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1975 Part 2 - Eggs Benedict for My Brother Spike!

Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts, where we are going to be looking at the second half of 1975 today. Can you believe it? We've already gone through 24 and a half years of Peanuts. All good stuff. I'll be your host for the proceedings.

My name is Jimmy Gownley. I'm also a cartoonist who did Amelia Rules the Dumbest Idea Ever and Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up. Joining me, as always, are my pals, co-hosts and fellow cartoonists.

He's a playwright and a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the co-creator of the original comic book Price Guide, the original editor of Amelia Rules, and the creator of such great strips as Tangled River, A Gathering of Spells, and Strange Attractors. It's Michael Cohen.

Michael: Say hey.

Jimmy: And he's the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics, and the current creator of instagram sensation Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.

Harold: I am?

Jimmy: What did you say?

Harold: I said, I am?

Jimmy: Why not? So, guys, here we are. It's the second half of 1975. I say we just get right to the strips.

Michael: Yes.

Jimmy: All right, we're starting off with, one that's very important in the annals of Peanuts for one very specific reason. And it is

May 26, 1975. Snoopy's seated atop his dog house, and, he's rifling through what looks like a takeout bag. Looks like Snoopy may have gotten a drive through. He's rummaging through it, and he says to himself, “I've heard the reports.” Then he puts something in his mouth. “I've read all the articles.” Now he's looking for some bag fries at the bottom of that bag. And he thinks to himself, “I don't care what anyone says.” And then in the last panel, “one of the great joys in life is scarfing junk food.”

Jimmy: Now, Harold, why don't, you tell us why I selected this one?

Harold: Well, I think you know, this one is featured in a photo collage of Schulz making a strip that you can find in that book we keep talking about from 1975, Peanuts Jubilee. And, it's a lot of fun to watch him blocking it out, and lettering it and drawing it. You can actually see his steps and his process in this photo montage. It, makes it a very special strip just because you saw it being made. If you got to see that book.

Jimmy: Yeah, it's very cool. It's kind of magical to watch it kind of appear before your eyes in those four little photographs, they took. So, yeah, I thought we should include it here and everybody, if you have the opportunity, it's, my number one pick of books that cover the stuff we've covered so far would be that Peanuts Jubilee book. Really well done.

Michael: I wonder about the word scarfing. I don't think that existed before the 70s.

Harold: There's a lot of jargon that Schulz seems to be using from somebody, he's probably hearing whether it's family members or someone of the ice arena or I don't know, the genie saying that stuff. But, yeah, it's really interesting that he's finding these words that I think sound kind of fun and musical to him and he's inserting them into the strip at this time.

Jimmy: Yeah, well, I think in general, he's doing things that are reaching out and trying to bring some of the current pop culture into the Peanuts strip, but do it in a way that's not too, obtrusive. I think a lot of times when you get to a certain age and you want to bring in new stuff into your strip, it's to mock it somehow. And he just sort of tries to incorporate it as naturalistically as anything else in the strip.

Harold: Yeah. I don't know if he's doing it for recognition in the sense that people not that he's recognized, but that there's just the sense of something that you've heard in the culture but you haven't seen embodied in a comic strip.

Michael: When you reach a certain age, though, you sort of want to throw in some modern slang just to prove you're not a fossil.

Jimmy: Yeah, 100%. Yeah. I feel that there is a little bit of that because although it's funny, he was doing things like Davy Crockett and all those types of giant trends. But it seems-- you know later on we'll see. He mentions Hogan's Heroes and stuff, which seems like it would be below the radar, but I guess not.

Harold: Big old hit show.

Jimmy: Great show. well, I mean, I guess it doesn't hold up, but when I was a little kid, I loved it. Features an actual Holocaust survivor as one of the Hogan's Heroes.

June 30, 1975. We've seen this one before. We have old Charlie Brown. This is the middle of a sequence where he goes to watch Joe Shlabotnik, his all time favorite baseball player, manage a team in the Green Grass League, which I think we're supposed to assume is some sort of off brand baseball. That's about as low as you can get. So Charlie Brown's here, and Joe's bus is about to pull out of town. He's actually been fired. All he's done successfully is bring the lineup card out to the umpire. So Charlie Brown's imploring to Joe up at the old bus window and he says, “joe, I'm one of your fans. Joe, I'm sorry you lost your job. Are you leaving town?” Charlie Brown hands up the baseball to him and says, “before the bus leaves, would you autograph my baseball? You'll always be my hero.” And then the last panel, he looks up and says, “try not to cry in the ball, Joe. It makes the ink run.”

Jimmy: Now, this was a pick earlier. So, Liz, could we go into the Unpacking Peanuts time machine and, go back and listen to what Will Hines had to say about this strip?

Liz: Why, certainly.

VO: It's time for the Peanuts time machine.

Will/KevinHines: Joe Shlabotnik. Yeah. I love this. Has this one been picked by people? I feel like I don't know. Maybe everybody feels this way, but some of the Peanuts strips, I can't believe that everybody doesn't think of them a lot. But I think of this one kind of frequently. Charlie Brown's favorite you can't just say Charlie. Charlie Brown's favorite character is, this loser baseball player who's always being sent down to maybe not always. I don't know how many times Joe's in it, but who's getting fired or sent down a league or is not good. And Charlie Brown still loves him. I don't know. That's something so sweet and endearing. And honestly, I relate to, I've done stuff on stage, but Kevin has, too. But we did it at a theater for relatively small audiences. But now and then, someone would come be like, you're so funny. And it would be like and I would think, like, I am Joe. I've had people ask for my autograph, and I'm just sort of like, all right. But then I got to get back to waiting on this table or whatever.

Harold: You learned. You bring the waterproof sharpie.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Will/KevinHines:: There's something just so sweet about it. It's just memorable. Try not to cry in the ball. Joe makes the ink run. What is just a heartbreaking thing to say to a grown man? I love it.

Jimmy: Is he crying because he lost his job? Is he crying because he's so moved that Charlie Brown wants his autograph?

Will/KevinHines: I mean, I'm picturing that he's moved. There's no way to know. But you'll always be my hero. And then he's crying. I feel like that's it. Grown men crying makes me laugh. Like at the end of Rushmore, when Bill Murray is crying at Max Fisher's Vietnam play. This is one of the funniest things I've seen. Unexpected tears gets me good.

Jimmy: Well, I love that Charles Schulz decides 25 years into the strip to just bring it in panel one and go, yeah, I'm going to draw a bus in perspective. The lighting of the parking garage, a full on brick wall with some bus. He has gone so minimal for so long now. But for whatever reason, he's like, I'm going to go the extra mile here.

Harold: Do you think he's doing that to really bring you into the space and make that last panel hit home?

Will/KevinHines:: I think he must decide he needs it. I would imagine that Schulz he's still doing the minimum. Just to him, it's like, I can't do less than this. It won't work if I don't do this. Yeah, I think that's what it is. He does as little as you need for the strip to get the idea across. And this is just a bigger idea. His idea just had too many pieces, maybe when he thought it was like, is there a way to do this without the bus? It doesn't work, right? yeah.

Jimmy: And it does take it completely outside the usual Peanuts realm of the neighborhood and all the friends and stuff like that. So, yeah, it probably was a thing where he was maybe a little outside his comfort zone and had to bring a little extra to it just to sell it.

Will/KevinHines:: I mean, the dialogue stays minimal because of the drawing. It's just Charlie Brown going, Joe. And it looks like a Hopper painting. I mean, it looks like just that first panel. I can hang it up and it'd be like, why is this sad painting on your wall?

Jimmy: Yes, very much like a Hopper painting. Also has the feel of the animated specials in a weird know yeah, that's true.

Will/KevinHines:: Because they would have to have those establishing shots in the locations.

Jimmy: All right. And that was, Will Hines pick. Will and Kevin Hines are the hosts of Screw it We're Just Going to Talk About Comics, one of my favorite podcasts, and we are so glad to have them as a guest way back when.

Michael: I don't think kids actually, or adults are that discerning about picking. Like, it's pretty obvious that your hero should be the best guy. I mean, I wasn't being, like, trying to be a, troublemaker when I said Willie Mays is my favorite player. He was the best player in the game. It wasn't like I like him because I like the way he wears his shoes.

Jimmy: Right? Yeah. I mean, Willie Stargill was my favorite Pittsburgh Pirate because he was number eight and I was number eight and he played first base. And I played a first base.

Michael: Okay, well, that's more of a reason than he was the best player in the game.

Jimmy: Well, he still didn't write back to me when I wrote my letter to him in fourth grade. So it doesn't matter, if the Pirates aren't going to come in fourth place in the division all by themselves.

July 6. Peppermint Patty and Marcie are atop Snoopy's Dog house. This is, a long sequence in which Peppermint Patty wants to fly in the Powder Puff Derby when they're using Snoopy's Dog House. One of the rare instances when I think the kids are actually just playing. Anyway, so they're atop the doghouse, and Marcie is saying where they're flying over Lincoln, Moline, Toledo, and then Boyne Falls, or Boyne Falls. “That's Toledo, Ohio down there, sir,” says Marcie as. Peppermint Patty pilots the dog house. Patty looks back, saying, “good navigating, Marcie. We're in the 28th annual Powerpuff Derby, and we're doing great.” Marcie says to Peppermint Patty, “one thing's for sure, sir. We're the only ones in the race flying a Sopwith camel.” Peppermint Patty says, “hang on, we're going in for a landing.” Now we see Peppermint Patty outside the doghouse, and Snoopy comes up wearing a mechanic's hat. Peppermint Patty says to him, “hey, mechanic, we've just flown all the way from Riverside, California. Our engine's running a bit rough. Can you help us?” Snoopy goes up, kicks the doghouse, and listens to hear if it's running properly. And then the next panel, Patty says to Marcie, who looks upset, “what's the matter, Marcie?” Marcie says, “I don't know, sir. I just sort of feel tired and depressed. It's been a long trip.” Snoopy then kisses her on the nose with his classic, “poor sweet baby.” They get back up in the Sopwith Camel. Marcie says, “I feel better now, sir.” Peppermint Patty says, “a good mechanic understands airplanes and women, Marcie. On to Michigan.”

Jimmy: I'm not sure he does, but all right, what do we think of this? This is a whole long sequence where Peppermint Patty is playing that she's in this female flying race and doing so with Snoopy. So she's to the point of almost, but not quite becoming part of Snoopy's world of imagination.

Harold: Yeah, this is taking it to, I think a new level, right, where their worlds intersect and the fantasy--

Jimmy: Or it's less. I originally thought that. Now I think it's less of a level because I don't think Peppermint Patty and Marcie are convincing themselves or anybody else that they are really in this race. I think they are just like kids playing now that gets pretty intense. I've quit many games of Star Wars when I was a kid because I couldn't get to be Luke Skywalker or whatever.

Harold: But I think that's what's going on. I mean, that would be not having, ever looked at Peanuts before. The first thing you would think is, that absolutely right. Because how could it possibly be otherwise? And yet they never blink, they never wink. But, yeah, there are certainly worlds where play is taken very seriously and you don't break character. And when you're thwarted by somebody taking over your plane, as Snoopy does, to fly the Sopwith Camel, which causes Peppermint Patty to get incredibly angry and fight Snoopy because it messes up the yeah, I see what you're it is in the realm of play. And how else do you even interpret.

Jimmy: I mean our games would get too intense sometimes.

Harold: Yeah. Especially when everyone has their own ability to create the rules, because it is play, and everyone's got a different idea of what the rules of what everyone's agreeing to believe in, which is one of the great fun of play. In my Apathy Cat comic, I had a character who was trying to get someone to play a board game he'd created. It was called I Win. And basically, every time something good happens to the character, well, the rules are, of course, that I take this away from you, and at the end, I win. Yeah. They get in this gigantic fight over it, and it's like, what are those two doing? It's just all they're currently collaborating on a new game called We Lose.

But the piece of trivia about this I don't know if you guys know this or not, that I find absolutely fascinating is when this strip was being read in newspapers all over the country. On Sunday, July 6, 1975, Jeanne Schulz and her mom were actually flying in the 20th annual Powder Puff Derby.

Jimmy: Whoa. Amazing.

Harold: Going from California, to Michigan.

Jimmy: Wait, so is Jeannie a pilot, too?

Harold: Yeah, because of her mom. Her mom was a flyer. So this whole thing started right after World War II and ran for I think it was a good 30 years or so. I don't think it lasted too much longer after this, but yeah, mom was a pilot. I think through Mom, Jeanne got involved and they became partners to make this cross country.

Jimmy: That's amazing. Very, very cool, because I've never really heard of it. I had seen these sequences before, but that's so great to know that it was, something personal. Very cool. Moving on.

Oh, so now this is a very exciting thing. We're going to have a major Peanuts debut coming up right now, guys. And that is

August 13. After some bit of build up, Snoopy's brother Spike has finally arrived. We see Snoopy sitting atop his dog house, and he thinks to himself, “my brother has arisen.”

Michael: Hallelujah.

And he shouts out in his mind, at least, “eggs Benedict for my brother Spike.” Lucy comes up and says, “I think you'd better make that ten pounds of buffalo steak.” And then we see for the first time Snoopy's brother Spike, who is rail thin, wearing a floppy old fedora, and has a mustache.

Harold: Yeah, so another new character with, the full little pupil in the rounded eyeball thing. After we, saw Truffles.

Jimmy: I do think it's an impossible task to make another character in the Snoopy design, because we've seen Snoopy. It took 25 years to get Snoopy to where he is right now. But I think Spike works in the sense that you, can see the relationship to Snoopy, but you know, it's not Snoopy, right? He has his sort of personality built into his design, which is a great act of--. So that's the first appearance of Spike, the first of many Snoopy siblings to show up. Now, what do you guys think? In know, I think a lot of time know old time Peanuts fans don't enjoy the siblings as a concept. For me personally, of course, I think I probably would have preferred that Snoopy is just 100% unique, but I must admit, when I read some of them just are very funny strips. And Spike in particular, can be very funny. He was my niece's favorite Peanuts character when she was little.

Harold: Really?

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: Scary. Yeah. After 1970, I would occasionally catch Peanuts. Every now and then, there'd just be a newspaper lying around, and boy, was I confused. I mean, Rerun and Spike, I had no idea what was going on.

Harold: Yeah, I just kind of scratched my head at Spike whenever I'd see him in the like, why is he spending time with this character? It was kind of my question. I remember as a kid, I think.

Jimmy: Scratching, your head might be the effect he was going for with Spike.

Harold: Could be, yeah.

Jimmy: You know what I mean? I do think at some point there is a little bit of well, I find this funny. I know maybe not everyone is going to dig Spike, but I don't know, I sort of do. Why it is, I don't know, but, it could be from you do something for 25 years, you're going to need a change of pace, even if it's just drawing a mustache on Snoopy.

Michael: Yeah. Well, maybe he always wanted to draw cactus.

Jimmy: That's true. And you got to find you draw what you like.

Harold: Yeah. This is in Hennepin County. He's coming a long way.

Jimmy: That is a long way. No wonder he is real thin. Now, Lucy, in this sequence, sort of against her nature, has decided she is going to fatten Spike up.

Harold: Yeah, she's very motherly, in a way here.

Jimmy: Very maternal. we see her in panel one here on

August 20. and we're in Linus and Lucy's house, and Lucy is delivering something to Spike, and Linus sees it and says, “another milkshake for Spike.” You're going to spoil that dog. Then he looks around and says, “hey, our TV is gone.” And then we see tucked in bed, looking unbelievably cozy atop multiple pillows and having his milkshake is Spike. And he is watching the aforementioned Hogan's Heroes listening to Sergeant Schultz “What are you doing here? I see nothing, Colonel Hogan. Nothing.”

Jimmy: Which is as close as you're going to get to me doing a Sergeant Schultz impersonation.

Michael: So I am assuming that Hogan's Heroes was like being on reruns.

Harold: Yes, this is 1975. So what? That show came out, like, in 68? and it ran for quite a while, but I think it's probably off the air on primetime by this point.

Michael: Yeah, I would think it was 65, but yeah, I wasn't aware. I would assume people in the 70s would not know that show, but it must be rerun.

Harold: Oh, sorry. No, it was 1965 to 71, so yeah, it's definitely reruns.

Jimmy: Yeah, I watched it every single day. This is Spike staying home from school, watching TV.

Harold: So maybe Linus named Rerun after Hogan's Heroes.

Jimmy: Indirectly, maybe.

[sfx: crickets]

Jimmy: Chirp chirp.

August 28. We see Woodstock flying through the air. He's carrying something in his beak. He looks like a possibly a little piece of string or twine. And then in the next panel, we see Linus and Sally watching this unfold. And it is string because Sally says, “why do birds need so much string when they're building a nest?” Linus says, “I'm sure I don't know.” Then in the last panel, we see Woodstock, who has installed a little swing under his bird's nest, which, looks very fun.

Michael: There's something about Woodstock because I think he's so small and so many horrible things happen to him for some reason when he's smiling, I'm happy about it.

Harold: I had a little smiling, closed eyed Woodstock plush toy as a kid growing up. I just loved it. Yeah, you just root for him because he's such a tiny little guy. And this is probably one of the cutest Woodstocks you're ever going to see in this strip. That's why I picked it. I just thought it was delightful and adorable. And it's kind of nice to see Woodstock having a-- Woodstock, actually see something through. That's quite a surprise in the strip, right?

Jimmy: Yeah. And it's a genius innovation in bird nest technology, right?

Harold: Yeah. This is an advanced little bird here.

Jimmy: I love the way the bird's nest I mean, you don't normally see it that big. And, it is just truly just very ferocious scratched in lines that looks exactly like a bird's nest.

Harold: Yeah. Much denser at the bottom. And you totally buy it as a nest. And given how happy we've got our little Woodstock there, maybe I should, address our anger and happiness index.

Jimmy: Oh, good. Let's go. I have 100% certainty that I'm going to get it right this time.

Harold: Again, for our new listeners. Every year, I'm basically going through and counting the number of strips that show a character either showing anger or showing happiness. It's a little bit subjective, but I do my best to kind of, make my call on that particular thing in the strip, and then I add them all up. And then we year to year, see if there's any trend going on. So here we are, 1975. Back in 74, we had 95 angry strips, which was up from an all time low of 73 the previous year. Where do you think we are this year? Because 95 is still not particularly high in the average. I think, for Schulz I think it's typically been hundreds or above. What do you think this year felt like to you?

Michael: It doesn't strike me as a particularly angry year. I'll just pick 80. I think maybe it's down a little.

Harold: Okay. What do you think, Jimmy?

Jimmy: I think it's holding steady. So I'm going to say 91.

Harold: 91. Boy, if we average the two of you guys, you'd be right on. It's 85 it is down. and then on the happiness side, in 74, we were at 102 happy strips, which was up from 73 and 92, which was up from 86 and 72. So it's been gradually climbing up until 74. What do you think happened in 75?

Michael: well, we had some long sequences which might weigh it. I mean, the bouncing on the bed, I don't know if that's happiness. The waterbed? I don't think so. I'll say 95. Down a little.

Harold: So down a little. What do you think, Jimmy?

Jimmy: I think it's up I'm going to say it's up two.

Harold: Wow. Jimmy, you are, within two. It's 106.

Jimmy: All right.

Harold: Wow. Okay, so a little bit less anger, a little more happiness. The feel of this year is I feel like there's a lot of stoic stuff going on in the strip for humor, but there are also these fun, silly moments. Certainly this one little one with Woodstock really stands out to me. But yeah, it's interesting. Those are not really particularly high numbers for either of them. Although I guess happiness is kind of on par.

But yeah, I think I was reading something that Jeannie said in an interview and I'm going to just paraphrase it and not exactly get it right, but this is kind of what I got out of what she said. She said that you could never tell exactly when he was being funny or not. He'd try to say things that were kind of on the edge, so you never knew exactly if he was serious or not. I thought that was interesting coming from Jeannie. And I, remember there seems to be kind of when he gets comfortable with somebody and you've seen it in letters that he's written in some of the books we looked at. There's one, of correspondence with church members that he had I apologize, I don't remember the name of it at the moment. That's really fascinating. But when he seems to be very comfortable with someone, he knows them very well. There's this particularly silly, goofy, playful word-smithing that I see in his letters. And I'm just wondering this is, again, just a conjecture, but it seems like he's very comfortable with Jeannie. And based on what she's kind of said, how he is, I think there's this kind of a little bit more freewheeling goofiness that is making its way into the strip. I don't know what you guys think about that.

Jimmy: Yeah, I see that. Definitely. The other thing I notice is that he seems to have a little bit more of a hang of balancing the original cast with some of these new things. I think maybe it's because he's taken a little bit of a he's made Peppermint Patty a little bit less prominent this year, give her that big sequence and stuff like that. But I think it balances the strip out nicely. And I do think that there is something going on. I think where he is just more mellow or more content. I don't find it hurting, the strip in any way, but I definitely can sort of sense it. And it's nice. It's probably where we start to think of Peanuts as a warm and sort of friendly place, even though really the content hasn't changed that much from ten years ago. But it just has a slightly different feel.

Harold: Yeah. It's almost like even though the depressing moments and all of that are definitely in there and the defeats and the people being thwarted from what they want that's been in there all the way through. I don't know, there's kind of this warm fatherly or grandfatherly, don't worry, it's going to be okay kind of feel that seems to that I feel more of now than I think I did in some of the strips. Certainly the late 50s were like, talk about anger. There was really angry. It's funny. It just had a real edge to it, like day after day. And it's just fascinating how it ebbs and flows over the…

Jimmy: you know, the other thing that I think I can maybe speak to a little bit at this know, we talked the whole time that Schulz was a father and there were these kids around all the time and now he's been a father. He has raised kids and you know, when they say kids change you, that's a lot of time that has also changed you. And if you don't slowly become slightly more of a calming presence, slightly more well, not slightly more parental, more centered, you're going to be terrible at the job, and you're not going to--

Harold: Yeah like the pressure is off. Right. I mean, you're experiencing that now. You're a father who's had some kids leave the nest, and you're experiencing that in a fresh way. It seems like to some extent it's more on them now, less on you. And the edge is a little bit off in terms of I'm responsible for these people every day, every moment of the day. And I can see how that would give you the chance to kind of take a breather and relax.

Jimmy: Yeah. And you have to lay back a little bit more and not react. Because the other thing is, kids in general, everything is always dialed up to ten because everything's a new experience.

Harold: Sure. Yeah.

Jimmy: You have to honor that. But you can't get involved in it. It's very strange. This might be off topic, but there are parents groups now, like online for your kids go off to college. And the amount of things I see people post on there and I will never post in my life that are so, like, trying to get almost like they're the college students dealing with these dramas themselves. And you can't be that way. You've got to step back and realize it's the next person's story now.

Harold: Wow.

September 3 Good old Charlie Brown and Sally are walking possibly to school, but maybe it's the Sunday school. Who knows? well, it's not a Sunday school because it's not a Sunday strip. So they're off to school, and Sally somewhere, I guess, at her elementary school, is going to sign up for a new class. And she says, “I'm going to try to sign up for a course in theology.” And Sally continues, “I want to learn all about religion.” And then in the next panel, they continue walking, and Sally says, “I want to learn about Moses and St. Paul and Minneapolis.” Charlie Brown says, “Minneapolis?”

Jimmy: thinking about the old homestead.

Michael: that's the classic setup, that Schulz uses a lot, where, the punchline is someone just repeating something absurd.

Harold: Someone else, you know, it seems to work know, I'm sure people are reading the newspaper, they're skimming through, and it's like you probably aren't necessarily catching it right as you're reading it. And so the same time you split second, you see the response of the other character.

Michael: It did make me realize something, though, that even though Schulz moved to California, the characters did not.

Jimmy: Right.

Michael: I mean, I was always worried about the snow, but they also go surfing, so I got to assume they're still in Minnesota. Except there's a place to surf somewhere.

Jimmy: I don't know where that would you know, maybe they're terrible at surfing, too. We only see Snoopy, and that could be his imagination. I could see Charlie Brown surfing on a completely still lake, just lying on a board, waiting, hopefully. okay.

Talking about the classic Schulz set up, punchline, repeat thing. Like, 100 years ago. I talked about how I once analyzed an entire year of Peanuts and checked out where the punchline is and all the different sets. This is when I was going to do I found that notebook. Should I get it right now?

Harold: Yes.

Jimmy: All right.

Michael: Wow. That's like a treasure.

Jimmy: All right, hang on. you guys out there, just wait. Liz will play some quick music, and I'll be right back. All right.

Michael: So this was written when you were trying to be the next great, newspaper cartoonist.

Jimmy: The next great newspaper cartoonist? Yes.

Harold: What year would this be?

Jimmy: 2009.

Harold: Wow.

Jimmy: Yeah. Washington Post Writers Group. Okay, so here's what happened. I was approached by the Washington Post Writers Group with a contract to do, a development contract. So I would do a month worth of strips, and then they would see if it was going to be a comic strip. Unfortunately, 2009 was when the first Amelia Simon & Schuster books were coming out, so that wasn't going to happen. They put the kibosh on it, which was fine. It was totally their right. No way we could do it. So I didn't get to do it, but I worked on it for a few months beforehand. And one thing I wanted to figure out was, could I even do this? I mean, how can you possibly come up with a joke or an idea every single day? So what I decided to do was try to come up with, a system that would basically eliminate all your different choices. So that then once those are all made, all you have to do is basically write the joke. So what you would do is I had a list of 42 possible settings, 42 possible themes, 52 possible seasonal things. And then you would just basically find some way to randomly pick which one.

Michael: Yeah. Roll the dice and it writes itself, right?

Jimmy: Exactly. So you would have like you roll the dice one you go okay, so it's taking place at school. You roll it again. They're getting ready for summer vacation, whatever. And they're worried about loneliness. That's the next thing. So this is all the point is to eliminate the choices. So you could do something very quickly.

Harold: You invented AI.

Jimmy: Yeah. Yes, basically. Right. Okay. So then though, I realized one of the real secrets of Peanuts, which was obviously my gold standard was what Michael was talking about. Which is the punchline isn't always necessarily in the last panel. The structure is very different. So I went through and I analyzed 1968 and I found ten different ways that Schulz did the same four panel strip. So this does not count Sundays. Okay? So it would be things like panel one is the setup. Panel two is to advance the plot. Panel three a silent panel. Panel four is the punchline. You could do another one where it's set it up, advance the plot, advance it for the third panel, then do the punchline. But then you could do the third type which was set up, advance the plot, then do the punchline, then do the reaction. Which is what we just saw there. Right. The Minneapolis is the reaction. You could do one where there's a tease, where it's a non sequitur beginning. Then there's a setup to explain it, advance it, then there's the punchline. So anyway, I'm not going to go through all of them, but I'll take a picture and we could put it up on the old website. But it's interesting because you sort of think a comic strip is three panels and then the punchline. But in just that one year, he has ten different ways to turn four panels into a joke without ever changing the panels. The panels are always the same. They're always the same number, they're always the same size. But I think this is one of the real secrets to why it seems fresh every day.

Harold: so do you think other if you analyzed another strip you wouldn't find ten?

Jimmy: Well, in part because you don't have the four panels a day.

Harold: What if there was a strip that was essentially four panels a day that wasn't specifically following Schulz let's say? Well I mean, like maybe Calvin and Hobbes might have followed.

Jimmy: well, but for Calvin and Hobbes is a great example because it wasn't four panels all the like sometimes it would just be one, think I put it this saying. I'm sure there are different techniques each cartoonist uses on the daily strip. But I think this is unique to Schulz in that there was never any variation in those four panels.

Michael: I want to propose something. The next strip up is a Sunday.

Jimmy: Yes.

Michael: Let's see if we can turn it into a four panel. With some impact.

Jimmy: All right, let's do that.

September 7, 1975. it's a leap forward, for Snoopy. He has dressed up as a little Scout master, and so are a couple of little birds. Woodstock's little friends, I guess. So we have two panels across the top where there's a couple birds there with Snoopy. And then I don't really know exactly what happens. One bird runs back to get more birds.

Jimmy: Do you guys understand what's happening?

Michael: I think he's trying to catch up.

Jimmy: But he's going the other way.

Michael: Yeah, but they keep changing direction on their hike. I don't know. I don't know if any of them are Woodstock.

Harold: I just assume he did a really cute drawing of a bird with a hat flying over its head. And that was a throwaway.

Jimmy: Yeah, it's definitely a throwaway.

Okay, so anyway, Snoopy is clearly their Scout master, and he has a, little group of four Woodstock type birds. And they're out for a hike. So they hike along a trail and they hike, through the mountains. And then it's night, and they're out. And Snoopy is cooking hot dogs for three of them. But one of them is going to starve because Snoopy has only made three. Then, they no they don't wake up. They're going to sleep because it's very late. And then the last one we see, they have pitched the tent, Snoopy's lying on top of it, and the little Woodstocks are lying on the string, the ropes, rather. That keep the tent upright.

Michael: Now, this is the first scout troop, isn't it?

Jimmy: I believe so, yes.

Michael: Okay.

Jimmy: All right. So what should we do if we were going to try to make this a short one?

Michael: Given the punchline, that's one.

Michael: I mean, basically, you can do 1,5,6,7.

Jimmy: Well, when you say one, are you talking?

Michael: 1578

Jimmy: Are you talking wait, one? I would do three, no, I would do 4578, because I think one I still don't understand what's happening in one and two.

Harold: I do 5678.

Jimmy: Schlemiel, Schlimazel

Michael: Okay, but does that set it up well enough? He is the leader. Scout leader.

Harold: Well, he's leading in five. He's leading them, up a hill. Then they're having hot dogs together. They're tired, and then they sleep. So yeah, that would be my pick.

Michael: Yeah, for the joke being a visual joke. the birds imitating him in a way.

Jimmy: Right. Did anyone look at this in color or the more modern color, I should say?

Harold: No, I didn't.

Jimmy: Okay. Because I want to see how they're coloring the birds in the revised are.

Harold: They not recoloring the 1975 comics. Are they the Sundays?

Jimmy: Well, they're recoloring some, yeah, I think so. I mean, they're all being like whether or not they're sticking, I'm sure they're sticking in some way in most ways to the original. But yeah, I mean, they have to all be recolored. They're not doing with the old benday dots and stuff.

Harold: Oh, I thought if it was a strip that Schulz showed his choices, they wouldn't touch.

Jimmy: I mean, I couldn't swear to that, but I think so.

Michael: This is an odd choice for Schulz because he's kind of watering down Woodstock. We keep talking about he's got this very distinct look for a bird. But then again, these are pretty much clones, which means there's lots of Woodstocks out there.

Jimmy: Well, you know what? This is my fan fiction. Do you want me to write fan fiction about what this is?

Michael: Yeah.

Jimmy: Woodstock has no bird friends, and Snoopy is concerned, so he creates this little bird scouting troop so that Woodstock can have bird friends. That's my fan fiction.

Michael: But wouldn't he want to point out Woodstock? I mean, if I was doing that, I'd think one of the birds is tripping and bumping his head.

Jimmy: Yeah, I don't know. Yeah, I guess he doesn't I guess in these instances they're functioning just as the scouts.

Harold: Yeah, to me this is a merchandise exercise.

Jimmy: Might be. Who picked this one, by the way?

Michael: I might have. Well, if it's a first, because I know I've seen lots of these before, so that's a big.

Jimmy: Also, I really like the panel two that Harold mentioned. I mean, Woodstock running along is adorable, but so is the roughness of the ground that inking with.

Harold: World War I moments when Snoopy's crawling through the barbed wire.

Jimmy: Yeah, you see it too, on the pen lines on the third panel, on the second tier on those rocks and stuff, where he has the pen at a really low angle and just kind of swooping it by to make those thick lines and it looks great. True, man.

Harold: Kind of reminds me of those Gasoline Alley strips that people love so much.

Jimmy: this actually makes me I wanted to ask you guys this question, because we talk a lot about the art in Peanuts, and I think leaving Peanuts aside, for a second, what do you guys think are some of the best drawn funny comic strips?

Michael: I think Flash Gordon is hilarious.

Jimmy: Flash Gordon is a riot. Other than Flash Gordon.

Michael: I mean, it's got to be purposely funny because he uses the same plot like every two months, keeps, recycling the same thing up, Dale's getting kidnapped.

Harold: You can't say that about Mary Worth. But yeah, well, I mean a strip that I loved for its just sheer exuberant cartooniness. It was kind of a strip that I didn't have in my newspaper when I lived in New York. And then our family moved to Columbia, Missouri in 1977 when I was eleven--was Moose Miller by Bob Weber It ran for like 60 years or something. And there was something that was just kind of what they called the bigfoot style of cartooning.

Jimmy: Yeah, like a Mort Walker style kind of thing.

Harold: But you had this character who was basically kind of the n’er do well loafer, and yet he's always happy. His wife loves him. I mean, his neighbor can't stand him, is always, just going insane because he's got this total slob living next door to him. But yeah, there's this kind of a joy in the cartooning, and there's cats and dogs and moles all with goofy grins popping out of the ground. And it just has this exuberant fun art style that I found really ingratiating when I was, like, eleven year old kid. I was like, oh, I was so happy that I was going to because I'd seen it in like, a Syracuse newspaper or something when my dad had gone on a travel. And I was like, what's this? And I'd only had a couple of them. And then I was like, oh, I get to see it every day now. I was really happy.

Michael: This is Moose Cast, Episode One.

Jimmy: Yeah, we had Moose as like, I've gone on record and said and I really like Bud Blake. his strip Tiger, I think looks great. Obviously Calvin and Hobbes looks great. That would be anyone's contender for all time best drawn comic strip. And Pogo.

Harold: And there's many I wouldn't say Pogo. Well, yeah, Pogo could be very funny. I mean, certainly the comics book over the comic strip, I would say, had a lot more loose, crazy action and stuff. But an artist whose style I can't separate it from the writing, was Richard Thompson's, Cul de Sac. he would draw the father drove to work in this car that was like incredibly tiny, and he's constantly just kind of poking fun at suburbia. His style is, yeah, you can't really separate from the writing. They're so intertwined. But, it's kind of got this scratchy look. And Richard was always queasy and squeamish about foods and things that just seemed off or wrong and that would kind of make you squirm a little bit. And so his drawings would sometimes have that kind of uncomfortable, scratchy look to them.

Jimmy: All right, very cool. Well, those are some of our picks for good, looking comic strips.

Harold; Oh Mutt

Jimmy: Mutt. How could we forget.

Harold: Those are adorable, fun , so boiled down to simplicity. and some of the drawings are absolutely priceless.

Jimmy: I think possibly the best coloring ever done in a daily comic strip Somehow bridges-- obviously super inspired by the early 20th century strips, but brings it into the 90s and looks great. Yeah.

Okay, so those are our picks for cool looking comic strips. We would love to hear from you guys. we're going to take a break now, but while we're doing that, we're going to go get ourselves some Tastycakes and a bowl of goop or whatever. And, while we're doing that, what you guys can do is you could, log on to our website. You could send us an email from there, you could subscribe to our newsletter, where once a month, Mr. Harold Buchholz will send you a newsletter letting you know what strips we're covering for the month. You could also find us on social media where we're unpackpeanuts on Twitter, Instagram, and threads. So, hey, we're just going to take a break. You think about what you're going to talk to us about. Why don't you tell us what your favorite, best drawn humor comic strip is and we'll be right back.


VO: Hi, everyone. I just want to take a moment to remind you that all three hosts are cartoonists themselves and their work is available for sale. You can find links to purchase books by Jimmy, Harold, and Michael on our website. You can also support the show on patreon or buy us a mud pie. Check out the store link on

Jimmy: And ah, we're back. Hey, so we put the call out, after our duos episode, or during our duos episode. Who else should we cover? And, the resounding, response was Schroeder and Lucy. People were worked up that we did not include Schroeder and Lucy. Partly I did not do that because I knew they were going to be included heavily in the Unrequited Love episode. But, they are definitely a classic Peanuts, duo. So thanks to you guys, for writing in and saying that. And I personally think at some point, we could do a whole episode of just Lucy and Schroeder at the piano, maybe for Beethoven's birthday some year.

Liz: December 16.

Jimmy: December 16. All right, so let's get back to the strips.

September 20. Snoopy's lying atop the dog house, and Woodstock comes soaring in, upside down. He lands on Snoopy's feet again, upside down, just, perfectly balanced on his head. Stays there for a panel, then flies away. In panel four, Snoopy, still lying there in the doghouse, thinks to himself, “weird.”

Michael: It's perfect. Yeah, I picked this one. I think this is like one of the greatest punchlines because it isn't a punchline.

Jimmy: Brilliant.

Michael: But what's funny is, or odd, is that this is the thing that gets called weird. Out of all the stuff that's gone on in the last 24 years, there's weirder stuff than this.

Harold: I just hear Snoopy channeling George Carlin.

Jimmy: It's great.

Michael: Could be a Carlin reference.

Jimmy: Weird. I love it. That's just a great comic strip. here's another one I love.

September 27, Snoopy is sitting underneath a tree watching as for three panels, Woodstock slowly, ever so slowly, falls from the tree and lands on the ground. And then panel four, Snoopy looks at Woodstock, who is lying on the ground looking super pleased with himself. And Snoopy says, “Unfortunately, I'd say there's almost no market at all for leaf imitations.”

Michael: I think he's just jealous.

Jimmy: Yeah, because, this is a world class imitation.

Michael: Oh, yeah, it's brilliant.

Harold: I love the sense of satisfaction that Woodstock shows in the last panel lying on the ground.

Jimmy: How many people do you think could have even seen that in a newspaper? Like the actual expression on Woodstock's face.

Harold: It's so tiny.

Jimmy: It is so tiny.

Harold: But it does read.

Jimmy: It's crazy.

Harold: It's crazy.

Jimmy: It does read. Yeah, all those little details. But boy, those are two Schulz masterful cartooning strips back to back. If you want to know why. He's a great cartoonist, purely just making you laugh through fun visuals. Those two strips are good examples. here we are.

This is a strip I definitely wanted to highlight.

October 2, the actual 25th anniversary of the strip. Lucy has succeeded in fattening up Spike, and he is now hitchhiking his way back to Needles, California. And we see him in panel one with his thumb out or whatever he has passing for a thumb and a sign saying Needles. A car pulls up just to say no. The kid leans out of the window and says, “sorry, dog, we can't give you a ride. My dad says, you probably have fleas.” The car drives away, leaving it behind a cloud of dust. Spike thinks, “may your smog control device reduce your gas mileage.”

Jimmy: Boy, that's a 70s strip right there.

Harold: Boy, that's cutting.

Michael: It seems like the Spike strips could almost be like a separate strip, for sure. I guess he interacts with them occasionally, but there definitely could be a Spike strip.

Jimmy: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Now, what do you guys think? I think fattened up Spike not as appealing as skinny Spike. I mean, I don't mean to make this as a blanket body shaming issue, but I think in Spike's case, he needs to rock that rail thin look.

October 5. Oh, boy. Sally. And she is going to school a Sunday. Sally at school is always good. So in panel one, she is sharpening her pencil and she says to herself, “these tests are going to drive me crazy.” And she looks at the test in panel two and does seem completely confused by it. So she raises her hand in panel three and says, “ma'am, I don't really understand this third question. Do you want us to write what we think or what we think you want us to write?” Sally continues, because she's already on a roll. “If we try to write what we think you want us to write, doesn't that get us into this whole mind reading thing and open a can of worms? I'm not really into mind reading myself. I'm not so sure it can even be done. Oh, I've bent a few spoons in my time. It's not really my bag. Anyway, we all seem to. Yes, ma'am.” The last panel, we see Sally writing. “George Washington was a good man.”

Jimmy: Oh, I've bent a few spoons in my time.

Harold: Okay. So I don't know how obscure this is in 2023.

Michael: well, he's gone, so...

Jimmy: What Uri Geller?

Michael: I assume he's gone.

Liz: He wasn't that old.

Harold: I thought he was still around. I don't know.

Michael: You think so?

Jimmy: Well, tell people who you're talking about

VO: Peanuts Obscurities Explained

Harold: So Yuri Geller is the guy who, for a brief shining moment in culture, he was everywhere about his ability to bend spoons. He was an Israeli British illusionist and magician. Says Google.

Jimmy: And he is still alive.

Michael: Good for him.

Jimmy: He's bent.

Harold: Imagine that you can be so charismatic that's your claim to fame is that you bend spoons with your mind.

Michael: Forks. No chance.

Jimmy: No chance can't be done.

Harold: Yeah. No one has ever done a single tine on a fork. That's still absurd to be explored.

Jimmy: See, that's when you'd know you're good, because you really couldn't do that.

Liz: I have to admit that I did read his book and I did try to bend spoons.

Harold: Really?

Liz: I did.

Harold: So what was this book? So was he basically saying it was, like a mind power thing and that you two can do this thing?

Liz: You were supposed to stroke it with your index finger or something like that. I don't remember it very clearly, but I was not successful.

Jimmy: Well, if you guys want to learn how to bend spoons like Uri Geller, you can actually just look up how to do it on YouTube these days. It's a quite simple trick, actually.

Michael: Yeah, I think if you put your thumb on it and you push hard enough.

Jimmy: that is exactly the trick.

Harold: You don't give stuff away. That's breaking the magician's code. But there's actually an article that came out this year in the UK's the Telegraph. The headline is Yuri Geller: I made a fortune bending spoons. Now I live in a tiny apartment with Ikea furniture.

Michael: And plastic spoons.

Harold: Just sporks now.

Jimmy: Oh, my God. Could you imagine being, working at the nursing home of Yuri Geller? Oh, Mr. Geller, did you do your finish up your dinner? he's just smiling and all the

Harold: was it Jerry Lewis? Oh, Mr. Geller.

October 9. Charlie Brown and Linus are hanging out at the thinking wall. Charlie Brown says, “I hate to see the sun go down. I've wasted another day.” Linus asks him, “what do you consider a day not wasted?” Charlie Brown says, “A day where I met the girl of my dreams, was elected president of our country, won the Nobel Prize, and hit a home run.” Linus says, “I can understand why you'd hate to see the sun go.”

Michael: I didn't know Charlie Brown was writing blues.

Harold: Yeah. Boy, those are some high aspirations for Charlie Brown, given that Joe Shlabotnik is is favorite player

Jimmy: Clearly we understand a little bit about why Charlie Brown is always depressed because he set himself up, for impossible challenges. Definitely good looking thinking wall. And we're right back at the thinking wall for

November 1, but this time, it's Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty. They've abandoned their tree for the moment. Charlie Brown says to Peppermint Patty, “do you know what happened to me? I went trick or treating last night, and all I got in my bag was a rock.” Peppermint Patty says, “I sat in a pumpkin patch for a week, and I didn't get anything.” Charlie Brown says to Peppermint Patty, “do you want my rock?”

Jimmy: This is a long story where Peppermint Patty has decided she is going to sit out in the pumpkin patch with Linus because she needs a new baseball glove, and she's hoping the Great Pumpkin could hook her up with that.

Harold: Yeah, and Charlie Brown, you know, telling his story, and then he gets trumped, and his response is to offer his rock. That was one of those kind of, like, awww moments where you're laughing at the same.

Jimmy: Absolutely. And, you know, that's what makes Charlie Brown so great. He means it sincerely with the rock.

Harold: it's a step up you know, I give you what I go. It’s so sweet.

Jimmy: It's been, what, nine years since the Great Pumpkin animation, where all I got was a rock thing became kind of famous. But at this point, everybody probably knew it. I mean, it had been on the air nine years now.

Harold: Yeah, right.

Jimmy: And that brings us to

December 18. Snoopy is out ice skating, wearing his long stocking cap, and Lucy is, standing there criticizing him. “She'll say, you'll never get into the Olympics. You have no reputation.” And she yells after him, “no one knows who you are.” And Snoopy doing what Weezer fans would call the impossible bend, which is basically in, like, a limbo position, and doffing his cap and says to us, “I'll disguise myself as Mr. Frick.”

Jimmy: which I'm hoping is an obscurity.

Michael: Yes, it's so obscure. I mean, I think I've known all the other obscurities, but, boy, this one.

Harold: This one stumped me. And so, of all of the rabbit holes I've gone down, this was one of the most delightful rabbit holes I've been down. Because why is Charles Schulz selling Mr. Frick as a punchline in 1975? What on earth could he be referring to? Well, it turns out there was a team, a Swiss team called Frick and Frack.

Jimmy: Oh, yeah.

Harold: Who were these ice skaters who were novelty ice skaters, comedy ice skaters. And the guy who played Frick, his name was Werner Groebli. And so he played Frick, and he and his partner would just do these comedic tricks on ice, but they pretend to throw a rope. But he was famous for, like, he was able to bend this way backwards over his skates and be almost parallel to the ground. And he was an incredible skater, but he never participated in anything competitive. He did it for humor. And so he moved to the United States in 1937. Ice skating was a big, big deal in the don't know if it's because the Olympics some of there was lots of footage from the 36 Olympics. Sonja Henie. Does anybody remember who Sonja Henie is?

Jimmy: I think she's been referenced in Peanuts. I think that's the only way I know.

Harold: so this is so funny. I'm always fascinated with things that were incredibly popular in their day and then just get wiped off of the and Sonja Henie is one of those people. For three years, in 1937, 38, and 39, she was one of the top ten movie stars in the United States. And she had won, medals in the 28, 32, and 36 Olympics. Came over to the United States, became a movie star, where they would essentially make these light comedies around her. And, then they would show her skating. And I think one year, she was, like, the number three movie star in the country, doing these skating films. And so that was the era that Frick came along with Frack, and they started to skate in the ice follies. And Frick was on his own at the time, which is why he's calling him Mr. Frick in this strip. He skated in the ice follies from, like, 1937 to 1980. They say he's, like, over 16,000 performances. So who knows how many million people saw, this guy in person performing the term frick and frack. In my world, I remember older relatives would refer to people who were so close to each other as friends, where you can hardly tell them apart. They should say, well, they were frick and frack. And that came from these guys. That just put me away. That something that got into the American idiom were these two novelty ice skaters.

Jimmy: Yeah, I've heard Frick and frack, but I never heard of the skaters. Wow. Pretty wild. Well, that is some good research, Harold. I'm very appreciative of that.

And you know what else I'm appreciative? I'm appreciative of all our listeners out there who come, every week and hang out with us while we discuss Peanuts. That is so cool. So if you guys want to keep that conversation going, you can check us out on social media. We're on Instagram, Twitter and threads at Unpack Peanuts. On good old Facebook. We're Unpacking Peanuts. You can go to our website, where you can buy us a mud pie or check, out our Patreon. If you want to support us on either a one time basis or a monthly basis, you could also buy our books from there, which would be a great way to support this, little show or buy a t shirt.

Next week, we will be, back again, where we will be discussing 1976, the bicentennial year. But before we go, I'm going to need you guys to. Give me your MVP and your pick for Strip of the Year. Michael, why don't you go first?

Michael: All right. They are one and the same. I got to give it to Woodstock.

Jimmy: Good call.

Michael: He's consistently making me slightly smile, which is unusual.

Jimmy: That's a huge triumph.

Michael: I think he had some really great moments. And Strip of the Year is his brilliant imitation of a leaf falling.

Jimmy: oh, yeah, that's a great pick. All right, Harold, how about you?

Harold: This isn't original, but I think it's true. I think I have to give it to Snoopy. It seems like he's attached to so much of what we just went know. He's involved with the introduction of Spike. He's involved, as a rival to Linus for Truffles, and now he's a scout leader. he's just everywhere this year. And so I think I would give it to Snoopy and then to be inconsistent. I just love that strip with, Charlie Brown offering his rock to Peppermint Patty on November 1.

Jimmy: Yeah, those are great picks. you know what? I'm going to give MVP to Spike. Just why not go off the grid and get something? Spike is like, a modern day hero. He's out there in the desert living on his own rugged individualist. Why not? Because those are all things I am. I'm the doughiest, stay at home person you've ever met in your life. But I'll give it to Spike, and then I'll give Strip of the Year to Sally. October 5. Oh, I've bent a few spoons in my time just because of that line. Just so funny.

Harold: That's great.

Jimmy: another great year. Another great week talking Peanuts with my pals. I hope you guys come back next week. and listen as we ramble on and on about 1976. So until then, from Michael and Harold. This is Jimmy. Be of good cheer.

Michael: Yes, be of good cheer.

VO: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright jimmy Gownley, Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz. Produced and edited by Liz Sumner; music by Michael Cohen additional Voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark For more from the show, follow Unpack Peanuts on Instagram and Twitter. Unpacking Peanuts on Facebook and YouTube. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold, visit Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.

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