Yeah. We had square balloons, but we didn’t have him building something out of them.
So it could be seen like, well, the, the, the, the square balloon is maybe an accident of some sort of weird genetic trick, but he now can, he now can assemble them. house of
Harold: There was a cards that he built.
Michael: Yeah. The balloon thing fades out, but Linus goes on to do amazing things with cards and this continues on to the strip.
He really can do anything he wants.
Harold: Yeah. And to your point, Michael he’s, he’s crawling and he’s not walking.
Michael: Soon he will stand.
Harold: It’s coming. Huh?
Michael: Yeah, it’s coming.
February 10th, Lucy is leaning up against Schroder’s piano. Schroeder is practicing and he says, “I’m trying to learn to play all of the Beethoven sonatas.” Lucy turns and asks. “Gee, if you do learn to play them all, what will you win?” “I won’t win anything.” says Schroeder.
Lucy says “you won’t?” She walks away. “What’s the sense in doing something. If you don’t win a prize?”
Michael: it’s true.
Harold: You’re with the real Lucy on this, Michael.
Michael: Oh, that’s absolutely true. Yeah. I mean Schulz just won the cartoonists– the Reuben. All right. So what’s the point of doing anything. If you don’t win a prize,
Harold: He was going to give up after five years if he didn’t win that Reuben. good thing he did.
February 13th, Schroeder and Charlie Brown are outside. Schroeder confronts Charlie Brown, who is holding something behind his back. Schroeder says, “what have you got behind your back Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown says “none of your business.” Schroeder says, “I’ll bet it’s a Valentine.” As Charlie Brown walks away. Charlie Brown is indeed holding a valentine. And he’s saying rehearsing to himself. “This is for you Violet. Happy Valentine’s day. That doesn’t sound quite right.” He thinks he tries again. “This is for you, Violet. Happy Valentine’s day.” He passes Snoopy who’samused watching Charlie Brown rehearse. Charlie Brown continues to practice “Here, Violet. This is for you. Happy Valentine’s day. I know I can do it if I just don’t get nervous. This is for you, Violet. Happy Valentine’s day. This is for you, Violet. Happy Valentine’s day. Oops. There she is. Easy. Now don’t get nervous. You can do it.” Charlie Brown walks up to Violet. He presents her with his box of candy and says, “This is for you, Violet, Merry Christmas, Aaghh.” Charlie Brown pounds his head against the tree as Violet looks on.
Michael: Why Violet, I ask you?
Harold: Who else would he have given it to? Who would have been the obvious one for you?
Michael: Well there is no character. That’s why it’s odd because Violet is no longer a character he likes. Violet is the cruelest of the cruel.
Harold: And it goes back to your theory, Michael, right? That if Violet is with Patty there they’re cruel, insensitive, horrible, horrible people. But when she’s by herself, she’s, she’s, she’s quite neutral. I don’t know why that is.
Jimmy: And also you’re sort of asking why is Charlie Brown attracted to someone who’s bad for him? Human nature? My friend.
Michael: But why is he nervous? That’s what puzzles me.
Jimmy: He doesn’t want to blow it.
Harold: Maybe he thinks Patty’s going to be there.
Jimmy: Maybe because she also is cruel. Right. You never know.
Michael: Yeah. Needed a little red haired girl in to give this .
Harold: He doesn’t want rejection.
February 15th, Charlie, Brown’s talking to Shermy, he’s holding up a little box and saying, “look, my dad gave me a toy farm.” Charlie Brown takes out the little animals from the box and says, “it’s got a cow, a horse, a pig, and a dog.”Shermy examines them. Charlie Brown holds up the barn and says, “and it’s got a little red barn and a rail fence.” Charlie Brown holds up a piece of paper and says, “and a special form to send in that guarantees me 90% of parity.
Michael: For some reason five-year-old Michael Cohen was puzzled by this
Harold: Peanuts Obscurities. This is the first one for 1955.
Jimmy: What on earth is going on in this strip?
Harold: Well, I did a little bit of digging and I’m sure you’ll find this fascinating that the agricultural act of 1954 had just been passed because there were all throughout the years, including the depression, there were different levels at which you were guaranteed payment for crops that you were, that you were selling.
And so they would set the price based on parity was like, what did it cost for a farmer? To live in based on general goods and services. And so what was happening was after world war II, there was this argument about whether we should continue to be constantly supporting all of these crops, especially when farmers are making crops that we didn’t need and they were over producing.
So there’s a big debate and that’s what this is all about that they had said they had set the new parity anywhere between 82 and a half percent and 90%. So that is what Charlie Brown is referring to. He wants the crop that’s going to get in the 90%.
Jimmy: Well, there you go. Yeah.
Harold: Mystery solved
Michael: Another genius punchline from Charles M.Schulz
Jimmy: And you know what’sI fun? I still don’t know what this strip’s about.
Harold: It just shows that the depth of Schulz’s work.
Jimmy: Yeah, it really does. I actually, all kidding aside, I do love jokes that not everybody’s going to get.
Harold: We’ve always, we’ve always talked about the idea that, you know, and when you’re a kid reading a strip or just anything in general, you’re used to not getting most things.
And so it’s just a part of life and yeah,
Michael: no. And I have noticed that in you guys work, I don’t get anything.
Harold: We’re inscrutable.
Jimmy: Hey, not just in my work– in my life.
February 20th, Charlie Brown is reading a book inside. Lucy comes up and says, “Are you sure Charlie Brown? Are you absolutely sure. Are you? Charlie Brown sighs. He turns to Lucy and asks “Lucy, why do you ask me things if you don’t ever believe me.” Lucy says, “oh, I believe you, Charlie Brown. I believe everything you tell me.” Charlie Brown says “you do not.” Lucy says “Sure I do. Tell me something and watch me believe you.” Charlie Brown says, “oh good grief. Don’t be so stupid.” Lucy doubles down saying, “come on, tell me something, watch me believe you. Tell me anything.” Charlie Brown says “the world is made of snow.” Lucy says, “I believe you. The world is made of snow.” She runs up to Violet and says, “Hey Violet, Charlie Brown just told me that the world is made of snow.” Violet says “Charlie Brown is out of his mind.” Lucy returns to Charlie Brown. “You’re out of your mind, Charlie Brown.”
Jimmy: This is one of the all-ltime great Charlie Brown and Lucy traps.
Michael: Maybe Lucy invented snark in 1955.
Harold: Yes. She’s so —
Jimmy: Well it definitely had to happen in the span of the baby boom. Right? I mean, nothing occurred before that.
Harold: She comes across as so drivingly sincere sometimes that when you get to the end, you don’t know how much is she’s just being clueless or how much she’s, she’s she’s really digging something, turning a screw, you know, is she, is she being snarky or is there just this weird disconnect where she’s like, I will, I believe you until she believes Violet, you could read it either way, I think.
Michael: But his stomach is definitely hurting in that level.
Jimmy: Yes it is. And you’re right. You know, again, we were talking last year about the Shermy test and the Shermy test being is if it’s just a joke that could be delivered by any character then it fails the Shermy test.
But if it’s comes out of the personality of the characters, then it passes and more and more and more we’re just seeing these all come out of the personality of the characters.
Jimmy: And not only the personality of the characters, but the way they behave and interact with other characters, because Lucy is different the way she behaves with Linus than she is when she’s with Charlie Brown or Violet.
Michael: That is true.
February 27th, Lucy is sitting leaning up against Schroder’s piano. Schroeder is playing with a bust of Beethoven on the toy piano. Lucy stands up and says “you and your stupid old Beethoven.” She walks away. “Schroeder never pays any attention to me. Well by golly, I’ll show him. Yes, sir.” Lucy runs in with a baseball bat, screaming “CHARGE.” She smashes the bust of Beethoven with the baseball bat. “There” she says, “what do you think of that?” The bust lies and pieces on the floor. Schroeder calmly gets up, walks to a closet which contains multiple busts of Beethoven, and then goes back to practicing with the statue on his piano. And Lucy says “I’ll probably never get married.”
Harold: This strip is one of the most indelibly seared in my mind. I don’t know why as a little kid just seeing that, that closet full of Beethoven statues. There’s something awesome about that and that that and that despite this incredibly violent act by Lucy, Schroeder is unflappable. There’s nothing she can do to, you know, to, to sway him one way or another, get a, get a rise out of him in this strip. And that really, really struck me as a kid.
Jimmy: For my conspiracy theory. I would just invite anybody to go back and look at the golf strips again. And look at Lucy swinging the golf club versus Lucy swinging the baseball bat. And tell me, tell me if you just tell me what you think, compare and contrast.
Harold: Maybe he rotoscoped her.
Michael: She gets the– for the first time she gets kind of a standard punchline because Charlie Brown has all good grief and this I’ll probably never get married punchline recurs.
Harold: recurs. Yeah. I think this is the second time he’s used it.
Michael: Liz is pointing out that that seems to be the Moonlight Sonata that he’s playing.
February 28th, Patty and Charlie Brown are standing outside. Patty says “you’ve never been anything but good ol’ Charlie Brown.” Patty continues, “and that’s all you are now just good ol’ Charlie Brown.” Patty’s now screaming “and that’s all you’ll ever be just good ol’ Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown says “what’s the sense in living.” And he looks very upset.
Harold: This is so Charles Schulz. Nobody else would do this joke, right? Here’s somebody telling somebody that they’re only going to always be good and that that’s terrible. I mean, it’s like, it’s like this weird circular thing in Schulz’s head that doesn’t really make sense, but we’re invited into it and we just, he just does it over and over again.
And it just becomes it’s like, I can’t relate to somebody saying you’re just always going to be good. I I’m assuming I’m gonna trying to think. I’ve seen a couple of things, I guess, in art where someone is considered a milquetoast or but to be good old Charlie Brown and that’s, that’s the thing she’s holding over him is such a bizarre idea to me.
And it’s so Schulz.
Jimmy: I always find it weird when he does the thing where someone just randomly says something bad about Charlie Brown for no reason.
Well, I mean, yeah, but you’re just saying the word good as if it means good. What she’s saying is good ol’ Charlie Brown, which is just a pejorative for boring Charlie Brown. He, she’s not, she’s not referring it to, I don’t think she’s not referring to good as a virtue. She’s just saying–
Harold: Whoever says good old. Who have you ever heard, said, someone’s good old this or that and didn’t mean that he was good?
Jimmy: No one says good ol’ president Obama or good old Paul McCartney. You say good ol’ Bojay and the guy that’s hanging out in front of the cafe bugging for a quarter.
Harold: Come over to my house.
Michael: Good old boys. This is a throwback to throw back to the very first Peanuts strip. Cause that’s the good ol’ Charlie Brown was the first punchline.
Harold: How I hate him.
It’s like, it’s like Schulz is processing this thing that people see him as good. And that’s not good enough for Schulz. I don’t know. It’s it’s fascinating.
Jimmy: Well, one interesting thing, there’s a lot of side effects to this podcast. One of which is that it’s a really interesting mode of self therapy. So I was listening to our last episode the other night, and I was talking about how well, you know, I don’t relate to this perfect thing.
This is an in– only an insane person would talk about striving to be perfect.
And I got a copy of my memoir The Dumbest Idea Ever, the Spanish edition, and I was looking through it. And there’s a whole scene of me doing exactly that, talking about how I got all hundreds this quarter, but they only gave me 99s because God only God is perfect and how frustrating this is.
And it never occurred to me that I was that I know I was– I know I’m insane. I didn’t know I was that type of insane until I put those two things in context together. So I, I’m curious to see what more about myself I, I find in Charlie Brown as we go forward,
Michael: We’re all Charlie Browns in the dark.
Jimmy: And that’s his thing, you know, it’s, he can make that really true. Everybody finds a little piece of themselves in that character.
March 5th, Charlie Brown is sitting on the curb. Patty is standing there. She says, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I do the dumbest things.” She sits next to Charlie Brown and says, “I just can’t seem to do anything right. I guess I’m just stupid. Just plain, old stupid.” She turns to Charlie Brown and says, “of course you’re not so bright yourself, Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown says, “I didn’t say a word.”
Jimmy: See, I think that’s a way superior strip to the previous one we read.
Harold: I agree
Jimmy: because that’s, I can imagine a little kid or an adult for that matter behaving that way.
I can’t imagine someone saying, just being like Patty is, just randomly to someone standing there and insulting them, but this feels real to me.
Harold: At least explain yourself why is being good, ol’ not good. And he’s got like three panels. So you could do that in. And he it’s just doubling down that that’s not a good thing to be good ol’.
Charlie Brown. This is also a good example of, of Patty with with the the big jaw and the first panel. If anyone wanted to see what I’m talking about, they want to look up the March 5th strip. The mouth just moves up really high on the head. And so the characters looked like they had these big jaws.
Michael: Yeah. This is a real example of how kids actually function. Yes. When they’re feeling bad about themselves, their self image, they often find somebody who they can put down.
Harold: Yeah. And we’re seeing it in Lucy this year, on Charlie Brown
Jimmy: and sadly not just kids
March 6th, Linus is playing with some blocks and holding his blanket. He seems a little bit fidgety and discontent. He says, “gee, it’s cold in here.” He tosses away his blanket then crawls to his parent’s bed, where he pulls off the large comforter. He then crawls away with it and plugs it into the wall. And we see it is an electric blanket.
Harold: I believe this is the first time we see Linus with the blanket and sucking his thumb. That’s why I brought this one up. It seems like I’ve never seen that combo before everything else was him just holding the blanket. But now we get the, the dual classic look of Linus, sucking the thumb and holding his blanket.
Michael: But it’s not his blanket.
Harold: That’s true.
Michael: And I guess part of the, part of the gag might be maybe the electric blanket was just something new and everybody was getting them.
Harold: Yeah. That could be being all topical in 1955.
March 13th. We see Lucy flying a kite, it is apparently very high in the. Charlie Brown comes up and admiringly says, “man, that kite is really up there.” Schroeder walks by and Charlie Brown points that out to him saying, “look Schroeder, have you ever seen a kite up so high?” Charlie Brown continues. “I got to hand it to you, Lucy. I always thought you were kind of dumb, but anyone who can get a kite up that high is all right in my book. Yes, sir.” Charlie Brown continues, “Going to haul it in now, eh?. That’s probably a good idea. A kite shouldn’t be kept up in the air too long, especially one that was that high.” We see as Lucy reels in the kite. It is actually just a tiny little kite. It wasn’t high up in the air at all. She walks away holding it. Charlie Brown and Schroeder look confused.
Michael: We need our resident physicist to come in and explain this. Is this possible?
Harold: Yeah. I don’t know how I feel about the strip. It’s a funny gag.
Jimmy: Yeah. It’s one of his meta jokes where, you know, it’s, it’s a play on the fact that It’s perspective and things that are small. There are things that are far away up here, small and on a flat two dimensional plane in the comic strip.
He gets to play with that a little bit. I always, this is something I remember a lot from when I was a kid, it was in some of my earliest books. And I think it’s really funny.
Harold: And when I read it, I felt a little nonplussed because it did seem like in their world that couldn’t work. And then it turned into like a Tex Avery type gag, which, because I so– am pulled into this world that kind of pulls me out.
And it, it wasn’t worth it for the gag. I think even though it is clever.
Jimmy: I think one thing that we should note going forward as that, it’s not a, it’s not a world like Middle Earth. It’s not even a world like, you know, the New York city of the early Marvel comics. These are every one of these is a message from Charles Schulz.
And if he’s feeling meta that day, he doesn’t care about the rules of the world. If he’s feeling, if he has a gag or a something he particularly wants to draw, he has no problem breaking the rules, whether it’s someone connecting the dots on Charlie Brown’s face or pointing out that they’re getting transferred to a new comic strip. Every one of these, I really always feel Charles Schulz’ presence.
So in this instance, it’s almost like he’s winking at both the characters and us and going, hey guys, it’s just a comic strip.
Harold: Do you think he’s doing that less though? That’s my sense. He’s doing it less as his world becomes more real or maybe I’m just looking for in the wrong places.
Jimmy: I think it comes and goes as it goes along. Later there’s, there’s definitely more examples of that. So like everything in Peanuts, it, it it wanes and it peaks and it has peaks and valleys.
March 17th, Charlie Brown is reading a book to Schroeder. “A music publisher came to Beethoven one day and offered him $50 for a new piece.” Schroeder is paying close attention to Charlie Brown reading. Charlie Brown continues. “My price is $100, said Beethoven, $50 said the publisher and not 1 cent more.” Schroeder is outraged. He yells “Don’t let them bluff you Beethoven” knocking Charlie Brown from his perch, reading the book.
Harold: I think this is the first time we see someone using their voice and the power of their voice is making the other character flip in the air in classic Peanuts style.
I think that this has not happened before now.
Jimmy: Now do you like that?
Jimmy: But that, so that is something that would only happen in a comic strip. What is that work for you with this?
Harold: Because the kite is saying, this is what the world is and no, it’s not what the world is. It changes the rules in the middle of the strip to get the gag.
This one doesn’t change. You’re, you’re just in that world. And that’s what happens.
Jimmy: I sorta notice, or at least to think I noticed that Schulz gets a lot of his frustrations as working in commercial art out in the form of Schroeder. This is after Schulz is just been negotiating book collections for his strip.
He’s doing his first Brownie camera advertisements and he knows that sometimes publishers are going to low ball ya. And Schroeder does not want to see that happen to Beethoven.
Harold: Yeah. I love, I love this part of Schroeder that really is, you know, we say Schulz is so much in Charlie Brown, but I think Schulz is very much in, in, in Schroeder.
I think he says shares that same intensity with this strip that Schroeder has with the art, with his piano playing, but also Schulz himself was a huge fan of classical music and he, that’s why he’s so happy to go in and create these staffs of music recreating classical stuff, because he was really, really into it.
And if, if you guys would let me, I would like to share a piece of a letter that he wrote to a friend who was also into music, this dates back to 1949.
Jimmy: Yeah, sure. Great.
Harold: But it comes from, it comes from this book by David Liverett that not many people have. It’s called, They Called Him Sparky: friends’ reminiscences of Charles Schulz.
It came out, I think in 2006, published by Chinaberry House out of Anderson Indiana. So I’m assuming it’s a publishing company of the related to the church of God because of that space out of Anderson, Indiana. And what it does is it collects all of these letters and, and stories that people had back and forth with Schulz who were, were with him in the Church of God. So a lot of it is early on, but some of these were lifetime friendships and this is really cool because this is from January 4th, 1949. He’s writing to Fred Shackleton and his wife Doris, and also asking them to pass on the letter to his friend, Martin Lynn. I think these guys are in Anderson Indiana maybe.
And he’s he’s up in Minnesota. But what I love about this letter is he’s known this guy for about four or five years, known them all. He’s hung out with them. He knows them well, and this is kind of a private side of Schulz who feels comfortable with these people. And then he can kind of get a little silly with them.
And it’s kind of a little bit of long form silliness in this letter that re relates to music. He had apparently just listened to a recording of a performance of a hymn that Fred had written and Doris had sung. And he continues in his letter after praising.
He says, I have been thinking of doing a little song, writing myself, what do you think of this for a melody?
Then he writes out Tata T Tata, dada TT Tata. And then he goes on. This is just a thought more or less, you realize that I’m figuring on using this little melody in this scared. So of my symphony, number one, I figure on opening the first movement with assemble solo. This will last for approximately 14 bars. I’m leaving it more or less to the discretion of the conductor.
Various conditions will govern its length, whether ticket sales, et cetera. The eight men come in from the wings carrying bass fiddles over their shoulders, and at the same time breaking into the main theme, which will closely resemble “go see with the boys in the backroom will have.”
This, not only concludes the first movement, but it also concludes the bass players contracts with the orchestra. The second movement is sort of sad. Some will say that I am mourning for a lost love. MOURNING that is. The truth will be far from it however. These melancholy passages were picked up one day at work when a lady was heard humming a weird bit of music. “That’s lovely.” I said to her, “I didn’t know, you could sing.” “Sing nothing.” She answered. “I’ve got my foot caught in the desk drawer.”
The third movement, as I said will be the scherzo. Now for the climax at the beginning of the fourth movement, the entire orchestra will stand while the conductor remains seated. This gives quite a striking effect. The music itself in this movement is monumental. By this, we mean, it sounds like someone pounding on concrete with a sledgehammer, all the French horns play La Marseilles while the violins breakout with some splendid little passages closely similar to the sound made by closing streetcar gates.
I have already had the symphony recorded in a new type of cardboard record I have invented. Absolutely no surface noise. In fact, no noise whatsoever.
Michael: Sounds like more of a critique of modern music, modern classical.
Jimmy: Well, I think it’s interesting. It shows that being a funny cartoon is, does a non-transferable skill.
I’m glad, I’m glad their letter is dead.
Harold: Well, then I’m going to put it in. I’m going to put it up a chalk that up to my read of it because as I read it, I thought it was, I thought it was hilarious. It reminded me of like a mixture of of Robert Benchley and Groucho Marx. And he was just, he was just freewheeling with it and I loved it.
Jimmy: Nah I’m teasing
Harold: I’m using it as I chalk it up to a bad read.
Jimmy: Never, never. I think that’s as good as you could get that.
Harold: Well, that is true, but I’m still saying, read it, read it yourself and see what you think. Maybe it comes alive..
March 18th, Schroeder and Lucy are listening to Charlie Brown read. Charlie Brown says “no, no, no. The girl said to Beethoven, I could never marry such a horrible man as you.” Charlie Brown sighs. Schroeder looks furious. He stands up and yells at Lucy, “you’re all alike!”
Michael: Later in the year. He does a couple of more gags like this Charlie Brown reading from the biography, and Schroeder really getting overly emotional.
Jimmy: well, what’s what’s funny too, with him getting over emotional is the woman’s story
doesn’t want to marry Beethoven. Lucy desperately wants to marry Schroeder. So why is he putting this on Lucy? I actually relate to Schroeder’s obsessive fan boy attitude. I’m the type of person I am in it to the bitter. And when I find something that I love, so I, I understand Schroeder’s enthusiasm, but I think he’s off base. Lucy would marry him in a heartbeat when they grow up.
Harold: You’re the guy who watches seasons seven and eight when you shouldn’t, right?
Jimmy: Oh, I read Finnegan’s Wake! Like, that’s the only reason you would do that is if you’re completely nuts. And, but yeah, if there is a season seven and an eight of something and it’s terrible, but I love season three I’m going to watch season seven and eight, a hundred percent. I don’t watch that much though.
Harold: Wait’ll you hear my audio book of Finnegan’s Wake. You’’ll hate it.
March 23rd, Schroeder and Charlie Brown are walking outside. Charlie Brown is holding something in his hand and he says, “this is one of those whistles that only dogs can hear.” Schroeder says, “I don’t believe there is such a thing. You’ve got to show me.” Charlie Brown blows into the whistle. We see no indication that it’s made a sound, but Snoopy’s ears shoot up and lightening radiates from his head. Snoopy looks frazzled as Schroeder and Charlie Brown walk away. Schroeder says, “I’m sorry. I doubted you. Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown says “that’s all right, no harm done.”
Michael: He uses the Snoopy. Look on a couple others trips this year. Isn’t not just frazzled. I mean, literally he’s frazzled all the lines are squiggly.
Jimmy: I really liked the drawing of Snoopy in panel three. I think that’s super cute.
Harold: And that’s that, that Snoopy in panel four it makes me think of, I don’t know who the artist was of those, those cave-manny kind of greeting cards that seemed to be popular. It was in the sixties and seventies. It’s just got kind of its own vibe.
April 30th. Lucy is eating from a bag of candy. Snoopy is hopping up and down begging she tosses him a candy. Snoopy eats it, then walks away thinking to himself “what a stupid way to make a living.”
Michael: This is that angry Snoopy I was talking about. He’s really resentful that he has to put on this little, this little act to get some candy and look at the last panel. I mean, he’s furious.
Jimmy: He really is.
Harold: He’s miffed. You can tell. Yeah.
Michael: Does this count is one of your anger strips?
Michael: Oh, good.
Jimmy: This is interesting too. From a cartooning standpoint, what makes him angry? Is it that one, one eighth of an inch microscopic pen line, basically, right.
Michael: Yeah, the brow
Jimmy: And it reads as absolute fury.
Harold: Well, I’ll tell you when I, when I do my little tally, if someone else were to do it themselves, they would come up with a, possibly a significantly different number because it’s a judgment call.
I just try to be consistent with myself. But I think someone else doing it might come up with a much higher, or lower number than I do. It’s it’s, it’s, it’s subtle.
Jimmy: Now, are you looking at it with any character? Like if it’s the character that maybe isn’t the main character in this story.
Harold: Yeah, any character expressing anger in a strip, that’s what I’m counting. And sometimes it’s, it’s a bunch of them, or all of them.
May 22nd. Charlie Brown is playing baseball in what looks like a really rough looking abandoned lot. He yells, “come on, let him hit it. What do you think I’m out here for.” The rest of the strip is Charlie Brown chasing a high fly ball. And to describe it, he runs through the rubble of broken houses, across barbed wire, through alleys, dirt patches, over, over what looks like a bunch of cans in a garbage pile between a fence through the woods. And finally the ball comes down and he drops it to the last second.
Harold: It’s almost looks like the front in world war II.
Michael: Yeah, really. this is my strip of the year. This is absolutely brilliant. I mean, the gag, it seems like someone would have thought of this before. It seems kind of obvious in retrospect, but that whole thing, he goes through to get it. Like, this is insane athletic feat to get to the ball. And then he’s so happy on the second to last panel, he’s going to be the hero. And then blip, the ball drops out.
Jimmy: Those last two panels. I mean the whole strip has some really great drawing that actually looks looser and more like later Peanuts to me in some ways.
But those last two panels, the look on his face and then the fact that his mouth disappears in that classic Peanuts profile as the ball falls out. It’s just hilarious and heartbreaking. Yeah. Yeah.
Harold: Yeah. You could see that last panel on you know, garbage pails and Snoopy Peanuts memorabilia. It’s just so classically drawn. It’s like, it’s like quintessential Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: Brown. Well, do you guys agree with me that this, the, the drawings and the background and stuff looks like later Schulz? Like it’s not, I mean, it’s much more messy like intentionally messy. Cause he’s going to try to describe this sort of vacant lot.
Harold: It looks very sketchy. And again, that’s what makes me think of is world war two stuff. You know, he was doing sketches and world war II and we have, we’ve seen some of those.
Michael: I would think of Bill Malden. Bill Malden was able to capture that, you know, those crumbling buildings and barb wire just kind of a scratchy line.
Jimmy: Yeah. Bill Malden was a cartoonist that, that was really popular among the GIs of world war II. Schulz was a huge fan and he ends up getting name-checked a bunch in later Peanuts strips.
Harold: There’s one panel here where Charlie Brown is running away from us in an alley and it’s got kind of this bizarre scratchy shadow, but the slats on the siding of what he’s running through are pretty rough. You know, they’re not exactly following the, the perspective, exactly. And again, it just kind of gives that sense. Like he was, he was sketching. Yeah. It doesn’t seem like the pristine Peanuts we saw a year or so ago. And it, but it really works. In fact, if you take just that panel and you blew it up and you said, what is this? I don’t know if you can, if everyone would go, oh, that’s Peanuts. That’s Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: Yeah. I don’t know. I’m just doing that right now on my iPad. It’s it’s definitely a strange pose for Peanuts. You never see the character from the back like that. There’s a lot of animation to it. It’s really nice. I like that strip a lot.
May 30th, Charlie Brown and Lucy are standing outside. Charlie Brown says, “the trouble with you is you can’t get along with anybody.” Charlie Brown is ranting at Lucy. “You can’t get along with your mother or your father or your baby brother or anybody.” Charlie Brown walks away. Lucy seems to take it in. Then she says, “I can get along with Pinky Lee.”
Harold: Oh, those pinky Lee gags. Yeah.
Michael: Does this fail the Shermy test?
Jimmy: Well let’s well, I mean, Lucy famously does not get along with people, so that’s, that’s part of her personality. But no, I say this passes the Shermy test.
Michael: I mean the punchline, I dunno if the punchline does, I think the joke is not inherent to the character.
Jimmy: No, the setup is so, oh, that’s so that’s another, that’s another gray area in the Shermy test.
Harold: And for those of you are wondering, and this is another Peanuts Obscurity– who on earth is Pinky Lee.
VO: It’s time for the Peanuts Time Machine
Harold Pinky Lee was this upbeat–
Michael: and who on earth is Shermy?
Jimmy: I have much to say about Shermy.
Michael: I think he’s Everyman.
Harold: Yes. So Pinky Lee is this upbeat comedian. He’s actually from St. Paul, Minnesota, which I found interesting. He’s very high energy. He was the main inspiration for Pee-wee Herman and he’s super high energy performing. You can find a couple of those things on, on YouTube.
He is constantly, he’s a dancer. He’s like these kind of dresses in the kind of the, I wouldn’t say it’s not a clown. The kind of the baggy pants kind of look. He had a studio audience. He would come in and hang out with the kids and the moms and the studio audience and just nonstop energy and everything is great and a laugh and fun.
He gets along with everybody, which is where Lucy’s saying, Pinky, Lee would–
Jimmy: well, I learned something today. I have heard jokes about Pinky Lee and references to Pinky Lee for my whole life. Never knew who Pinky Lee was. I think I assumed it was a female singer.
Harold: Yeah, right. He’s worth checking out. He actually collapsed while performing one of the shows and everyone was laughing for a long time until he didn’t get up. He was okay. He had, he had like some viral infection or something, but apparently that was the end of, of him doing the TV show. But you, you, you see how much energy you put into the show and it is like, take, take Pee-wee Herman and then just one notch higher. And that’s that’s Pinky Lee.
Jimmy: Oh, wow. Hey that’s if you were going to go out though, that’s the way to go out.
VO: We’ll have more with Jimmy, Michael, and Harold in Unpacking Peanuts 1955. Part Ttwo. Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen, and Harold Buchholz. produced by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen. Additional voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow unpackpeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. For more about Jimmy Michael and Herald visit Unpacking Peanuts.com. Have a wonderful day. And thanks for listening, you blockhead.
Arielle Nissenblatt is SquadCast’s head of community and content. She’s obsessed with all things podcast-related and is the founder of EarBuds Podcast Collective, a podcast recommendation engine.