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Happiness Is Talking with Jeannie Schulz

Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. Every once in a while, something magic happens, and, you can't plan it, you can't wait for it, but when it happens, you just have to revel in it. And we have something worth reveling in today. We have a very special guest to the show, Mrs. Jeannie Schulz. 

This is the second time I got to spend time with Mrs. Schulz. The first was way back in 2009, when I was the artist in residence at the Charles M. Schulz Museum. And I will tell you this story. So it was 2009, gps were sort of new, and I was on a book tour for the Tween Age Guide to Not Being Unpopular. So my whole family met in San Francisco, and we got in a rental car, and we drove up to Santa Rosa so I could be the guest at the Charles M. Schulz Museum. And I'm listening to my gps, and my gps is saying, go across the bridge, go up the highway, take this exit, turn left, turn right. And finally, I pull in to the Charles M. Schulz Muse and it's night, and Mrs. Schulz is there to greet me. And as I pull in to the muse the gps says, Congratulations. You have arrived at your destination. And I thought, how wise is my gps. I have arrived at my destination. I've worked my whole life, and here I am at the Charles Schulz Muse and I'm going to be the artist in residence. And I get out of the car, and I meet Mrs. Schulz, and she gives me a big hug and is so happy that I'm there to do my little work for the week. 

And  my whole family is invited to stay at her house, which is on a private road. So she said, here's my address. You can just follow me up the mountain. But in case we get separated, type the address into your gps, and it'll get you there. So I'm like, okay, Mrs. Schulz. So I get in the car, and I type the address in the GPS, and the GPS says, I'm sorry, your destination is unreachable. And I thought, how wise is my gps? So that was the first time I met Mrs. Schulz, and she's here today, and I could not be happier. 

Who am I? I'm Jimmy Gownley. You know me. I'm the host of the show, and I do comic books. I did Amelia Rules. The Dumbest Idea Ever. 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 original editor of Amelia Rules, the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide, and the creator of such great strips as Strange Attractors, A Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River. 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 creator of the Instagram sensation Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.

Harold: Hello.

Jimmy: So, guys out there in podcast land, sit back and relax. You're about to have a treat. This is Mrs. Jeannie Schulz. 

Jimmy: We have two special guests. We had the first ever returning guest for Unpacking Peanuts, Mr. Benjamin Clark from the Charles M. Schulz Research center museum. And we have Mrs. Jeannie Schulz. Thank you both for coming and joining us today. It is beyond thrilling for me, and I just can't thank you guys enough.

Jean: Well, I had to see you again, Jimmy, after seven years.

Jimmy: Oh, longer than that. But I will tell you why. I was that guest at your house, and it was the absolute just highlight of my life. Can you tell us a little bit what it's just like, just being a part of this magical, amazing world that the world knows all over and that when you're in Santa Rosa and you're at that museum-- you really feel it. You feel like you're a part of that world and that community. Can you just tell us what it's like being there on a day to day basis?

Jean: Well, I think I feel, and Benjamin probably has a slightly different. But when people come and say how long they've loved Peanuts and what a big thrill it is, and this has been on their bucket list and all those things. But one of my favorite stories is a boy who said, well, they've said it more than once, but somebody saying, I used to run home when I was eight years old, shut my door and read those little pocketbooks. I don't know how many kids sanity they saved, but. And then Dr. Torsky, the  rabbi psychiatrist, began using Peanuts in some of his books. I Didn't Ask to Be In This Family. Anyway, Sparky loved talking to him because he was a very wise old soul, even though he was also an old man. He was just an old soul.

Harold: Well, Schulz seemed to reveal things to us in that strip that people don't normally reveal, like, the aspirations and insecurities, and it just makes you want to love the characters and you ultimately love him for sharing it with you.

Jean: Yeah, I think it was something they said he had to do. It probably made him sane, but the fact that he wanted to do it all his life, he didn't see it as his biography.

Harold: Right.

Jean: He loved the cartoons that were from Dick Tracy, from you know. In fact, he originally wanted to draw an adventure strip.

Jimmy: Are there any examples of that around still, like any sketches or anything? I don't think.

Benjamin: No, there's nothing. My personal opinion is it comes out in Snoopy's personas. That's where he gets to finally do an adventure strip. It's through Snoopy and his many adventures.

Jimmy: It is to this day, hard to me to believe that someone created Snoopy. Seems like Snoopy has always existed, will always exist, and yet we've read every one of these strips from the first one. We're up to 1979 now, and we can watch him evolve over time. Would he talk to you and say, boy, back in the 60s I was drawing him this certain way and, boy, things have changed. Was he aware of how much it evolved and changed, the actual drawing? 

Jean: He said, I don't like what I drew yesterday. When it came to making a figurine or making a plush Snoopy, he wanted it to look the way it looks now today. But I think it's interesting that he wasn't aware of unless he looked way back, how much he changed. Snoopy had the big long nose and. It was hard for licensees to keep up with.

Jimmy: Yeah, right. Yeah. And he was very involved in that. He cared very much about the licenses.

Jean: In the beginning, people used to come to the studio, bring him, lay out on his desk, things they wanted to do, and he bought into it, essentially. Yes. I like this. No, I don't think that's a good Idea. As it went through the, into the 90s, he did less of  actual looking at things and having people bring things to him because of course, by then it had become kind of this big octopus. But still there were some people who did come to see him and I think the Japanese, because they didn't enter licensing later, but then when they became, they started a series of Snoopy Town shops, and then they became more involved in coming to the states and presenting him with ideas.

Jimmy: Wow. Yeah. Ah, Japan. It's huge. There's another museum in Japan, correct? Right. 

Jean: Yes

Benjamin: In Tokyo 

Jean: or just outside. 

Jimmy: Well, one of the things I admire about what you guys do, and I find it, I don't even know how you do it. But it's this weird balancing act of, you have Charles Schulz, this artist, and it's important to preserve that this creation is by this artist. Right? He made it. It's all from him. But on the other hand, it's a pop culture sensation that constantly has to be refreshed and renewed. And you, guys are really managing to do that well, I thought the movie in 2017 was fantastic. Can you talk about what that's like, the responsibility of it, the challenges of it? How do you balance that, making  the new stuff while maintaining that integrity of the original?

Jean: I don't know how they balance. I mean, I only care, really, about talking about Charles Schulz and what he thought and what he did and what he wanted, and what Benjamin does. A lot of that know, digging back into things. But the rest of the people, the person who made the arrangements with you, she has to know everything that's going on in social media and how to. And then she has somebody who helps her. But I just heard there's been an article in the New York Times about the puffy Snoopy. Know, I get little glimpses, but I don't see it. And one of our marketing people back in New York said, the Gen Z or the Gen X or whoever they are, think they invented Snoopy.

Jimmy: I have my twin daughters who were out at the-- They're just little kids when I was out there, but they're in college now. And Stella sent me, a TikTok video. And it's Snoopy Listens, and it's just a plush Snoopy sitting with headphones on, and he listens to different songs. And then, like, two weeks ago, he went to his first concert. So it's just the girl shaking the plush Snoopy.

Jean: See those people, your daughters and their generation are doing a lot of our work for us. Don't you think? We would never think of that.

Harold: But they know they're making it their own.

Jimmy: Yes, but it's smart that you guys recognize that. It's, know, like the Beatles, even to this day, they shut down a lot of that kind of fan stuff. And I think it's such a mistake, you know, it's just these people expressing their love for it. And like you said, doing your job for you to a degree. Right. 

Well, listen, I am so happy, to have you now. I don't want to keep you too long in the beginning. So how about we look at some of these strips? We have just finished the 70s, So we asked you if you would select some strips, from roughly that era, and you sent us a list of eight. So, could you tell us why you chose these particular ones or what it was about?

Jean: The, um-- And Benjamin agreed to go along with it. I chose the ones that were so. I don't know, because they're not numbered. But,  because I get asked all the time what was his sense of humor? And I try to think about it, and finally I realized he liked his own jokes.

Harold: Yes.

Jimmy: Oh, man after my own heart.

Jean: So he told a joke that he played on Lee Mendelson, the producer of the television shows. He hated answering machines and Lee phones all the time. So picks up the phone and Lee's not there, and he says, I'll bet you never read War and Peace. I think I'll read it to you. He let the recording play out, called him back, took up the reading again. He thought that was so funny.

Harold: He put Mendelson's phone number in a strip, didn't he?

Jean: Yes, he did. That was before. At any rate, this occurred to me because I found, like, a two week or a three week episode in the 60s where Snoopy is reading War and Peace to Woodstock.

Harold: One word, right?

Jean: And Woodstock gets mad, and Snoopy says, the heck with him. And then he goes to rescue Woodstock because he thinks Woodstock's been attacked by a cat. But I was telling that,  I just did a recording of it, and it dawned on me that he'd made this whole strip out of his own joke. And that sort of led me back to the Great Reluctance. And I  remember when he did the Great Reluctance, he said, I did a pretty good strip today or something.

Jimmy: So he would tell you when it was something that he really liked. He's like, hey, check this out.

Jean: Well, he did sometimes.

Jimmy: Every time, if I wrote any one of these, if I wrote the worst Peanuts strip ever, if I personally did it, no one would ever stop hearing about it. I would go door to door and show people I did this.

Jean: Well, one of my jokes was that I did a concert series and suggested, I said, how about the girls are in the concert? And one of them says, you know, you're not supposed to clap between movements. And, well, what do you do? And pause. And she says, cough. He said, That's pretty good. Why don’t you give it to somebody?

Jimmy: So he wouldn't use it?

Jean: No.

Harold: oh no

Jean: So I did. I gave it to Morrie Turner, who used it. A little folks strip

Harold: That's wonderful. Now, you did find yourself in the strips sometimes either, like the powder puff  competition that you flew with your mom. Yes. He gave a long sequence to that.

Jean: yes, he did. And he did it very accurately, too.

Harold: Was he drawing that while you were doing the traveling? Do you remember how that.

Jean: Well, my mom and I did a pre run for all the races, so he probably based it on the pre run because I probably called back and I talk every night and say, we did this or that or whatever, but.

Harold: We're in this city.

Jimmy: That's just an amazing adventure. That alone would make you worthy to be on every podcast and tell that story. It's amazing.

Jean: I was only the copilot.

Harold: Only.

Jimmy: Forget it. That's not that…

Jean: It was my job to make sure the front of the wing was polished after.

Jimmy: It's an important job. Can't take off with dirty wings. So, let's take a little break right now. We'll get some water and a snack, and we'll come back on the other side.


VO: Hi, everyone. Spend the day with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. See the largest collection of original Peanuts comic strips. Step inside a recreation of Schulz's art studio. Watch animated specials in the theater, explore interactive exhibitions, draw your own comics and more. There's always something new to discover at the Schulz Museum. Visit to learn more. And for a daily dose of Peanuts humor, trivia, and nostalgia, follow the Schulz Museum on Instagram, Threads and Facebook @SchulzMuseum.

Jimmy: And we're back.

Jean: Okay, so you'll read those to show how.

Jimmy: And, you know, what we do is we encourage people to go, to Go Comics and actually read along with us because obviously it's only audio, so they can't see them. But the idea is they sign up and, they are supposed to read every strip from the beginning to the end. And then we send them a little newsletter telling them what ones we're going to cover so they can read those, with extra special care.

Jean: I see.

Jimmy: Here's the Great Reluctance one, though. 

August 7, 1973. Snoopy is atop his dog house in his famous author pose, typing away at his typewriter. He types, “Though her husband often went on business trips, she hated to be left alone.” In panel two, he continues typing. “I've solved our problem, he said. I've bought you a St. Bernard. Its name is Great Reluctance.” Panel three, Snoopy continues. “Now, when I go away, you shall know that I am leaving you with Great Reluctance.” Panel four, Snoopy types. “She hit him with a waffle iron.”

Jimmy: We love that. He will do that, where the joke's kind of in panel three. And then there's like a bonus joke in panel four. I think he invented that. That's so clever and so cool.

Jean: I know. And he used to say, if you look at most cartoons, they stop where I in the third panel. And that fourth panel was sometimes Good Grief.

Jimmy: Right. Or repeating something for good grief.

Jean: But it made it a different.

Jimmy: Yes.

Harold: Yes.

Jimmy: Well, years ago, when I was doing the Amelia Rules series, I was approached by the Washington Post to possibly do a syndicated strip with one of those development deals, and I didn't even know if I could do it. So what I did, though, was I pulled out the Fantagraphics 1968 Peanuts book, and in a notebook, I just wrote down all the different types of setups he used and formats he used in an entire year. And I think most people would think that, well, the joke, like you say the joke is in the last panel. Well, in just 1967 to 1968, there's 14 different ways that he structured a four panel comic strip. It blew my mind. It's like just that level of creativity is so cool. Aside from the fact that it also had great jokes and great characters, every aspect of it was creative.

Jean: I'm sorry he wasn't alive to see your notebook.

Jimmy: Me too.

Jean: Fascinating.

Jimmy: I feel that he would be slightly annoyed by me, but he would appreciate my fandom.

Jean: Well, you would probably ask him questions he couldn't answer.

Jimmy:  Really? Do you think that's possible? I guess. What do you mean by that?

Jean: Well, sure, because I think he thought about everything he drew. But I think ideas came to him and what he said, and you would have read this, is that the characters, for me to keep them in the strip, they have to provide the jokes. They have to provide the story.

Jimmy: That's interesting. Michael, our third co host, who hasn't said much yet, but that is one thing he pinpointed very early on when we were talking about strips, was that the jokes so often 90% of the time, come out of the character. It's not just a funny joke. Yeah.

Michael: That's so important that each character had. We knew them well enough that we knew they would actually say that.

Jimmy: Right.

Michael: And if anyone else said that, it wouldn't seem right. There's definitely Linus, 

Harold: and that's not true of a lot of humor strips.

Michael: No, most people, I think anyone could say the joke, but in Peanuts, it's not so much like a joke. It's they're revealing something about themselves. 

Jimmy: That's right.

Jean: Is that God speaking?

Jimmy: That's Michael.

Benjamin: He's not on camera

Jimmy: Oh, yeah. He's off camera. 

Michael: I'm on the couch.

Jimmy: Michael and Liz are actually in Italy.

Benjamin: Okay, he's off screen.

Jimmy: We have one ghost on the podcast.  Let me read another one. Okay, here's another one like that. 

September 27, 1974. Snoopy is again atop the dog house again. He's typing away on his little typewriter. He types, “Joe Sports Car spent $10,000 on a new twelve cylinder Eloquent.” In panel two, he types. “You think more of that car than you do of me, complained his wife.” In panel three, Snoopy writes, “all you ever do these days, she said, is wax eloquent.” And then in panel four, an absolutely elated Snoopy is resting his head on his typewriter and kicking his legs in the air as he says to himself, “oh, wow, how do I do it?”

Jean: Well. And then I think, just look at that strip before that you read.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Jean: And he's hunched over the typewriter in number one. Number two, he's a silhouette, which is a choice he had to make, I suppose, to make it more interesting. But who knows? And if you said, why is that black? That would be a question he wouldn't know… answer.  But then when he's so proud of himself, he's sitting up straight. When he's so proud of himself, telling us, hunched over again. So every panel is different--

Jimmy: Yes.

Jean: --for a reason, I think. But then I want to switch over to the other thing that I realized when I was talking about him liking his own jokes and that whole thread of way of thinking. I remembered him saying how much he liked to. And we didn't find the best strips, but how much fun he actually had drawing. And he said, I love, in a quote somewhere, I love drawing Linus's hair standing on end. I happened to run into that strip that evening after we'd been talking. And then he loved doing. We didn't find a perfect strip for this, but sometimes Lucy's open mouth takes the whole panel.

Jimmy: Oh, love it.

Jean: Yes, but we didn't find one of those. But he did up going back to the old days of cartooning, when they're rough housing and they're all tumbling over each other in the mud playing football, or, in the rain, or just other things, like when Snoopy did have the fight with the cat next door, and he came back all tore up.

Jimmy: We just covered that one fairly recently. Oh, we all loved all. I think all of us picked that as, like, our favorite sequence that year. It was so good.

Harold: Yeah. The visuals and the cartooning can be so dynamic sometimes just Snoopy lying back on his typewriter, with just absolute delight in himself, is so much fun. He's so happy. 

Oh, I did want to mention something to you, Jeannie. for no particular reason, we've been following the strips that show anger or happiness in a character and counting them every year. And one thing I noticed was the year you got married. In 1973, the happiness index went up. In 74, it went up again. 75, it went up again. In 76, it went up again. He was obviously in a very happy place with you  when, you guys got married. And it's just so lovely to see that in the strip. It's just one way of slicing what is in the strip. But to see that this happiness was coming out in the strip was really special to see.

Jean: I'll have to go back and look for that, you guys. But he has been criticized that the best period was before that, when he was, I suppose, fighting for his life in a way.

Harold: But there's also this sense of. There's this sense of release or relief or something in this period, which there's so many pent up things in the strips. Charlie Brown doesn't get to kick the football. There are all these unrequited love things going on and now he's got a requited love. And that is actually, to me, that's the aspect of the strip that I think lives in people's minds after reading the strips is the happy plush Snoopy, or it's those moments of joy with Woodstock that it's like the fulfillment of  the unfulfilled thing, maybe in the strip, but in the strip, when it does get revealed, we just read the sequence when Charlie Brown goes to the hospital and we see all these revelations that Marcie said she loves him. Those moments he wouldn't have put in the strip, I don't think earlier, than the early seventies. And it is such a release because he's created these tensions with us, with these characters that don't get fulfilled. And I feel like he's in a moment of fulfillment in the 70s that is so special. It may not be the funniest thing, but it's so rewarding because we've been through the tough times with these characters and we're seeing their happiness. And that's special.

Jimmy: It really is. Yeah. Well, listen, in terms of all of that, going back to the hair, sitting up on Linus, all the way to requited and unrequited romance. I want to read this one that you selected. This is 

April 22, 1980. Linus is standing and he's talking to someone who is sitting on a little footstool with a blanket completely covering them. And Linus says, “before we continue with your treatment, we need to do something. I'm going to ask you to take the blanket off your head.” And then we see the person underneath the blanket says, “anything you say.” And then whips it off in panel four. And when we see it is actually Sally that Linus is talking to, and she says, “it's me, sweet Babboo.” Which shocks Linus, who yells, “AUGH.” And his, hair is stick straight. 

Jimmy: And my question is, where does Sweet Babboo come from?

Jean: Oh, well, you probably read that I called him my sweet babboo.

Jimmy: I want to hear it from you. You called him my sweet?

Jean: He said, I never take anyone's ideas, but he'll take them from you. Yes, giving them,  if you're not suggesting them. Like my perfect Sunday page.

Jimmy: Yeah, right.

Jean: Done out in panels.

Harold: Was that a surprise to you when it first came out up? Or did he tell you he put it in, or did you find out later that he put interesting.

Jean: I don't remember. I mean, I'm sure he must have told me.

Jimmy: Well, where did you come up with it from? Did it just something that popped in your head?

Jean: It just popped in my head, yeah.

Jimmy: Is it weird that your phrase for your love is, now a catchphrase for the entire planet?

Jean: Well, and I don't know how it came out of my mouth.

Jimmy: Strange, right?

Harold: We don't know these things. But it's such a great phrase. Sweet Babboo.

Jean: Of course, the thing is, she torments him with it. He's off scene sometimes with a little arrow saying, I’m not your sweet Babboo, 

Benjamin: don't call me that.

Harold: But I'm assuming he didn't say that to you, though. No, I'm assuming that he enjoyed that very much.

Jean: I wonder when we're talking about it. When I actually did say. And whether he mean. I have no recollection.

Jimmy: Well, yeah, because you were just saying a thing. You were just living your life, having a normal day. You didn't realize you were going to be immortalized yet again.

Jean: Yeah, Sparky was prone to grouse about things, and I found that that's all I do these days, is. I get it. But I called him poor sweet baby once and he put that in comic strip. And you probably know when it is. I don't know.

Harold: Now, was that a sincere poor, sweet baby? Then? You weren't pushing back at him, you were genuinely saying to him, poor sweet baby.

Jean: Well, I don't think it's ever really, totally genuine. Is it always? A little bit.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Harold: Right.

Jimmy: That's the best.

Jean: But I noticed that he put it in. I made tiles out of some of these for my house, for my new house, and I noticed he put it in when Marcie was trying to go around selling. Would it have been girl scout cookies? I can't remember. But anyway, they slammed the door in her face, and somebody called her poor sweet baby.

Harold: Yeah. And I think maybe the first time it showed up, it was Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown on either side of the tree, just talking to each other. And Charlie Brown was telling the story. He sincerely was hoping for somebody who would say that.

Jean: Yes, that's right. I, will say that someone. Maybe I knew how tender he was early on because I'm not the tenderest, I’m very practical. But he told me that someone said to him, you know, you're adorable. And he said, nobody had ever said that to him before.

Jimmy: Well, listen, before we let you go, I just want to say one thing. When I was a guest out there all those years ago, and you brought me into your home and you showed me the comic strips that he had drawn for you, and it was just a real fulfillment of, like, a childhood dream, and I said out loud, I don't understand this. And you said, don't understand what? I said. I don't understand how one person could have created so much great work. And you said, well, Sparky was a very special person. And I just want to say I think you're a very special person, too, and thank you for everything you do to continue his legacy in the world. Thank you for coming and talking to us on our goofy podcast.

Jean: Well, all of you who keep studying this and give me more. And Benjamin here gives me more stuff that I say I took for granted.

Michael: thanks Jeannie.

Jimmy: Thank you.

Harold: Thank you so much.

Jimmy: So, guys, what do you think? Mrs. Schulz herself, blessing our podcast with her presence? I mean, I couldn't be happier. Was that fun or what?

Michael: Yeah, that was really great.

Harold: Yeah. So glad to hear some stories from her to kind of fill out our experience, and we've made our conjectures and our observations, but to hear her perspective on, being married to Charles Schulz and living with him and those stories were just amazing.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: And plus, what, 23 years she's been carrying on the legacy, at least minding the legacy and active-- she sounds like very active in the museum and publishing and everything.

Jimmy: One of the nicest things about this experience is we love this work so much. It's wonderful to see that it's in such great hands. Not just Jeannie, of course, but Benjamin and Alexis and Paige. And everybody, in the Schulz world just seems to love and care about this property.  It’s fantastic.

Harold: Yeah.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Michael: And we got a little insight into the Japanese love of Peanuts, especially Snoopy.

Jimmy: Yes. 

Liz: And Faron. 

Jimmy: And Faron. no, it was wonderful. We didn't deserve to have her here, but it was great that she came. And I'm so happy for it. It was so fun. Okay, so that is it for this week. I mean, what more do you want than. Huh? I mean, come. We're, we're calling it this week. We will be back soon. We'll be talking more about Peanuts until then, from Michael, Harold, and Liz, this is Jimmy. Be of good cheer. 

Liz, Harold, 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 unpackPeanuts on Instagram and Threads. Unpacking Peanuts on Facebook, Blue Sky, and YouTube. For more about Jimmy, Michael, and Harold, visit Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.

Jean: I’m NOT your sweet babboo!

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