Jimmy: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. It's me, Jimmy Gownley. And this is Unpacking Peanuts. You might know me as a being your host for the show, but also as the cartoonist behind 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. First, he's a playwright, a composer, both the band Complicated People as well as for this very podcast. He cocreated the first comic book price guide ever and was the original editor for Amelia Rules. He's also the cartoonist behind Strange Attractors, Tangled River and A Gathering of Spells. Michael Cohen.
Michael: Hey, there.
Jimmy: And, he is the executive producer and writer for Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics and the creator of the instagram strip Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.
Jimmy: Well, I'm very excited. It is a banner day here at Unpacking Peanuts. We have two very special guests. Will and Kevin Hines are comedians and host of the fabulous podcast Screwit We're Just Going to Talk About Comics, the only podcast in human history where two brothers discuss something they enjoy. The show has already run for several seasons and has included discussions about series as diverse as Sandman, Batman Year One, Justice League International, and the original Lee/Ditko Spiderman, and even all 101 issues of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four. The, show drops every Wednesday. And just to gush a little bit here, I'd like to say I'm probably the first person to download and listen to each and every episode the second it comes out. So I am thrilled to welcome Kevin Hines and Will Hines. Guys, thanks for coming to the show.
Will: Thanks for having us. Thank you.
Jimmy: Well, I am a huge fan of your podcast going back to the very early days. And I think it has a really kind of sweet origin story, specifically about how you guys decided what comics you're going to be covering early on. Can you tell us, about that?
Will: Kevin, do you want to take that one?
Kevin: We did the podcast, I think partially because we live on different coasts and We weren't talking as much as we used to when Will lived in New York. So it was half an excuse just to talk to each other once a week and half because we both really love the comic books we talk about. And when we started the podcast, it was just called Screwit We're Just Going To Talk About Spiderman because he's our favorite character, our favorite superhero. And we had these pocket digests of these Stan Lee Steve Ditko Spiderman comics that will have gotten from, I guess, the Walden books somewhere. And we each had just read them a thousand times over. We just read them over and over and over and over again and wore them out and talked about them and loved them even before we had read any modern Spiderman comics. So those ones obviously are important to Spiderman because they're the first ones. But they're also our first ones, even though we were reading these in like, the early eighties, and they just ended up meaning so much to us. Is that right? Will, did I say that correctly?
Will: You did. That exactly right. Yeah. And even though after we finished Spiderman, we were having such a good time, we changed the name to Screw it We're Just Going To Talk About Comics instead of talk about Spiderman and to talk about whatever we wanted. And we do tend to skew to something we've both enjoyed. not necessarily as kids, sometimes as adults. Although every now and then one of us will kind of bully the other one into covering something that they're not as into.
Jimmy: What one would that be? Is there anyone that you want to divulge that maybe one of you like more than the other?
Will: I think maybe Justice League Europe Kevin was a bit more you than me, although we both did read that and enjoy that. And then Sandman comics was a bit more me than you. Although you did read Sandman and enjoy it.
Kevin: And then there's things like Superior Spiderman, which you had never read, but I'd read and enjoyed.
Will: Oh yeah, that's right. Yeah. I, guess we've never actually had to bully each other. But sometimes one brother will take the lead in terms of picking. And we are reaching now that I'm saying that we haven't even said this to each other too much, but we may have used up the ones that we both read a lot and are going to have to move into stuff where one of us is leading the other one a little bit, I think.
Kevin: Yeah. At least the big tent poles that we read and loved, are gone. There's a couple left, like Walt Simonson Thor and John Burns FF.
Will: Yeah, we have a lot, we can also do Power Pack. Never mind. There's a lot. If we want to move out of the 1980s comics, we're going to have to be a bit more adventurous.
Kevin: Yeah, that'll be impossible because we didn't live together after that. So like, the stuff that we both read were the ones that basically Will kept in his closet. And I would go into and read. Once those were gone, once that part of our life was gone, we were reading different stuff constantly.
Jimmy: Right. well, I have to say I have very similar taste. I think, Will and I are roughly the same age. Almost probably exactly the same age.
Kevin: 83 years old.
Will: 83 years old. Yeah, exactly. I didn't start reading comics tiles about 50. you really get into early 80s stuff.
Kevin: That's great.
Jimmy: That's the time, though, you're mid to early that's when you want to get into comics. It helps with your reading skills. It's great.
Will: That's when Stan was aiming for.
Jimmy: He wanted to write to his peers, you know?
Jimmy: So here's my question, because first I found out about you guys. First off, I'm, a huge Beatles fan. And you would think, listeners, that it is very easy to find a great Beatles podcast that you can listen to. It is not. 99% of them are kind of insufferable. But I found, Screw It We're Just Going To Talk About the Beatles. Recommended to Michael. We became big fans. And then it was recommended to me, Screwit We're Just Going To Talk About Spiderman. And first I was like, oh, someone stole his branding. That really sucks. And then I thought, oh, it's the same guy. Well, maybe, the only possible way I would listen to this is if by some miracle, they were talking about the Steve Ditko issues. And when those oh, my gosh, this is amazing. I was the same way. I was reading comics in the 70s and 80s, and I always felt that the current Spiderman at the time looked like the stuff that was on the lunchboxes and the Ditko stuff, which was Marvel Tales at the time. I didn't even realize it was old. That looked like Spiderman to me. Can you guys talk about what it was with you that made those particular issues just, call out to you?
Will: Well, like Kevin said, those are the ones we just sort of happened to have, right in the late 70s, Marvel released these little paperback pocket digests of the first 20 issues of Spiderman. We got them just because they were in the bookstore. And we were just the kind of kids who would float to the book section and poke around the humor books and the comic book stuff. We’d buy that. And collections of Peanuts books, which we'll talk about. I think we would buy anything. We would buy, like Broom Hilda collections. Just whatever was there in cartoon form. We were interested in one way or the other.
Kevin: Weirdly____ Hilda a lot lately. I don't know why that is. But we definitely have collections of Broom Hilda.
Will: But, it's really gratifying to hear that you like these podcasts, by the way, because, I mean, as Kevin said, we did it primarily to talk to each other. But you do sort of hope that they're entertaining and both with comic books and even more so with the Beatles. There are a ton of podcasts. And I've listened to a handful of other podcasts on the subjects. And, I always get an inferiority complex when I hear something else like, oh, gosh, they're so well researched or like, you know, they're so this or that or whatever. But you have to just kind of hope that you're bringing some kind of vibe when you do something. I'm sure you guys feel that way about this podcast too.
Michael: Yeah but well researched doesn't always make it. It could be like the Green Llama, first appeared in Issue….
Will: It is a balance, though. Like, when we first started our Beatles podcast, which I just did very impulsively, I was like, honestly, what happened was Donald Trump got elected. I personally did not agree with Donald Trump, and I was dismayed.
Kevin: I’m a big fan
Will: You're a big fan, Kevin's a big fan. But, build, a wall. Kevin always said ten years old is.
Kevin: A big fan of walls.
Will: yeah, it's not even immigration.
Jimmy: It's just like destruction wall, any place, anytime.
Kevin: Yeah, man, more walls.
Michael: built out of Lincoln Logs preferably.
Kevin: Knock them down, build them up again. That's the fun part.
Will: But, my friends, were so angry and talking about politics so much, which is totally there, right? I was like, I wanted a place to not talk about politics. Not that I think it's always wrong to do so, but I was like, okay, screw it. We're just going to talk about the Beatles. You know what? we come on here. Just talk about something that I love. And it's joyful. But I was like, I know the Beatles. I've listened to the albums a million times and I had no research ready. Luckily, I brought on some guests to, over the course of the first ten episodes, brought up my education a lot. At this point, we've done, like, I forget 75 or 80 episodes, and my education is now much more seasoned. And I think it isn't a good yes, we do try to avoid having it just be a trivia contest of facts and stuff, but you want to know some basic stuff so the listener isn't just screaming at their headphones that you're missing some quite obvious facts. A balance is necessary.
Kevin: yeah, there's knowing stuff and then there's just being wrong a lot. Sometimes we go too far on that side, I think, where we just say things and then three episodes later, we're like, so we've got a bunch of emails. Ditko was the artist and Stan Lee was the writer.
Will: Yeah, we didn't know that.
Jimmy: one of my first forays is onto the Internet, like, way back when, I was like a Beatles message board, and someone was they were talking about She said, she Said. And I said, I put something like, they said something about George playing base. And I very innocently wrote, I think Paul played bass on that. That is incorrect.
Jimmy: I heard about I got alerts for that for eleven years. Not often, every couple of months. But finally they shut the board down. I was like, thank God.
Will: I know that Kevin and I are a comic book podcast. This is the Peanuts podcast. But one thing about the Beatles that is so obvious, but is maybe not talked about directly, is how insanely well documented this band is. I was talking with the other guys on the Beatles podcast, were like, what other band do we know the names of each spouse of each member? Like, I love the Kinks. I have no idea who they are married to.
Jimmy: and have intense I love personal thoughts about it right.
Michael: And what they had for lunch on June 3rd 1964.
Will: exactly. Or when they met and, like, what songs they auditioned to get into each other's bands. But not only do I know that that's fairly common knowledge. Plenty of people don't know that stuff. But you don't have to go through too many Beatles fans before you can find out, like, name all the Beatles wives. The fair number of people can do that. That's like, what's going on?
Will: What's wrong with me and everybody?
Jimmy: Well, we end up talking about the Beatles a fair amount. Because Peanuts, in a lot of ways, is the only thing we could think of that kind of, at least in our realm of interest, that compares to it. It's just this artistic achievement, ubiquitous yeah.
Will: Commercially successful.
Michael: Well, I've always-- the reason I connect the two is how often is the absolute best thing in the field also the most popular thing?
Will: Yeah, exactly. It's rare. I think the Allmusic.com summary of the Beatles biography is something like says exactly that. Like, they were both commercially at the top of their field and critically acclaimed at the same time. It almost never happens. Maybe I don't know, maybe in movies sometimes, like Steven Spielberg, but I don't know, it's never quite the same.
Harold: Well there’s Broom Hilda.
Will: Top of the charts and critics, darling, Broom Hilda. Sad Sack comics. That's the number two. Right. but, yeah. Peanuts, it is, beloved and great and popular. But the one thing Peanuts has on everything else is its longitivity I bought the Fantagraphics complete Peanuts set just to stare at it and marvel at a beautiful life's work. I mean, it's endearing to me just that such pure love went into the product.
Jimmy: Whenever I look at that shelf of those Fantagraphic books that I have, I think that's the guy's life, like, right there on my shelf.
Will: And a good one, and a really good hearted one that took risks and was brave and was great a vast majority of the time. But even the shortcomings and the failures, just kind of add to my love for it. Failures is a bit too hard to work. But even when he was sort of like, you know, maybe not quite as focused or not as inspired or something, it's, subjective, and I don't think there's huge periods of that. But that just adds to it. That makes it real.
Jimmy: Yes. That's 100% how I feel like when his hand is--
Will: I'm so grateful to Fantagraphics for doing the complete collection. Don't skip the clunkers. I want to read those, too.
Jimmy: Absolutely. And we are finding out as we go through the early episode or early years, that tons of those were not reprinted. So it's amazing to be able to go back and look at those things and see, like, oh, you know, there's 40% of these early years that no one had seen until Fantagraphics put them out.
OK, so you're reading this. Tell me about Peanuts. Did you read it in the newspaper when you were a kid, or was it just in those books?
Will: This, is another thing that my brother Kevin, helped me with. So, yeah, we read them in the comic strips. We read all the comic strips from good ones to also ones that we probably didn't understand.
Kevin: Our newspaper had like a single page of comics. Some papers had lots. We had just a single page. But I would read them all, even the bad ones, because it was only a couple that I didn't like. I was like, I might as well just read every one on this page. But it was also like a heyday. Right? Because there's Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side were all chucking along. By the time I was really reading.
Harold: Comic strips, you could quote all whole swathes of Mary Worth.
Kevin: We had Mary Worth. To be honest, I now read Mary Worth because of blogs that make fun of it. it's delightfully fun.
Jimmy: Hey, is Mary Worth, I think is being drawn by June Brigman.
Kevin: That's right. June Brigman of Power Pack.
Jimmy: Power Pack, yeah, which is a classic comic.
Harold: I mean, I'm amazed at these strips that just went on for decades. And they had their fans. There was a following.
Will: How did Apartment 3G get such a foothold in newspapers?
Harold: I think there are a lot of people who lived in an apartment three G, and they felt a connection.
Jimmy: That was it.
Will: just one person in every apartment complex
Kevin: I did live in an apartment three F for a little while. So maybe that was my problem. It just felt too far fetched.
Will: Give me a break. Nobody nobody goes into G. Kevin, do you remember Gil Thorpe? But that was in Milford, Connecticut. Like, Kevin, I grew up in Danbury, Connecticut. And Gil Thorpe was, sort of a Mary Worth-- soap opera style one about a sports coach. But it was like drama. It was like the drama of the kids and stuff going on. But it was in Milford, Connecticut. It took place a couple of towns over.
Kevin: Here's a crazy thing. Broom Hilda wasn't in our, comic strip page.
Will: Yeah. Why did we buy those books?
Harold: It was exotic.
Will: Yes, I guess so. It's a dark art.
Kevin: I think they were just collected. I mean, I think we would just buy I think we only had a couple of volumes, but I actually remember enjoying them. And now they're talking about it.
Harold: They're well drawn.
Jimmy: Well, and it was just hard to get any kind of comic stuff. Like, you go to Walden Books and whatever they had. That was like the canon of comics.
Will: Right? And we did buy the Peanuts collections.
Kevin: The little paperback, ones.
Will: Yeah, the little paperback ones. And we bought a lot of those. Like, when Fantagraphics released a complete collection, whenever that happened in the 2000s I was surprised how many I remembered. Yes. There also were a bunch that hadn't been reprinted. And I was like, man, Kevin and I did a pretty good job of getting a lot of those paperbacks and reading a lot of the ones up through, whatever, 1978. But we bought those, and we read those a ton. But, then when I got older, Peanuts was lame. Like, to me, when I got to be a teenager, I was like, no, man, Far Side is it. Bloom County is it. Peanuts is square. Like, truly, I did have it was.
Kevin: It was Will’s beatnik phase.
Jimmy: That’s square, man. Far Side is with it.
Will: That's not hep I said I mean, I wasn't passionately anti Peanuts, but I was like, that's for kids. I'm cool. I get Doonesbury or whatever. But then I think with Kevin when I was in my 20s, was like, we were just talking comics, and Kevin was like, you know, those Peanuts stuff is really funny. Like, it's really good. And I was like, what? It can't be. And then I reread the--
Kevin: I think we went together to a Barnes and Noble.
Will: Okay Yes.
Kevin: I think we went there because I wanted to prove to you Peanuts is good. _____ volumes and flipping through it. And you were like, oh, man, these are great.
Will: Yes. And then at the same time, the Comics Journal, which is sort of like, you know, news and criticism from Fantagraphics, did, their 100 greatest comics of all time. It was, like, in the late 90s or something. And it was, you know, Fantagraphics always wants to prove it has a wide taste. So that would be anything from, like, Spiderman to, like, some French indie comic that had only been printed in the pages of Raw magazine or something. But number one was Peanuts, and it was like, number one with a bullet. Like, they raved about it. I was like, number one from the snobbiest comic book magazine possible. Like, from the you know, from the truly, like, clove, cigarette smoking, turtleneck wearing snobs. Where like, number one is Peanuts.
Jimmy: It was number two.
Will: It was Number two? One was Krazy Kat.
Michael: Facts, facts. Jimmy and I are still angry about it.
Jimmy: The only reason I know, like, Michael said, we have been furious about it for 25 years.
Will: As I said it-- see, this is what I get wrong in my Beatles podcast. Like I said, number one was crazy.
Kevin: You can't let facts stop you from making points.
Will: Oh, my goodness.
Kevin: Oh, no.
Harold: That clove cigarette thing, that's going to be checked. I know.
Will: Okay, But it was high enough that it made me like, whoa. And then another friend of mine, John Reynolds, Kevin, a, comedian friend of ours in New York, was also like and Peanuts was still happening. This was the late nineties. It stopped in 2000. And John was like, Schulz has been turning it on lately. He kind of got a little tired of the mid nineties, and lately it's been great. I was like, really? And then I was like, people are keeping track of Peanuts. And it really made me have new appreciation. And so then when the Fantagraphics books came out, I just got them all. And it kind of reignited, my childhood love of them.
Kevin: Will’s range from, like, as a kid, buying them to not liking them to getting all of them is very funny to me. Yeah, it's a real roller coaster of emotions.
Will: But I'm glad I got into Peanuts. Here's a really dumb side note. We've already had a million, but Kevin and anybody, do you remember on those little paperbacks we got in the 70s-- you know, the original things we bought? It would be like, you know, you're a good egg, Charlie Brown, or something like that. Snoopy would be lying on an Easter egg or something. But then, like, there'd be little fine print on the cover It would say part two of stop hitting me in the face, Charlie Brown or whatever. And so these little paperbacks were themselves reissues of some larger collection, which I never saw.
Jimmy: Harold you know this right,
Will: like, I only had these little paperbacks that were, like, referring to, like, oh, this is actually a reissue of some earlier one. But I never saw
Jimmy: That was always a mystery to me
Will: Us too
Jimmy: because you never saw those originals, no one ever saw them.
Will: And also, why did they care? Do they think some eight year old kid is going to be buying wait a minute, I already got too many shoes, Charlie Brown? What is this? These are
Jimmy: worst book titles in the world, by the way.
Harold: That's exactly, I think, what's happened. I think it was Holt Rinehart and Winston, or Henry Holt. I don't know what they were at the time. They were publishing these ones for the general market trade, and then Fawcett got the rights to do the mass markets. And so vastly more people read those Fawcett Crest books. And so I think they were obligated. I don't know if Holt required them to do it or they just got some complaints. And so they said, okay, we got them from this book that's already been out for a year.
Kevin: It's also interesting to me that those paperbacks are just not formatted. The size of a paperback is terrible for comic strips because, before you had a lot of these, like, wide books, like, I guess Garfield maybe did a ton of those. Maybe that's when it became everything had those.
Jimmy: Yeah, maybe.
Kevin: But Peanuts books, where do you put the panels on the page? But that's how I read so many of those old Peanuts strips that I still picture those as, like, the perfect Peanuts books. Even though they are like the worst way maybe to deliver them.
Harold: Yeah we were talking about that how it was amazing that Schulz did not I mean, what can you do? That's the format that's selling all the copies. But he, must have cringed when he looked at those books. He saw his works being overlapped with panels and the Sundays are being spread out and they're adding these weird zipatone things on the pages to kind of balance them out a little bit. But knowing that Schulz did everything himself and then someone's coming along and just kind of cutting and pasting you to see someone with that waxing machine running the proof through and say, well, let's see what we'll do with this one. And it's amazing what Schulz put up with given, he just had such pride in his work.
Will: They still worked, right? I love those paperback books. And it was still his panels. They didn't mess with the panel borders and they're hilarious.
Kevin: And they reached a huge audience
Will: So maybe Schulz just had an instinct for like, well, there's more good than bad going on here. Maybe he just didn't. He also seemed to be a bit of a company man. Like he was a bit of like, I go to work and do my job and I don't complain. Like if you're going to shrink me to three panels, I'll do three panels. Like I'll make it work.
Harold: I think it was a faithfulness to the syndicate. They gave him his deal. In 1950 is the kind of guy who never forgot that and said, yeah, this is commercial art.
Jimmy: He thanks the editors in his very last strip, which is crazy. And the editor should have been thanking him at that point.
Harold: You got to love him for that.
Will: That's part of what's endearing about it. So that's how we got into it. So we got into it as kids. But then I lost my way and Kevin dragged me back to the true path. Kevin and Fantagraphics.
Kevin: The hardest part for me was getting Fantagraphics to start doing those reprints, to get Will back on.
Jimmy: I appreciate it.
Will: You don't get enough credit for that.
Kevin: Well, that's fine.
Jimmy: By the way, I love your dedication that you're going to drag him to a Barnes and Noble to prove your point. That sounds like an insane thing I would do.
Will: I was in my thirties and Kevin was in his 20s. Like how weird were we? Maybe I was like 29. But it was like, you've got to come right now to see Peanuts and I was like, you are correct. This is like in New York, right? We could have gone to see the opera, you know what I mean? Or a baseball game at Yankee stadium.
Kevin: Like, we're going to Barnes and Noble. I remember it as the Barnes, and Noble that used to be part of Madison Square Garden, right there.
Kevin: That's how I remembered, I'm, not 100% sure because I remember they had like, the comic shelves where they were in that store. They're like around the corner towards the back exit. And we were like, between two of those shelves and just like, which ones do they have? Because my other worry was we were going to go and they would only have a couple of editions and maybe, what if they're not the best? But then there was enough of them and they were all great. And I was like, I guess I started panicking that if Will doesn't like these, I lose.
Jimmy: Well, you just never speak again. That would be the end of it. Thanksgiving’s would be awkward.
Kevin: That was an option yeah.
Harold: Yeah, I just saw the sketch you did. The Garfooled sketch that you did.
Will: I can't believe you found it.
Kevin: Well, it did air on Saturday Night Live four or five times.
Will: But in truth, it's on my video channel.
Harold: That's how I saw it. Yeah,
Kevin: 20 views.
Harold: Just watching you go through all of these strips, from memory, and how random that you were just jumping from group to group. And basically the premise is that, someone's being fired because they're doing Garfooled. It's like a knock off of Garfield. He's changing only minor details, and yet he feels it's an important strip and the artist is basically saying every strip you can think of that his strip is better than.
Will: Yeah we listed every comic strip we could think of. So what you're referring to Kevin and I did improv comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, In addition to being brothers,
Kevin: Our two achievements
Will: That particular show. So we used to do an improv show every week for an hour. And then I was moving to Los Angeles. And so we wrote a sketch show of our favorite scenes that we had improvised just from memory. We were like, yeah, that was a good one. That was a good one. And so we kind of like, revised from memory. These improvs. We tried to improve them or whatever.
Kevin: And they weren't taped. So, like, we probably forgot some of the funny stuff and added a new funny stuff or whatever.
Harold: I'm sure that you didn't memorize that script of exactly the hundred strips.
Will: Yeah, Garfooled was definitely one that we improvised where Kevin was a guy in the original improv scene. Kevin, maybe you were the guy who was doing the comic or whatever. Yeah, you came up with Garfooled. And I remember in the improv scene, like, it totally broke me on stage, improvised that somebody was being indignant about their comic strip. And I was like, I wonder if he's going to pick a real one. He goes Garfooled.
Kevin: I just remember the heart of that strip is name something better. Or what right wasn't that and then you list every strip or whatever.
Will: That's right. That's right. Name something better than Garfooled. And I was like, better than Garfooled?
Harold: I think it was the artist, saying everything that his strip was better than as I recall. And then the capper was that, the one guy who's the assistant in the room who's never said anything until the end, offers Blondie. And then both of you guys just turn on him.
Will: Yeah, we just jump on him.
Harold: How dare you, sir?
Kevin: Yeah. The hook of our sketch show was that we would have people from the audience join us. And so that third person was from the audience and holding a script. There was sort of like a hidden game of like, they would either have no lines or we would be mean to them. And then our director would come on and be like, why do you have them join your sketches? You're just going to yell at them one time?
Will: I mean, this is truly insane that you've watched this. We did it one night. We taped it just for ourselves.
Kevin: We bullied the theater into letting us have a slot because we're like, we don't even want to run. We just want to do it once.
Will: We want to do it once in tape it. But the audience was half full. it went over all right.
Kevin: It was all friends. It was the friendliest audience we could have. The only better audience would be like, all our aunts.
Harold: The audience was totally with you. It was great.
Kevin: some of them were on stage with us.
Harold: Yes. The other thing I want to ask you while we're on these strange Google searches, Will, on your IMDb, there is a three minute short. I think it's called The Snoopy Lamp. Is that right?
Will: Yeah, right. Snoopy Lamp.
Harold: What was that?
Will: So, I directed it. It's a friend of mine named Sean Clements, who's a pretty big TV writer. He's written for a ton of TV shows now, but at this time, he was just an improv guy at the UCB Theater in New York. He wrote this sketch called Snoopy Lamp, which is about a film noir style hardboiled detective who's, like, looking around the room and trying to figure out a mystery. And the mystery is obvious. There's like, a dead body, a knife in the back, a letter from a spurned lover. And he's like, I don't know, I think this Snoopy Lamp is the key to the mystery. And everyone's like, no, it's not that. He's like, there's something about this lamp. And he was like, won't stop talking about the Snoopy Lamp. And I loved it. It really made me laugh. And so we filmed a version of it. Had to find a Snoopy lamp, and then set directed a room and did it in black and white light through the shutters and stuff like that. And, I think, once again, you guys are one of the few people to have seen that.
Harold: It was a total mystery.
Jimmy: Is there any way people could see it?
Will: no, because the UCB used to have a video server. Like, they kind of created their own YouTube service, but it crashed at some point, so it's gone. I have a director's reel on my Vimeo, and there's a snippet from it in that. That's it. I have three second snippet of a guy going, Snoopy Lamp. That's it in the reel. I adored that sketch, and we filmed it, and me and Sean could not stop giggling, as I recall. But the artistic director of UCB Theaters, a guy named Anthony King, really smart and nice guy, looked at, it goes, you just say Snoopy Lamp too many times, like, well, not enough for me. I loved it.
Harold: Would you mind if we ran some, of the audio of the, the Garfooled sketch just so people can kind of get a sense of what we're talking about?
Kevin: Go ahead. Run the whole show.
Harold: Yeah, we'd love to.
Jimmy: So, hey, how about we take a break right now, and then, we come back and we'll go through some of the picks you have for your favorite Peanuts strips. All right. That's what we're going to do now. All right, we'll see on the other.
BREAK [Audio from Garfooled]
Jimmy: And we're back. So how about we just get right to it and start looking at these comic strips?
February 19, 1952. Charlie Brown is drawing on a little chalkboard for Schroeder. He says, “See, Schroder, there's a cat.” Now, on panel two, we see Charlie Brown wiping it out, and he says, “Now I'll draw a dog.” Snoopy comes up, behind Schroeder, intent on seeing what's going on. Charlie Brown then reveals his chalkboard drawing of a dog, which makes Snoopy burst out laughing. In the last panel, Charlie Brown walks away embarrassed and chagrined.
Jimmy: You get a lot of chagrin in Peanuts comics. Now, who picked this one?
Kevin: This was one of the ones I picked.
Jimmy: Nice. Okay, so tell us about this. What was this for you?
Kevin: Well, I wanted to pick one of these almost like proto Peanuts, even though I guess it was actually Peanuts. It just looks a little different. It's so charming. and as you guys alluded to earlier, these are, like, the batch that I didn't read until the Fantagraphics Collections came out.
Kevin: and there's something about like dog Snoopy versus like, you know, every person Snoopy that he becomes later on that I find so charming and like this kind of even rounder gianter head, Charlie Brown. I just love the look of it. So I was going through a lot of those old ones to pick one. And I don't know, the idea of a dog-- Snoopy laughing isn't that weird. But a real dog laughing at you is so funny to me. And it really comes across in a strip. It's both such a great visual gag. This little image of Snoopy laughing. There's no sound like they don't write the words ha ha ha. So you just see Snoopy laughing. But it's crystal clear what is happening. Charlie Brown is surprised by it. Schroeder seems like what's going on here? But instead of like, my dog just laughed at me. It's just like, yeah, I did a bad job on that drawing sort of reaction. It is so true to the spirit of the strip, but it is so bizarre. I'm a little bit drawn to the absurdity of Peanuts that I forget is in there. Because you get all this, almost philosophical statements sometimes. But it gets so absurd. This is just tip of the iceberg absurdity.
Harold: It's amazing how we get pulled into the absurdity and it just becomes we just accept it.
Jimmy: Yeah, you don't think about it. We were doing a strip, on a couple episodes where it was about Charlie Brown has Snoopy sleeping inside. And Snoopy starts snoring and he sends him out in the doghouse or whatever. And then Charlie Brown feels bad, brings him back in. Then Charlie Brown starts snoring and then he goes out and sleeps in the doghouse. And like the premise of the joke that Charlie Brown snoring, then the dog snoring on one of them has is one thing, but then there's this whole other level of it's funnier because now they're both sleeping on top of the dog house, which is weird in and of itself. And you never even think about it because of course that's what you'd do in Peanuts. But it's a truly surreal image when you actually stop and think about it.
Harold: Yeah. Isn't that a gorgeous drawing of Schroeder in that first panel? That's kind of a little bit behind the head. And we had a theory that maybe, maybe Schulz was inspired by Gerald Mcboingboing when he created Schroeder because, it's kind of got set. He has that kind of early, almost UPA look.
Will: I don't think I know what Gerald Mcboingboing is. What is that?
Harold: Ah, it was a up, a cartoon about a little boy who did not speak. Instead everything was sound effects that came out of him. And so he's at first made fun of. And then people start to accept him for who he is and love him for who is. It was like with Mr. McGoo, there was a Gerald McBoingBoing, Mr. Magoo TV show was one of the first animated, TV shows out there. But it was a, for its time, I guess it was probably the second most popular thing that came out of UPA, which was the response to the Disney kind of realism in animation. They were going for much more stylized work. And it's interesting to see Schulz in that world of stylized art at this really early era where the look is way different from what he really just makes his own in later years. But it's hard to because of Peanuts being Peanuts. It's like saying, you talk about the influences of the Beatles, you can find them, but you just take the Beatles at face value. And I think Peanuts is similar. It's just really hard to kind of say what inspired Schulz.
Jimmy: One thing that's weird, and sort of interesting in this strip is especially if you look at the third panel, Schulz went out of his way in later years to say Charlie Brown is not meant to be bald. He just has a really tight crew cut and hair so blonde you can almost see through what he described it. You can see that he's trying to do that with Charlie Brown and Schroeder. They're both supposed to have the same haircut. But I think the roundness of Charlie Brown's head that just made it impossible to see that as hair. Right.
Will: I definitely picture him as a bald five year old, everybody in the world.
Jimmy: And Schulz never even colored it that way, so I don't know what he was on about.
Will: Yeah, I mean, I could definitely picture in old movies like the kid with the crew cut and the slingshot in his pocket, like the super tight buzz cut. So I know what he's going for. But I don't know, it's just funnier. Charlie Brown is a middle aged personality at five.
Jimmy: Much funnier.
Will: This strip, I love how slapstick it is and like a lot of Peanuts strips. The punchline is sort of the third panel, like the dog laughing. And then there's a fourth panel of sort of aftermath. So, it's like slapsticky dog laughs. This is exclamation point over Charlie Brown. That really just makes me laugh. That little somehow that just makes me smile. It's like Dink, my dog is laughing at me. But then the blushing and walking away, the humiliation in the fourth panel. What a subtle, confident sort of like, yeah, this is a good way to end the strip. My protagonist is blushing. That's my capper. But it works, right? I don't know how he had the confidence to know that that was funny, but it is.
Jimmy: And compared to the other stuff that was going on at the time, things like L’il Abner or Dick Tracy or whatever, I mean, this is as minimal as you can get, but confidence is a huge part of it, for sure.
Will: And the other thing I was struck by when Kevin dragged me to the Barnes and Noble and made me look at Peanuts is, just how visual it is. For some reason. I remember the words a lot more of comic strips, but Schulz is definitely visual first. Like, the gag has to be shown. It's got to be like 60% of Peanuts strips are visual gags, if not more. And, yeah, it's minimal and sparse and calm. And the drawing is so certain and direct. He's good. Charles Schulz.
Jimmy: My friend Anne is a huge Peanuts fan. Grew up a huge Peanuts fan, but her father is blind, and she used to read the strips to him, and she could never get him to understand why on earth this was funny. He's like, this is the most depressing thing I've ever heard. Cause you can't see how cute the round headed kid is. I don't know. Yeah, it's a gestalt for sure.
Kevin: Also, Schroeder used to be Charlie Brown's best friend. I think that's interesting, too.
Jimmy: He was the first new character introduced right after the original four.
Michael: Yeah, he was a baby.
Michael: That's what's a little jarring looking at this thing. Because we've evolved. We're up to 1964, but we started with the first year, and we were keeping an eye on things like when did Snoopy sort of transcend being a puppy. And a little thing like the fact that he can look at a drawing or that little question mark above his head. He really was a dog. And then just this very slow transformation into, the Snoopy we all know and love.
Kevin: The evolution of Peanuts is fascinating. That's what the Fantagraphics series is so great about. But, yeah, like that Schroeder sort of filled the Linus role for a while, because even when Linus showed up, he was a baby for so long, and Lucy couldn't fill that role. So it was just Schroeder and Shermy to a lesser extent, kind of we're often just the ones sitting and hanging out with Charlie Brown for them to talk to each other, and then Schroeder just sort of moved over to the side to play piano and let Linus take that spot.
Harold: One of the things that really struck us, I think, in 1964, Michael's been tracking the characters, and one of the things that came out of that is we're 14 years into the strip, and there's only one character in any strip he's ever introduced that is no longer in the strip. One. that's amazing that he was so loyal to his little cast and he didn't just randomly throw characters in.
Michael: Which he will soon be doing left and right. Poor Shermy.
Will: Yeah. Whither Shermy, But, yeah, I love the strip, and I like that we have a representation from the proto Peanuts original style. Looks great. Also, he does camera angles here, like that sort of stops. Right. Everything is kind of a straight shot so that it's more deadpan.
Kevin: The camera kind of pans in that strip.
Jimmy: Yeah, he experimented a lot with that stuff at the beginning and then just slowly moved into this really spare iconographic, I guess you'd say, style that everyone knows as Peanuts. But it is like I say in the Fantagraphics books, it's fantastic to watch that happen.
September 5, 1959. We have three silent panels. In the first one, Charlie Brown, is standing right beside home plate, holding his baseball bat, wearing his hat, and just staring blankly. In the second panel, it is the exact same pose. No words. Only this time he has dropped his bat and closed his eyes. In the third panel, it is exactly the same, except now he has those famous two parentheses on either side of his eyes indicating that he is upset. And then in the fourth panel, Charlie Brown says, “I think I'm going to cry.”
Jimmy: All right, who was that?
Kevin: This is another one of mine. yeah. Part of picking a favorite strips is tough is because I'm drawn to like the long storylines where it's like, oh, I love this like, ten strip storyline. It's like, which one strip signifies that? And sometimes they're great and sometimes they don't really pull out as well. Like they're great. In context of the whole story. This was just him, like, whatever, striking out and losing the game. He was put in as a pinch header, which is crazy for, the Little League game. And he strikes out and they lose the game. And so this is just the aftermath. But I weirdly think it works even without knowing that, like, you know, he's done something bad. And it is so perfectly Charlie Brown. I don't know, when I was flipping through and thinking, I was like, why do I keep going back to this strip?
Harold: It's kind of like Garfield without Garfield.
Kevin: It's also so ballsy that this was like on a comics page. This is alone with no context. It, is insane.
Michael: There is no joke at all.
Kevin: Yet it is funny.
Will: Yeah, I guess it's like an anti joke. It's like we're on the comics page, but also he's visual, right? Like, there's four different expressions of Charlie Brown here, just done with almost emojis. Like there's two pupils in the first panel. Then there are dashes in the next panel. Then there are pupils with the parentheses around them that make them look kind of like wide eyed. And then the same thing with bigger pupils in the last one.
Jimmy: the most minimal conceivable changes to a drawing. And you completely follow the journey of this kid's emotion across four panels.
Kevin: There's not a punchline, but there's character humor there because it's Charlie Brown, of course, but also just that he's standing there alone, wallowing in this.
Will: He's at home plate with a bat by his feet. Wouldn't somebody come up to him and be like, you got the next batter has to come up. You got to get out of it.
Kevin: But the game is over. But it is just weird that he would just be alone there. It becomes such a thing for Charlie Brown to be, like, left outside sobbing or whatever after losing a baseball game. But, it's still funny. They go back to this idea. They'd be like, he'll stay out all night on the pitcher’s mound. This is like the first glimpse of that or an early glimpse of that going, oh, man, I hate the how bad I was at this.
Will: There’s at least one other time where he strikes out and it haunts him for, like, weeks. or days. Like, there'll be a couple of days later, he wakes up in the middle and I go strike three.
Jimmy: Yeah, we covered that one in a recent or an upcoming episode, I guess. So funny. And again, just the absolute confidence that people know who Charlie Brown is. So you don't have to give them any context for this. The world knows who Charlie Brown is.
Kevin: I just keep picturing this, like, on a page below Hi and Lois or whatever, but above Hagar the Horrible. And just being like, this strip would stand out so interestingly to anyone.
Jimmy: I think it makes it feel like all those other strips are trying so hard. And this one is effortless.
Harold: Yeah, I don't think Schulz ever did a final, like, a fourth panel when someone tells a joke and then you just see the feet of the person.
Kevin: Up in the air. Now I kind of wish you did.
Jimmy: That was the final Peanuts strip.
Kevin: I'm allergic to peanuts. Ulp.
Harold: I mean, that's been one of the big questions that I've been asking as we've gone through these year by year. What is it about, what is Schulz doing that makes us connect so deeply to characters when, like, you say, all around him are other strips where we don't feel that way toward the characters? What is it that he's doing that makes him make us so deeply connect to each of these individual characters?
Will: I think some of it is just the medium, like, just words and pictures, a minimal abstract drawing let we project onto it. Because I think even the terrible comic strips i, don't want to give an example, but even, like, a lame comic strip, the ones when Kevin and I were kids, we'd read them all. I enjoyed somewhat all of them. And I think that's just the you know, it's like if you go to a piano and hit three chords that are in the same key, a listener projects a song onto it. So some of it is the medium is getting him partway there, and then he's just the best at it.
Harold: Do you think it's the subtlety? I mean, the fact that this strip is such a perfect example that he kind of pulls us in?
Will: You get it. The reader, you get it. Even though he's giving you so little, is satisfying
Kevin: And he gets the character, probably. I don't know if that's necessarily true of all characters, but I think a lot of characters and strips are just sort of like symbolic of something, and that's necessarily true of always. Like, I'm going to use Beetle Bailey as an example. And I can't say for the I've never read the original strips. Right? But at some point, it just becomes, oh, Beetle Bailey represents this, where I think Charles Schulz was like, no, I know Charlie Brown. I know exactly what Charlie Brown would do here. It's the same thing from a good sitcom to a bad sitcom. Right?. They're both like, set up jokes. Set up joke. But when you watch a good episode of Cheers, even though, like, the characters could just be tropes of like, bar fly, bartender, dumb guy, those could be their tropes. But the actors and the writers understand, like, Woody and Sam and Norm in a way that transcends those tropes. Those tropes are just the entryway. And I think that's what's happened with Charles Schulz. Charlie Brown is a loser, but he's way more than that.
Harold: He feels it deeply, and somehow he's able to express that back to us. And we feel that along with him, that is not easy to do. I mean, it's a remarkable
Will: I could do it.
Jimmy: And you would just drag readers one by one down to Barnes and Noble. I'm great at this. Well, let me tell you, as someone who struck out 27 times in a row in Little League, I relate to that strip in a big way.
Harold: Do you remember that number?
Jimmy: I'll never forget that number, ever. When I got a job at ABC 27, the first thing I thought was oh. 20 years after little league.
Kevin: the number haunts you.
Jimmy: Yes it does. 27 no!
March 2, 1956. Snoopy is crawling down in his stomach with a strange, wild look on his face. Charlie Brown is kneeling in front of him saying, “Snoopy, pretending that you're an alligator doesn't make you one. You know?” Snoopy, continues crawling past Charlie Brown, who is now standing up and saying, “why can't you be satisfied with just being a dog?”Now it's just Charlie Brown who's calling out after Snoopy, who has left him behind. “Be happy with the things you have. Be happy with what you are. You dumb dog!”
Will: This is mine. And I love it. Just Charlie Brown getting angrier and angrier that Snoopy's not settling, I guess, right. Which he's trying to be reasonable, then he's trying to be logical. He's just screaming, and then he's just so frustrated. You dumb dog. Like, I don't know why it tickles me so much. It's verbal, but it also is like, the physicality of how Schulz draws the letters, communicate a lot of emotion. Charlie Brown getting angrier and angrier. And at this point, Charlie Brown is very well established as the sad sack go to loser. But he still tries to stand up for himself and argue for things
Jimmy: With his dog
Will: and, just resorting to you dumb dog. I guess I have felt that sometimes you're like, I don't understand something. Why'd you do this? No, no. But what's wrong with you? What is happening? When, I was flipping through to pick for this, I just started giggling so much at it. I don't know, it's just funny. I don't have an artful reason beyond that. It really just makes me laugh.
Jimmy: Well, it's a great strip. Michael is a big fan of these Snoopy imitations. Where does the alligator rate for you, Michael?
Michael: Top five.
Jimmy: Top five?
Michael: Vulture of course, is number one.
Will: Ah, yes.
Jimmy: Everyone loves the vulture.
Will: I wanted a strip that just represented Peanuts making me laugh. Because, again, part of my history with it is Kevin demanding that I appreciate it and it would be a strip like this day. But God, that is funny. It's very easy to zero in on the philosophical or the deeper aspects of Peanuts which I also love. But none of that would matter if it wasn't funny. And it was funny so often. And this is one that just cracks me up.
Kevin: I also think when we were reading these scripts, like in the late 80s or whatever, you almost took for granted how weird Snoopy was that he would pretend to be all these things. And every now and then when you step away from it, come back that you have a dog that thinks it's an alligator, pretends to be an alligator. Is so weird and strange and so funny. And a, lot of the strips I almost picked were like, just Snoopy doing things and Charlie Brown being like, why is my dog like this? One I, almost picked was just like Charlie Brown had been told to draw his dog for a homework assignment and Snoopy starts posing. Charlie Brown is just basically like, got to tell my teacher, I don't know any real dogs. I was like, wow, what a weird world that we almost take for granted that Snoopy became.
Will: The second to last panel-- Just be happy with the things you have. Be happy with what you are. Why is he angrily yelling that at somebody? Oh, gosh, I love it.
Jimmy: Absolutely brilliant strip. Well, here's a question and something we talk about all the time. You guys perform on stage and, make people laugh in real time. And this is something that he writes. He's on his own. He sitting in the studio. Six weeks later, it goes out to faceless people and maybe they laugh, maybe they don't. Do you have any insight on what would make someone choose one over the other? Other than just maybe fear of crowds or whatever? But it seems like the impulse to entertain has such a variety of ways to take it. Why did you guys ever consider doing something like this as opposed to performing?
Will: I can't draw. Kevin draws a little. I don't think I have the confidence either. I need the live audience to tell me if I'm on the right track. I don't know if I would feel secure about something.
Jimmy: And are you able to-- obviously are you just adjust if it's not that you're able to, in the moment, switch to something? I think that's impressive.
Kevin: That's the thing we learned just from being on stage. You had to learn how to do that because the audience was like, that's why you're doing it, to make them laugh. And if they're not laughing, you've got to try other things.
Kevin: It seems terrifying to do these things in isolation and then wait, whatever. He would do them, and then they would probably be printed a month later. And it's not like even then, he was getting letters on specific strips all the time, so he would never know if probably certain strips worked well.
Harold: If you guys are acting and you're in front of cameras where people can't laugh, I mean, what do you pull from? Are you just pulling from kind of a sense memory of what people have laughed about before? Does it feel awkward or that's just the way it is.
Will: My experience I've only had a relatively, small amount of experience in front of cameras compared to onstage. But I'm pulling from stage memory. Like, what would an audience think of this? I'm guessing. But also, if you're doing film stuff, there's a director and a screenwriter, and you kind of don't-- if you're the actor, you don't get to pick, like, my small parts on television, I'll get, like, five lines. There'll probably be four takes of it. So I'll have the way I want to do it. I'll do that first. The director will ask for sometimes something else, sometimes something pretty different. I'll do that. Maybe there was a mistake, or they want me to refine it. I'll do it a third time, and then one more for safety, and it's out. And so I'll give him a range. And then when it comes out, I look at the one he picked. And it might not be the one that I picked frequently. I want to do a very deadpan small one. And, the director is, like, way too small. Okay. But I'll sometimes still think I'm like I still think that's the way to do it. But if I'm the-- appearing only in one episode character who's got four lines, I've got no clout to make that argument.
Harold: It must be weird, because then you have to build a reel of the things you've done. And then that's defining how someone who's going to pick you for the next job at seeing you, and you're kind of building to something.
Will: I definitely-- it's giving me more sympathy for, like, when people assume the actors have so much agency in films and. They have like none. The editor and the writer and the director have so much more power over how you look.
Harold: I never understood when someone would say, why could the actor have ever decided to be in this film as if they'd already seen it before they were in it?