Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. It's a really exciting one for us here today. We have Charlie Brown and Lucy in the house. That is right. We have two of the voice actors who portrayed Charlie Brown and Lucy in some of your favorite specials, and I just can't wait for you guys to get to meet them.
I'm Jimmy Gownley. You might know me from Amelia Rules. Or graphic novels like 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, he's 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 for Amelia Rules, and he is the cartoonist behind such great comic books as Strange Attractors, Tangled River, and A Gathering of Spells. It's Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey there.
And he is the executive producer and writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics and the current creator of the instagram strip, Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: So, joining us today, we have Duncan Watson. Duncan was a voice actor from 1975 to 1977, playing the voice of Charlie Brown in Be My Valentine. Charlie Brown, You're A Good Sport. Charlie Brown. My personal favorite of this era and the first feature length Peanuts movie, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown.
And we also have Melanie Kohn with us. Melanie played Lucy in those very same specials. And recently, Duncan and Melanie have been attending comic book conventions together. So you can go out and meet Charlie Brown and Lucy your own self. But today we're lucky enough to have them on the air with us. So I'm so happy to welcome them to Unpacking Peanuts, Charlie Brown and Lucy, Duncan and Melanie, thank you so much for coming and joining us on this podcast today.
Melanie: Thank you for having us.
Duncan: Happy to be here.
Jimmy: Not, as happy as we are to have you. I'm so excited about this. I wish our listeners could listen right now, or could see, rather. Right now I have my pumpkin hollowed out and it is on my head as a protective device because that's how excited I am. I don't want to cause any injuries to myself.
So, guys, take me back. What age are you when you first get the call, that you're going to be a voice in one of the Peanuts shows?
Duncan: well, so I was living at the time in Tiburon, California. I was, around twelve years old, maybe 11-12 years old, and I was at recess and coming back from recess, heading towards my class, and I noticed there was a queue of people outside a classroom that was not my own classroom. And oddly enough, I just joined the line. I didn't even know why I was in the line. And, as I worked my way up to the front of the line, the people-- I sat down at the table, there was a little, recording device there, and they asked what character I wanted to read for, and I said, I have no idea why I'm even here. They said do you want to read for Charlie Brown? I said, well, that sounds good. I read two or three lines and that was it, and went back to class. And then I heard back from them a couple of times because they would call you back as they started narrowing down the field, about, I think, three or four times, where it got narrowed down, and then finally got the call that, they had selected me as the voice.
Jimmy: Now, did you get progressively more nervous once you knew what it was for?
Duncan: No, not really, because, I was kind of a go with the flow kind of a guy. Very much. Very California. just let it all happen. I didn't really fully comprehend what I was competing for, and I was just using my regular voice as a voice actor. It's a funny thing to basically be hired to use the voice. I'm inhabiting a character, but I'm using my own voice.
Jimmy: Right. Melanie, how about you?
Melanie: Oh, I had a completely different experience. I was living about, maybe 20 miles north of where Duncan was. We didn't know each other at the time. My sister voiced Lucy from ‘72 to ‘74. And as we told you prior, they only use children for Peanuts. They still do. They only use children's voices for the Peanuts characters. So they don't tell you when you retire either.
So my sister was voicing Lucy, and one day they called my parents for me, not for my sister. They wanted me to come in and audition in San Francisco. So I went in and I auditioned for Sally and Lucy. And they ended up saying that my voice was too deep for Sally and too high for Lucy. But they let me work into Lucy because they said my voice quality was similar to my sister’s. And they didn't always do that. The Lucy voices always sounded different. but they wanted me to start out as Lucy, and I was about ten or eleven years old.
Harold: Had they met you through your sister doing the recording, or have they just heard that she had a sister?
Melanie: I'm not sure. I don't remember. This was a long time ago, so I have bits and pieces of memory, as I think Duncan does as well. I don't remember, to be honest if I had gone in with her when she recorded.
Duncan: Melanie mentioned about how they don't tell you when they retire you. And that's a kind way of saying that when your voice changes or it no longer sounds like what they're looking for, they obviously stop calling you. But I was in the middle of, starting to tape It's Arbor Day Charlie Brown, when clearly, the onset of puberty started happening and my voice started cracking. And that was the last recording that I did.
Jimmy: Well, listen, I have to say, as a fan, if you got to miss out on one, Arbor Day is probably a good place to start. Right? Pretty obscure. No one's putting up the Arbor Day decorations and waiting for that.
Melanie, what was your sister's reaction? Was she like, hey, man?
Melanie: I could so make something up right now.
Jimmy: Oh, you should, absolutely.
Melanie: My dad had a signed up at a casting agency in San Francisco. That's probably how they knew about me. And I think that she probably had warning about being retired at a certain point. And a lot of people don't realize that girls voices change, too. It's just not as dramatic. So she probably had a heads up that she wouldn't be doing it forever. But she did get to do the Thanksgiving special, which is pretty major because, as you know, the three holiday specials Christmas, Halloween, and Thanksgiving are usually the most memorable for people.
Jimmy: Yeah. Now, of course, in my house, we have all of them and you have to watch all of them or it's just not a calendar year. You knew about Peanuts, obviously, because your sister. Duncan, were you into Peanuts? Do you have any memory of Peanuts before that, or did you just walk into the whole thing blind?
Duncan: Well, of course I knew about Peanuts. I was an avid Sunday comic reader, so I was always looking at the strip and appreciating at the time of the ten or eleven year old humor that was involved with it. but since become a fan only because I recognize that what makes Peanuts so universal is that it appeals to both children and adults can get a lot out of it as well.
Jimmy: Yeah, I mean, that's something we talk about pretty much every week on the show. And that is like this astounding genius that Schulz really had that he was able to somehow talk to everybody without talking down to anybody. It's really cool.
As actors, how aware, just take me through the process of what it would be like recording. Like, how aware are you of the different subtext? Are they explaining that stuff to you? Are you together when you record? Just take me through day one recording when both of you started.
Melanie: Duncan, you have to tell the story about the sigh.
Duncan: Yeah. Being that young and very literal. So what they would do is they would, bring us to a recording studio. I don't know about if Melanie went to the same studio, but she must have because I know that we were there at one point together, but there, was a recording studio in San Francisco that we would travel to. And we would usually record our lines separately.
But there were occasions where there was a group sing and Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, that we were all in the studio together singing something. And so what they would, they would just put the script in front of you and they would ask you to read it. But this one particular, script called for Charlie Brown to utter a sigh. And so I literally read the word sigh as part of the voice, and I just said sigh and they're like, no, you need to sigh. I'm like, I am saying sigh. They're like, no, we need you to go __. Okay, now I get it. and that happened often. They would provide very minimal direction because they were really looking for sort of the in the moment authenticity of whatever was being read at the time. But sometimes they would have exclamation marks if needed, if they wanted to provide emphasis on something. And obviously, when Charlie Brown goes, charging after the football and goes flying through the air, that requires a little bit of a different voice.
Jimmy: Right. Well, it's funny, one of our running bits on the podcast is I did not know how to pronounce sigh or what sigh meant when I was very little. So I thought he was just saying SIGA all the time. I thought, what on Earth does siga mean?
Harold: Could I ask when, they were giving you the script, were you seeing it for the first time? So you were just reading it totally fresh the first time around, or had you had some chance to see it before you would have to read the lines?
Melanie: Fresh. Yeah.
Jimmy: Really? Wow. Was that had to be stress-inducing for a kid, I would think.
Melanie: No, I started on the stage at three years old, so I really didn't have a problem reading, English, reading all that grammar, it all came naturally to me. It was just one of those things that was easy for me from the time I started.
Jimmy: Well, is it more or less stressful to go in knowing something is being recorded and then going to be manipulated somehow without you animated stuff or going on stage and doing something? What's the greater level of stress when you’re a kid.
Melanie: going on stage.
Jimmy: Yeah, because they are...
Melanie: You don't get a do over. You don't get take two.
Duncan: Well, I think what was helpful too, is that they had little drawings, with the caption that, they were asking you to read. So it wasn't just a written script that you were just sort of reading. They had some context with an actual rough drawing of what the character was doing.
Harold: That's cool. How many times did you have to give that line read normally? Did they give you lots of chances?
Melanie: Or as many as you needed. And also, just to, expand on that, they did the animation after, so it was a rough drawing. So they matched the animation up with the voices. And back then, you might know this, but your listeners might not realize that back then, they did everything frame by frame. They drew everything. It took about six months to do a half hour special, which is really only 22 minutes of programming. So it was a very long process back then.
Duncan: Yeah, it was incredible. I actually went down when I was, doing, some commercial work for my Peanuts character down in Los Angeles. I got a chance to go visit the studio where they were doing the cell animations. And just even a simple arm movement would require something like 20 or 30 drawings showing the arm in very slightly different positions. And obviously, you can imagine the animation process and how many drawings it would take to create animation in that style. It's like one of those little flipbooks kind of thing. And it was an amazing process because every one of them had to be drawn and colored as well.
Harold: Right. Melanie, did you get to visit the space as well, when you were working, or did you ever get to be in the place where they were making the show?
Melanie: Actually, I did go down, when my sister had to do something down in LA. But I did all my recording in San Francisco, and I did some commercials as well. I don't have a memory of doing them in LA. I believe I did them in San Francisco as well.
Harold: Do you mind my asking? Jimmy? I'm sorry, I'm kind of taking this over, but it's triggering all these interesting questions for me. And one of them is, what was your feeling about the studio itself? Because we obviously have, heard of some of the artists who worked there, and we know it was kind of dedicated to Peanuts for years. Was it very big? Was it like a big open space or a lot of little cubby holes or what did it seem like to you?
Melanie: My memory was a big room, and then I have a memory of a smaller room. Duncan had mentioned that we sang a song together for Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown. We were trying to figure out how we knew each other when we ran into each other afterwards. And I knew who Duncan was, and I couldn't remember now this year, how we had met originally. And I remember a smaller room that we all went into to sing together. That's my memory. I don't know. Duncan. Do you have a different memory?
Duncan: Well, there was a place where when they were doing voice recordings, there would be several of the children that were there, sort of, ah, in a waiting room. And then there's the engineers booth that had the control panels, which I thought was amazingly cool. All these different things that you could slide and buttons you could press and knobs you can turn. and then the studio itself, there was a glass partition that they would have, and the room itself, was not well lit. The recording studio, other than the place where you were reading from. And you would sit on a stool with, headphones over you and they would modulate your voice based on, okay, where are you comfortable sitting? How far away from the microphone do you want to be? And they would move the microphone as necessary, and then they would just basically talk instructions into your headphones and then you would just read as you were. And most often, unless you had difficulty pronouncing a word, was a single take.
Jimmy: Well, now, when you say you're working with these people, who are you specific? Did you meet, like, Mendelson or Melendez and those guys and work with them specifically?
Duncan: Yes. both Bill Mendelson and Bill Melendez were, people that I met. Bill Melendez obviously did the voice of several of the characters, which I was just utterly fascinated by, and I just loved watching him do his craft. And Lee Mendelson started being the older fatherly figure man as a young boy. Just so kind and welcoming. just really lovely people to work with.
Melanie: Yes, definitely. Lee Mendelson reminded me of my father. And they were about the same age. I think Melendez was actually a little bit older. I'm not sure. Yeah, they were both and I sat with Bill Melendez when I did my lines. He would do the other line of whoever I was supposed to be talking to.
Jimmy: Wow. So they were really hands on. That's really interesting and cool to know. They obviously must have cared about the product and cared about you guys and your performances.
Jimmy: Do you guys have a favorite of the ones you've done? There is a correct answer, by the way, but go ahead. I'll let you guys tell me what your favorite is.
Melanie: I definitely have a favorite. My favorite is It's the Easter Beagle Charlie Brown, just because, Snoopy with dancing with the bunnies. I just always thought that was so cute.
Jimmy: Yeah, that is a brilliant little sequence. How about you, Duncan?
Duncan: Well, mine mine would be, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, because it was my intro to the whole Charlie Brown world. And I thought it was, such an iconic feature, that they came up with particularly the ambition of Charlie Brown thinking he's going to get so many valentines that he has to bring two briefcases to school with him. That kind of optimism, I think a lot of people can identify with that. Certainly it's been something that's mirrored my own life.
Jimmy: well, you're both wrong, unfortunately. The correct answer is You're A Good Sport, Charlie Brown. Okay, that's the one that always did me in as a kid. And for whatever reason, I remember my parents, they watched Valentine's, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with me.
Those were like, big ones. And Easter. but this was the sort of off major holiday one that they also were into, and it would air. So I have good memories of that one, for sure.
Duncan: And this is why you're wearing a pumpkin helmet?
Jimmy: That is correct. That's a great Rocky moment when Charlie Brown puts on the pumpkin helmet and wins the motor cross race.
Do you guys feel, any kind of, connection with your characters, let's say before you were doing it? Obviously, I'm sure you do now, but these are huge characters that you guys get to do.
Melanie: no, probably because my sister has dark hair and I have red hair. So it was kind of like she was more like Lucy. But now people ask me when I go to shows, they ask me, and, my husband goes to all the local shows with me, and they kind of look at him and he says, oh, yeah, she's like Lucy at home. I don't know that I didn't really talk about it much in my life, so I mean, Duncan, you will have to answer this as well, but I kind of didn't really make a big deal about it and didn't realize that so many people had a connection to it until I started doing Comic Cons last year. I had no idea. I never really brought it up much.
Jimmy: Oh, that's amazing. Yeah, because it's not just one generation at this point. I mean, my kids know these because that was just something I had to share with them. They're such a huge part of my life and so many's lives.
How, about you, Duncan? How do you feel about Charlie Brown?
Duncan: Well, sure, I identified with Charlie Brown early on because the social awkwardness that Charlie Brown experiences throughout his, life and the strip, it mirrored my own experiences of trying to navigate my way through middle school and high school in a lot of ways. it was one of those things where I don't think I fully appreciated how iconic it was until I realized that my own kids thought that it was pretty cool.
Jimmy: That's amazing.
Duncan: Which was, one of the things that they're first to tell anybody that they meet about their father, that association. I'm very proud of that and very, grateful that I got this experience.
Jimmy: That's just great to hear. We all love these. They're a huge part of just American culture. So it is just absolutely great to talk to you guys about this and get to know it even a little bit.
So, Melanie, you mentioned the conventions. What's that been like for the year? Have you ever gone to a comic convention previous to this? Even though--
Jimmy: okay, so just tell me what that kind of experience was like.
Melanie: Well, and I knew about it because my kids go and I just want to bring up one more thing about I had my kids watch the shows, the specials, and I would say that's Mommy talking on the TV. And they would just look at me, like, with big eyes. And then as they got older, they started the mwah mwah mwah mwah to me whenever I told them to do something. So they got a kick out of it.
Melanie: I did a show in Vancouver, BC, about a few months ago, and I asked my youngest son, he just turned 25, I asked him to be my money handler. And so he got to see what it was like. And I know he was amazed. He can be a little bit aloof sometimes. So I could see in his reactions, I could see in his eyes that he thought it was pretty cool. And he was working for the studio at the time that does the current Peanuts show. And so it's kind of cool for him to see the whole thing.
But it's been amazing. And as I said previously, I didn't realize until I have people constantly coming up to me and saying, I grew up with you, or my mom loves you. And I think that this is the perfect time. This has been the perfect time for me to start doing shows, because it is multigenerational. And I'm getting the people my age are a little bit older than me. and then their children and their children's children. I've had three generations in front of me asking questions.
Jimmy: That's amazing. That is absolutely amazing. Duncan, how about you? Have you done just a few? Is this something you're just starting?
Duncan: Yeah, well, Melanie, contacted me last fall, just to reconnect, and as she let me know what was going on, it seemed like there was an opportunity that was interesting, and I wanted to know a little bit more about it. But I also was a little suspect because it's not a world that I'm familiar with. I have never been to a comic convention before. I actually went to my first one, with Melanie a couple of weeks ago down in Iselin, New Jersey. and I have a couple more scheduled for this year.
I'm certainly aware of how popular Peanuts characters are in general, of course, they're just iconic. But when you go to a show, I don't think that I fully understood the rapt attention that it attracts. And so I'm grateful that there are fans out there that, keep this alive, because I think that it's an important message and voice that Peanuts put out there.
Jimmy: Yeah, it absolutely is. And it's unique. To this day, it remains unique, which is amazing.
I have to ask you guys now, did you have any experience or any interaction with Schulz at all?
Melanie: We didn't. My sister did. we worked with Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson solely. I just want to add something to what Duncan just said. we saw each other face to face for the first time in 45 years, just a few weeks ago when we did that show in New Jersey. So that was pretty cool. Yeah.
Jimmy: Did you want to give him psychiatric help?
Melanie: Oh, yes, lots of psychiatric help. In fact, we keep in touch a lot, over Messenger, just kind of letting each other know what's going on. And I always give them advice.
Jimmy: Oh, good. Do you charge $0.05?
Melanie: Yes, I do,
Duncan: but I'm getting much more value than the $0.05.
Jimmy: Nice. Well, listen, guys, before you picked a few, strips that we're going to go over, and just talk about what makes them cool, but before we get to that part, can you tell us what you're up to today, how people can find you and where you might be at next?
Duncan: Well, so where I am now, I live in southwest New Hampshire. I've been working for the city of Keene, for 30, years as of, June 11. I originally started off, when I moved from California to New Hampshire during my sophomore year of high school. My dad, had gone to Dartmouth College, and, my family bought a restaurant. and, I started working in the restaurant business, and I went to undergraduate school, at the University of New Hampshire, got a hotel administration degree, and was shipped off to Texas to work for Hyatt Hotels for a few years. And then, death in my family brought me back to New Hampshire to run the business for a little while. after that, I was in between things, but I recognized that the hotel business really wasn't where I felt like my heart was. So, I went back to graduate school and got an environmental science degree. And, luckily, was able to be employed right out of graduate school, working for the city of Keene, working in recycling and solid waste management, as well as, work in the highway division and the Fleet Division, which, just is part of operating a small municipality in southwest New Hampshire. And, I just absolutely love it here, where I live. but I also, like, now venturing off and, connecting with Peanuts fans.
Jimmy: It is so incredible that you're in Keene, New Hampshire, because that is one of our favorite places. Michael right, correct.
Michael: We used to hang out at the recycle center. That’s where all the hip folk met.
Jimmy: How long did you live in Keene, Michael?
Michael: Well, Keene and Marlborough, 20 years.
Jimmy: Marlborough. Yeah. And Michael wrote a stage musical for my comic book, Amelia Rules. And the girl who played Amelia was, from Keene, right?
Jimmy: There you go. So Keene is nifty. Melanie how about you?
Melanie: Well, I left California, around 1994. And I've lived in several places. I've worked, mostly in the medical field. I raised three boys who are now young men and they all, work in visual effects in Vancouver, BC. And a little bit later in life, I got into radio. ah, I've been on air back in my 20s, but I went back into it in the marketing department. And I always asked my clients if they wanted a male or female voice and if they wanted a female voice. I said, well, what do you think if I do it? So I did a lot of radio ads, which was fun. And then I started doing this-- Covid kind of changed everything. I was trying to figure out what I could do where I wasn't working for somebody else and kind of semi retired, so to speak. So, this kind of fell in my lap when somebody contacted me last year and asked if they could buy 50 of my autographs. Yeah, sure. They got me hooked up with somebody else. That got me into my first convention. And then, I just took it from there. what I did in radio, where I just contacted places and if it was a no, then I didn't take it personally. I just moved on. And I've gotten more yeses than I have nos, to be honest. And, as Duncan said, I got a hold of him probably the end of last year and we've got a few. Duncan isn't doing quite as much as I am because he's still working full time, as he said. And congratulations on your 30 years, by the way.
Melanie: That’s awesome. And we are going to be doing Granite State Comic Con in September in New Hampshire. I just thought I'd mentioned that. We've got a couple before then after. I think we have one before and one after. So that's going to be kind of cool.
Michael: That’s in Manchester, right?
Melanie: Yeah. Yes. And they're very excited about having Duncan there. They didn't realize that there was a Charlie Brown that came from New Hampshire.
Harold: Right. Yeah.
Jimmy: It's a big deal. That's amazing.
Melanie: Yeah. So, I've been doing this for, I started last year, and then there was quite a bit of time, about six months, where I didn't do anything. I did go sign at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. I did that last August.
Jimmy: Tell us about that a little bit because I've been there. I was the artist in residence for a week. Isn't that the most magical place in the world?
Melanie: Oh, yeah. the people were lined up out the door. I was only supposed to sign, I believe it was for an hour. And, an hour went by and there were still people online. And I said, I'll keep going, that's fine. Because they had the black and white coloring book. Things for me to sign and then people could take them and color them or just keep them. And, there were so many people there, it was really cool. And then I just, started getting a hold of places all over the country. I haven't been out of the country yet, except for Vancouver, BC, and just flying around or driving around Texas.
And, I do list my events on my Facebook page. It's at Melaniejkohn and that's kohn. And as they come up, as they're promoted, I list them. I don't list them before they're promoted because sometimes the promoters don't like that.
Jimmy: Harold, do you have anything else before we switch to discussing the strips?
Harold: I just had one question. Is there any one question that you got at a convention that stands out to you that, you remember someone was asking or saying to you or a comment that they made that stood out to you guys?
Melanie: not really. I think mostly people will come up and they'll have quotes and a lot of times I'll say, oh, thank you. I think I'll use that. I tend to put a quote on my eight by tens when I sign them because my signature is ugly. I don't think they're getting their money's worth. So I'll put quotes on there and sometimes somebody will have a quote that, I've forgotten. I'll say, hey, I think I'm going to use that. But mostly I do get questions, but most of the time it's people telling me something. They want me to know that they grew up with me. They say with you, but they grew up with Peanuts, watching Peanuts, reading Peanuts. So it's mostly that they want to tell me something more than ask.
Harold: Right. That's the connection point.
Jimmy: Yeah. It's an amazing thing because, it's still a relatively new thing that you could even do that, that you can walk up to someone that they have these conventions and there are people that you admire and like, and you can actually just walk up and have a conversation with them. It's a really kind of special thing.
Harold: It is, yeah. Thank you for doing that, being a fan, I understand what that connection is and what that means. To be able to just get a little closer to something that means so much to you and that you're an ambassador for that is really great. And I'm grateful.
Melanie: It is. The thing I really didn't realize, like, Duncan and I both said that we hadn't been to any cons ourselves. And, I think the most amazing thing to me is that people are really into the voice actors and they want selfies. And I find that kind of interesting because we're older, we're both pushing 60 years old, and we're asked to have people want their pictures taken with us for something that we did so long ago and that they can relate to and I just think that's really cool.
Harold: It's like you're letting them reveal a secret behind something to their friends.
Harold: These are the people that did this amazing thing.
Duncan: Well, it's a connection point. Right. I didn't fully understand why people would come to a convention to see their, to see me, really is really what I guess I'm getting at. I'm not going to speak for Melanie in that case, but I started to understand because there are things that I'm fans of, specifically, like, I'll give you an example. I'm a huge Peter Frampton fan, all right? And if Peter Frampton were to show up somewhere around here, I would 100% go to wherever that was and connect with him, because I just think he's an amazing artist and his music has just impacted my life so deeply. And so I'm just a huge Peter Frampton fan. And so I get that relationship happens with people with Peanuts.
Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely.
Melanie: And that enthusiasm that Duncan just showed, that's what we get at the conventions. That's what people come up and say, oh, my gosh, this is awesome. And, they want our autograph. They want a selfie. Because the Peanuts voices, the characters, have made such a huge impact on their lives.
Harold: Right. It reminds me of a joke in our own family. my wife, who's a big fan of British rock Beatles, actually, so were Michael and, Jimmy. but she's been to a lot of events where she's actually gotten to meet the artists and musical artists, and she said that it's like, I don't know why guys do this, because always guys, they'll just kind of start pointing the finger at the star and going, I saw you in the Portchester Capital Theater. They're saying, hey, I know you.
Melanie: And also, people are like they'll say that they'll say, oh, my mom loves you, or I grew up with you. And I've had people, cry. I've had people so nervous that they can't talk. Yeah. So it's really interesting to see how and I know, too, because I'm a fan of some things that I would be the same way.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's great. And that's great that you recognize that and that you guys, get something returned for it. It's really wonderful. And it's wonderful that you both agreed to be on our podcast. I cannot tell you, how, much it means to me because I'm one of those people that have those voices in my head. Like, for instance, now that I'm an older man with less worries about, let's say, how much hair I have, I often think of that joke. Besides, I don't have that much hair to cut. At the end of You’re A Good Sport, Charlie Brown, where that's what he wins as the haircut, I think, about twice a week.
Duncan: Well, I know this is going to crush you, Jimmy, but, I have only seen You're A Good Sport, Charlie Brown once.
Jimmy: Oh, no. Really? Yeah. It's like finding Dylan’s, “I don’t really like that song, man.”
Duncan: It's not that I don’t like it, it’s just not one of those ones that, I don't know how to--
Jimmy: You're wrong. I'm sorry. It is one of those ones---.
Harold: That one is hard to access. Right.
Jimmy: Well, which one is your favorite? You said the first one you did was Valentine's Day.
Duncan: Yeah, but I mean, what I do also, I really did like Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, because of being the first feature, like, moving that Peanuts did. I was down in Miami, Florida, with visiting my aunt and uncle, and that's when it, hits the theaters. And I remember going to the theater. Which was back in those days. This is in the days of Star Wars and those big features. And sitting in the air conditioned movie theater and hearing my voice. Which was not far removed from where I was at the time. Because when I was like 14 years old shortly after it came out.
Jimmy: And that movie. I mean. That sold out Radio City Music Hall.
Melanie: Yeah. And it was the same year as Star Wars, wasn't it? 77?
Melanie: Yeah. No, I have the same memory of that being a big deal, because back then, everything went to the theaters first.
Duncan: Although I will say that one of the things that, and Melanie, at least, will understand this was that I think the biggest thrill of the time, when I started recognizing that this was a bigger thing than I was giving it credit for was when my name appeared in the TV Guide.
Melanie: Yeah, and the newspaper.
Jimmy: TV Guide. That is ubiquitous. That was like the most read thing in America. That's when you know you made it, I would imagine, in 20th century America, for sure.
Melanie: And I still have copies because my grandma would mark. She put a little mark by my name and send it to me. And I actually take them to the cons and I show people the old TV Guide and also the old I have a script from the Bread commercials which have the little showing the little TV screen and what's going to be on when I'm saying a certain line.
Jimmy: Oh, that's cool. Well, guys, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for being on our show. How about we just take a quick break now and then come back and we discuss some, of your favorite strips.
Duncan: And I have a bit of trivia for you that, I only found out about very recently which I’ll share with you.
Jimmy: Oh, fantastic. It's a cliffhanger. So now you guys got to come back from the other side of the break. Allright.
VO: 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 Unpacking Peanuts.com.
Jimmy: All right, we're back. I could barely make it through the break. Duncan, what is the piece of trivia that you got for us?
Duncan: About a month ago, I found out that I voiced the character Franklin in You’re A Good Sport Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: Are you serious? You didn't know? How did that happen?
Duncan: I have no idea.
Melanie: I informed him because I found out that I voiced Loretta, in You’re A Good Sport Charlie Brown. And I saw that I was credited for Loretta, and Duncan was credited for Franklin in that one show.
Jimmy: That is amazing. And you had no idea? Now, a side note, were you paid for that?
Duncan: No. And that's really okay.
Jimmy: All right. If you're okay with it, I'll let it go, too.
Melanie: Yeah, I don't think we'll pay for it because we would have known because we would have been getting residuals, which we still do, by the way, get, residuals. As long as they are, we still get them.
Jimmy: That's great.
Harold: You don't know whether to cash them or frame them, right?
Jimmy: I wouldn't care if it was two cents, I'd cash it.
Harold: I guess you could probably sell the checks to your fans for more than you get to cash them.
Jimmy: Authentic residual check.
All right, so how about we go through, we're going to do three of Duncan's picks, for favorite comics, favorite Peanuts comics, discuss them, and then we're going to do three of Melanie's.
December 7 1969. Charlie Brown and Linus are outside on a beautiful blue, spring-like day. Linus looks a little upset. They're both carrying their school books. They walk for a little bit. Finally, Charlie Brown notices that Linus is upset. And Charlie Brown asks, “what's the matter?” Linus says, “what would happen if I decided not to go to school today? I mean, would it really matter? Would one day make that much difference in my life? Would anyone really care? What if I just turned around right here and didn't go to school today?” Charlie Brown says, “you'd waste a good lunch.” Linus sighs.
Jimmy: well, that basically is my philosophy, Duncan. Lunch is basically the highlight of the day, so I agree with Charlie Brown on that one.
Duncan: Yeah, I'm a fan of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The reason I picked this trip was that I'm a very food centric person, and I do plan. I like to travel, to eat.
Jimmy: Oh, really?
Duncan: I'm just a big fan of food, in particular, Mexican food. But, yeah, I've always been, very focused, on food. I'm very interested in. I'm actually a pretty decent cook. My family owned a restaurant for a number of years. so food is community, really. You know, food is what you do when you sit down and gather and talk about your day and then also taste exquisite things, hopefully.
Jimmy: Absolutely. I couldn't agree with that more, I would say, too, as far as a little piece of cartooning here. My highlight is, looking at the little lunch sacks that Schulz drew. Somehow they look exactly like little paper lunch bags, even though they're only made of three lines.
Duncan: Well, and then they're probably pretty accurate. I mean, I remember having bringing my sack lunch to school every day at this time. The times that I was doing the voice recordings and was my egg salad or my bologna and maybe one of those, if it was a really great day, it would have one of those little cheese and crackers things that you peeled back, and you had the four saltines and then the processed cheese with a little plastic spoon.
Jimmy: Yes, the little red rectangle that you'd smear that cheese on. Oh, that was good. That was good stuff. Sometimes you could trade for that if you had something good.
Melanie: We got to eat zingers. Only because they had the Peanuts on them, the Peanuts characters on them.
Harold: So there was a perk.
September, 22 1957. Charlie Brown and Lucy are outside. Charlie Brown looks furious. Lucy is sitting holding a football, waiting for Charlie Brown to kick it. Charlie Brown says “no. Absolutely not. You must think I'm crazy. You say you'll hold a ball, but you won't. You'll pull it away, and I'll break my neck.” “Why, Charlie Brown, how you talk. I wouldn't think of such a thing. I'm a changed person. Look, isn't this a face you can trust?” All right, you hold the ball, and I'll come running up and kick it.” Charlie Brown does just that. Unfortunately, “she did it again!” WHUMP Charlie Brown lands flat on his back. “I admire you, Charlie Brown. You have such faith in human nature.”
Jimmy: Yay. Well, that made my day. That is so cool. well, tell us about this one, Duncan. Obviously, this is a classic Peanuts scenario here.
Duncan: Yeah, obviously, it's one of the most iconic things between Charlie Brown and Lucy. And you got to give Charlie Brown some credit. The guy has had how many experiences of football being pulled away, and yet he thinks, well, maybe this time. I just love the fact that Charlie Brown is always the guy who will pick himself up, dust himself off, and give it another try. I don't ever want to lose that aspect of how I view life.
Jimmy: Right. Absolutely. Because it's thought of, oh, well, Charlie Brown is the loser. But it's partly because Charlie Brown will constantly put himself out there. He's willing to risk failure, which is actually a big secret to life, is being willing to risk failure. I admire that, too. Right.
Duncan: Well, Charlie Brown is the ultimate optimist.
Jimmy: Yes, I would agree with that.
Melanie: And if Charlie Brown ever got to kick the football, then he wouldn't be Charlie Brown, right?
Jimmy: Now, here's a question we had a guest on a few weeks ago, William Pepper, and he hosts a podcast called It's Podcast Charlie Brown. And it's a great podcast. And he was talking about Lucy. He thinks ultimately has Charlie Brown's best interest at heart. He believes that maybe she's just trying to make him better somehow. What do you guys think about that?
Melanie: I really don't know about that. I think that the person who you're talking about probably has more knowledge or has read more strips than I have.
Jimmy: Yes, but you got to be Lucy, so he's wrong if you disagree. You ___ trumps reading scripts.
Melanie: Okay, well, if my opinion matters, then no.
Jimmy: Alright, your opinion matters.
Melanie: well then Lucy-- she's just a bully.
Jimmy: You know what though? She's great at it.
Melanie: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Duncan: But I would say that Lucy definitely keeps it real. Yes, Lucy's unquestionably a bully, but I think it's a circumstantial thing that if the chips were down that you could probably rely on Lucy. But on a day to day basis, she's going to try to get you.
Jimmy: I agree with that. With the chips are down, though. Yeah. I think in the right scenario, Lucy is the one you want by your side.
Duncan: Yeah, well, she's definitely a take action kind of girl.
Melanie: Okay, I'll agree with that.
August 11. So we see it is the top of Snoopy's dog house, only there's a curtain above it. And we see a sign underneath the reading Puppet Show today. Now, playing in the beginning, Snoopy comes out in a little ushers hat. And, we see that it is the beginning of act three. The next panel, we see Snoopy acting out the Old Testament, it seems, using hand puppets. Charlie Brown says, “have you ever seen the entire Old Testament performed by puppets before? Lucy answers “no, I can't say that I have.” “Perhaps I should warn you about this next scene.” “What next scene?” Snoopy takes a bucket filled with water and dumps it over Lucy's head. “The parting of the Red Sea.”
Jimmy: I like that Snoopy is already onto the next scene, which I am not sure exactly what's going on there. I think it's two cavemen and possibly a wolf man. Lets Lucy sit there just soaking wet.
Duncan: The reason that this particular, one, was chosen was because they did a variation of this exact thing in Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.
Jimmy: Oh, yes, that's right. And there's a few of these he does during, the run of the strip. He has Snoopy acting out Jaws at one point, which I remember being very funny.
Duncan: Right. And the tables are turned just for a moment.
Jimmy: That's right, that's right. Lucy finally, gets some comeuppance here.
Melanie: And I just want to say one thing that just reminded me of so I don't know if you know or your listeners are aware that Charles Schulz did what Charles Schulz wanted to do.
Melanie: It ultimately never had a problem with it, although he was advised not to put parables in the strips, in the shows. Linus, of course, in the very first special, Christmas special, was reciting parables. He was told not to create a black character.
Melanie: So he did what he wanted to do. And this is, I believe, one of the reasons why it was so iconic, why it is so iconic is that he did what he felt and what he wanted, and there obviously wasn't a big enough backlash because he succeeded completely.
Harold: There's an integrity to what he did that I think really he built up with his audience where they respected him for who he was and what he was doing with the strip, that it seemed just an integral part of what Peanuts was all about, because it reflected him as an artist.
Jimmy: Yeah. And, the other thing he never loses sight of is that it's always a good comic strip. It's never about I have to preach this message. I have to get over this thought first. I think it's always about the first thing that's important to me is this has to just be a really good comic strip that anyone can read. And once he has that sort of ticked off, he then somehow allows all of his own personal stuff into the strip. And that is what makes it the strip and the shows, and it makes it a work of art, as opposed to just a piece of commercial. Just another commercial cartoon. It really is special.
Duncan: Thank goodness for humor. Humor smoothes a lot of rough edges.
Jimmy: Oh, 1000%. And especially this type of humor. Gentle isn't the right word, because sometimes you can get pretty pointed with Lucy or Violet or some of those characters. But there's something about the humor that really does make it seem like a world that you want to spend time in.
Harold: There's a dignity to it that he gives all of the characters, which I think is unique. Not a lot of artists can do that to every character that he has. Pretty much there's something to them that you have to respect, because he's baked it in. Even if Lucy's rough with somebody right. Or even if Charlie Brown seems to be a failure, we're not laughing at their failures, not we're celebrating the bullying, but at the same time, we really respect these characters. They have this integrity that's built in because of who Schulz is and what he's doing with them.
Duncan: Well, isn't it really part of our everyday existence? These are our lives that are being portrayed in comic strips.
Harold: Yeah. There's an authenticity to it, for sure.
March 30, 1993. We see Charlie Brown arriving home uncharacteristically. He looks very excited. As a matter of fact He's doing cartwheels and dances and tumble sets. And finally, he yells to his sister, “I hit a home run in the 9th inning and we won. I was the hero.” Sally says, “You?”
Jimmy: all right. Why did you pick that one?
Duncan: Well, because isn't that there's always somebody out there who's willing to cut you off of the knees and, bring you back down to earth. And I think that's not a bad thing all the time. But sometimes we need to be able to celebrate our wins.
Jimmy: Yes. Amen to that. 100%. Yeah.
Harold: That's something I always have to remember, is to if someone is celebrating, celebrate with them. Right?
Harold: Join in.
Jimmy: Yes, exactly. And spoiler alerts, for people as we read these in the future, if, you want your Peanuts happy ending, that's the strip to stop with. Because there's a twist to this in the next year. But in this moment, it is fantastic to see Charlie Brown, just so happy.
And how about those little drawings? Every one of those drawings, Charlie Brown, I think, is adorable. And this is well into his career. He's at 40 years into the strip at this point.
Duncan: Yeah, he's, got his moves down. I mean, don't we all have our happy dance?
Jimmy: Yeah. My favorite is either the third one where he's doing the little kick, or possibly the next to last one where he's just spinning on his head.
Duncan: Well, I mean, it's one of the more often than not, the person that you get to see expressing unbridled joy is Snoopy with Snoopy dance. And it's not that often you get to see Charlie Brown really, truly, genuinely happy. And it's a moment to celebrate.
Harold: He's earned that in this strip. That makes it all the more powerful when it actually happens.
Jimmy: Yeah. And by the think about this, if this strip is run in 1958, it kind of ruins the strip. Right. Because we don't know this at the time, but we have 30 some years to go yet, 40 some years ago. but having it happen in the 90s or early 1990s, it is a joy, it's exciting, it's a thrill. And you feel it because you suffered along with Charlie Brown on those defeats.
Duncan: It's great to know Sally's reaction is totally normal. I mean, she's like, You?
Jimmy: Right. That can't be right. I'll tell a real quick one. My dad and this sounds sad, but it's okay. He would want to laugh at it. He had dementia at the end. And the one thing, he was a very big baseball fan, Pirates fan, Pittsburgh Pirates fan, which he passed on to me. And, I was visiting him, and he was saying these things that didn't really make a whole lot of sense. And then he kind of caught himself and he realized he wasn't making sense. So he stopped and he said, so, what else is going on? And I said, well, the Pirates-- this was in 2015-- The Pirates are in first place. And he looked at me and he said, that can't be right. I may be out of it kid, but I'm pretty sure the Pirates are in the first place. But they were that week anyway.
All right, Melanie, how about we do some of your strips?
March 27. Lucy is sitting at her classic Psychiatric stand. A little different because it's the first time we've ever seen it. But she is sitting there, and the sign says, Psychiatric Help, $0.05. Charlie Brown walks up and says, “I have deep feelings of depression. What can I do about this? Lucy looks away in deep thought. “Snap out of it. $0.05, please.” Charlie brown looks chagrined.
Jimmy: That's the face we have described as chagrined for all these strips.
Duncan: No, I stand corrected, because that exact exchange there really did capture Lucy for me.
Jimmy: Now, why did you pick this one first, Melanie? Obviously, it's iconic.
Melanie: Well, and it stood out to me because where's, the rest of the booth? She's, like, sitting at a table.
Jimmy: Yeah. Michael, how long is it before the Psychiatric booth shows up again? After this?
Michael: Like a year and a half,
Jimmy: isn't it? Yes. So he draws this one this way, and he has drawn these types of booths, like, really early in the strip where kids are selling, like, lemonade or whatever. Mud pies. And, for whatever reason, he decides to add that sign for the next one. But it is well over a year before he comes back to the psychiatric stand, which is crazy, I think.
Melanie: I think that's interesting. I just think that Lucy is, not there to give actual advice to people. She's there to make it all about herself.
I just think that she wants it to be over. I think she wants her five cents, and she doesn't want to actually sit there and help people. So that's her solution. Just snap out of it and pay me.
Jimmy: When we talked about this strip, in our regular recording session, I said, this is like a parody of therapy by someone who has never gone to therapy. So it's completely wrong, but it's kind of completely right, too.
Melanie: Yes, that's a good way to put it.
Duncan: And if we're only so simple.
Jimmy: Exactly. Snap out of it. There you go.
Duncan: Why didn't I think of that?
Jimmy: Why didn't I
Harold: worth every nickel.
Jimmy: This is a great one. this is a moment that's exciting because we're going year by year. And right now we just finished recording 1961 so we haven't seen Rerun yet, but here, in this pick, we have an appearance of Lucy's younger brother, younger than Linus even Rerun.
March 26 1973. Lucy and Rerun are inside. Rerun has obviously been sitting there playing with some blocks. Lucy reaches out her hand and says to Rerun. “Come on, Rerun. I'm going to take you for a little walk. It's about time you got to look at the outside world. Well, what do you think?” Rerun thinks to himself, “you mean this is it?”
Jimmy: I love Rerun. We haven't seen rerun yet. but I love rerun. He eventually takes over the strip in the 90s. He becomes like, the star. So it's nice to see a little early Rerun.
Melanie: Yeah. He had his first mention in 72. he was born May 23, 1972. So he is 50 years old.
Jimmy: Yeah, he's my age.
Melanie: He just turned 50. So, when I catch the birthdays, I try to put it on my Facebook. So I had a thing on, May 23. Happy birthday. Happy fiftieth to Rerun.
Jimmy: What do you think Rerun is doing? I hope he achieved his goal. He wanted to be an underground cartoonist. I hope he made that.
Harold: So this Rerun actually predates Fred Rerun Barry from What's Happening is what we're saying.
Jimmy: Unless, Fred Barry was going by Rerun in some sort of stage name previous to the show. Yes.
Harold: Hmmm I’ll have to learn a little more about that.
Jimmy: That's for our other podcast. Hey. What was happening?
Melanie: Yes. And just a little trivia. He was voiced by Lee Mendelson's son, one of his sons back in the 80s?
Jimmy: I actually have pretty strong memories of those. That was probably from the Charlie Brown & Snoopy show? And they animated a bunch of Reruns on the back of his mom's bikes strips, which were always one of my favorites, “considering I don't do anything, I lead a very active life.” I think about that all the time. That is the mantra of a cartoonist.
April 28 1961, Lucy and Linus are sitting in a lounge chair in their living room. Lucy says, “you can't drift along forever. You have to direct your thinking. For instance, you have to decide whether you're going to be a liberal or a conservative. You have to take some sort of stand. You have to associate yourself with some sort of cause.” Linus says, “Are there any openings in the lunatic fringe?”
Michael: That's the voice I always heard for Linus.
Jimmy: That is your inner voice of Linus. Nailed it.
Harold: The one thing I always remember from the specials that just goes over and over in my head is from the Christmas special, where he goes, I can't memorize these lines.
Jimmy: Now, I want to ask you guys a question about that. When you would hear them back-- you did these, however many? Six months previous. A year previous. Were you ever shocked at the versions they used, the takes they used? Was there anything you were particularly like? Yeah, I nailed it with that one.
Melanie: Actually, I've been asked the opposite, and I definitely have. Well, somebody asked me, what was your least favorite line? And I have a least favorite word, because my father was from New York and my mother was from Chicago. So growing up in California, I didn't think I had an accent, but I did say certain words a certain way. And one of the things that I noticed in the Easter the Easter special was I said candy. And I always have said candy. I have a hard time saying candy. So, that was one thing that kind of made me cringe, and my mom kind of teased me about it. She said, oh, listen to the way you said that. You didn't say it properly. Well, I must have said it properly, because Bill Melendez didn't have me do it over right.
Harold: If Bill thinks it's right, it's right.
Melanie: Yes, exactly.
Harold: Did you have any other siblings, Melanie, other than your sister?
Melanie: No, not at the time. I do now. As of 31 years ago, I do have, another sister, but at the time, no, it was just the two of us.
Harold: What's your thoughts as the voice of Lucy toward Linus?
Melanie: Maybe for me, I didn't get to be a big sister in real life. I was the one that was always picked on, and I didn't have a stay in anything growing, up. So I guess that's one thing that I kind of liked about, being able to pretend to be bossy.
Jimmy: That's why I started this podcast, so I could be bossy to--
April 28, 1961. Here we have we have Linus and Lucy standing outside. Linus is speaking. Lucy is rolling her eyes skyward. Linus says, I” don't understand what you're so worried about. Why should you care if I have any opinions or personality or character?” “Because if you don't have any character, it's a reflection on me.” Linus says, “Ah HA!”
Melanie: Once again, it's all about Lucy.
Harold: She's shown her hand here, right?
Jimmy: Yeah. Now, here's the question. Is Linus leading her into a trap, or is he just happy that he notices the weakness?
Melanie: I interpret it as he's happy that he notices-- it's like he's caught her.
Harold: one of the mysteries of life is now revealed.
Jimmy: And we now have a new mystery, because what happened to Linus's eyebrow in the third panel-- it disappeared. Now we have to do -- Every once in a while, there's something strange happens, either because when they were reproducing it the negative, something got wiped off or erased, or someone in a production facility tried to put a line in, and it just always stands out to lunatics like us.
Well, listen, guys, this has been beyond exciting for me. it was so kind of you both to take your time and talk to us today, and I know our listeners are absolutely going to love this episode. before we let you go, is there anything else you want to leave us with? Any place, you want to direct people again or anything like that?
Duncan: Well, I think that I've come to the understanding over years for following Peanuts, but recognizing that it's going to transcend generations. I mean, if I ever get, grandchildren, I suspect that they'll at least be aware of Peanuts and Peanuts characters, and that I'll still be cool.
Melanie: Likewise. My children, if you're listening out there, if I ever get grandchildren. I hope for the same. I look forward to watching Peanuts with my future grandchildren.
In the meantime, please keep an eye on my Facebook. It's at Melanie J-K-O-H-N is my last name. And, I do put my events on there, as I said at the beginning, as I'm able to, as they're promoted.
Duncan and I will be appearing together at, I think we've got three set up where we'll be appearing together. Just keep an eye, as I said, on, my Facebook page, and hopefully we'll have some more for next year that we'll be, doing together. We also do other things besides comic-cons, so keep an eye for those events.
Jimmy: We absolutely will. Thank you again. This just was really special for me and for the guys.
Harold: Thank you so much.
Jimmy: Very grateful for it.
And to, you guys listening out there, if you want to follow us, if you're new to the podcast, you can go back now and listen to our other episodes. We read every single Peanuts strip from 1950 all the way up to 2000. We discuss some of our favorites and, discuss every year in depth, every week here in Unpacking Peanuts. On social media you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter at unpack. Peanuts. And, you can also go to UnpackingPeanuts.com, where there's transcripts, and you can vote on your favorite strip of the year and all kinds of good stuff.
So we'll be back next week with a regular episode. Until then, for Michael and Harold, I'm jimmy. Be of good cheer.
Harold: Yes, be of good cheer.
Duncan: Thanks, guys. A lot of fun.
Melanie: Thank you.
VO: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright jimmy Gownley Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz. Produced by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen. Additional Voice over by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow @UnpackPeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold, visit unpackingpeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.