When Charles Schulz told CBC he was 'mainly' Charlie Brown

It's a question Charles Schulz got asked many times in his career. And he once talked about it with CBC.

Peanuts creator once talked with CBC-TV's Close-Up about his life and career

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz defends Charlie Brown

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2 years ago
Charles Schulz talks to CBC's Close-Up about the Peanuts characters. 2:51

It's a question Charles Schulz got asked many times in his career, in various forms.

Was he in fact his most sad-sack creation? Charlie Brown, the depressive child who keeps trying — and failing — to kick the football that Lucy van Pelt pulls away from him?

Both were the sons of barbers. Both liked to play sports. Both had a crush on a red-headed girl.

When CBC's Close-Up talked to Schulz in July 1961, the was-he-or-wasn't-he subject came up in a roundabout way.

"Charlie Brown's a pretty miserable critter, altogether," said Bob Quintrell, during an interview with the cartoonist at his California home.

Schulz soon admitted the similarities between himself and the most ill-fated member of the Peanuts gang.

Both the artist and his creation are the subjects of the 2021 documentary Who Are You, Charlie Brown? It uses part of the 1961 CBC interview.

'Most of us lose'

"I think Charlie Brown is just a little bit of what all of us have inside of us," said Schulz. "Mainly me — mainly I'm Charlie Brown."

Cartoonist Charles Schulz draws a picture of his cartoon character Charlie Brown in his Sebastopol, Calif., home in this 1966 file photo. (The Associated Press)

"You really think that?" Quintrell asked.

He elaborated a bit further.

"If you draw about people that win all of the time, you are drawing only about the minority. Most of us lose," said Schulz.

"You know, most of us have ambitions: We like to win golf trophies or tennis trophies and things like this, but most of us never win 'em."

He also revealed some of his thinking that informed the adventures of Charlie Brown and his friends (and apparent frenemies, like Lucy).

"All of the kids in the [Peanuts] strip represent the cruelty of children, one to another, and of course, Charlie Brown is the one who takes most of the beating," said Schulz.

Later in life, the cartoonist would say the Charlie Brown-versus-Charles Schulz question was something journalists wanted to probe and not himself.

As biographer David Michaelis described in Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography — quoting something the cartoonist said in 1972 — it was not the case that Charlie Brown was his alter ego "although it makes for a good story," as Schulz put it, to say that he is.

Schulz was born in Minneapolis, Minn., on Nov., 26, 1922. He spent his childhood in that state and did not move west until he was an adult. Once he settled in California in his mid-30s, Schulz lived there until the end of his life.

The Peanuts creator died on Feb. 12, 2000, at the age of 77.

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