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Football gag

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1107charlie brown lucy football

Lucy pulls the football away before Charlie Brown can kick it.

The football gag is a joke that featured many times in Charles M. Schulz's comic strip, Peanuts. There have been several variations on the joke over the years. The football gag has also been included in some Peanuts animated television specials.

The characters involved in the gag are Charlie Brown and Lucy van Pelt. Lucy tells Charlie Brown that she will hold a football while he kicks it. Charlie Brown usually refuses to kick it at first, not trusting Lucy. Lucy then says something to persuade Charlie Brown to trust her. Charlie Brown runs up to kick the ball, but at the very last second before he can kick it, Lucy removes the ball and Charlie Brown flies into the air, before falling down and hurting himself. The gag usually ends with Lucy pointing out to Charlie Brown that he should not have trusted her.

The first appearance of the gag is in the strip from November 14, 1951. in that strip Violet, not Lucy, is the one holding the ball and she only pulls it away because she is afraid that Charlie Brown will kick her hand. Lucy was first shown playing the prank on Charlie Brown on November 16, 1952; the concluding part of the comic strip shows Charlie Brown running towards the ball and then tripping over it. Every year afterwards for the remainder of the strip's run, in the early autumn, Lucy would continue to fool the boy, with the exceptions of 1984, 1985, and 1990, for unknown reasons. In the October 16, 1983 strip, when she tries to dare him, he already knows what will happen, so he walks away; unfortunately, he sees Sally, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Snoopy and Woodstock all holding footballs and daring him to kick them.

The prank is sometimes presented in unusual ways. One example is in the strip from October 24, 1999, in which Lucy asks Rerun to play the trick instead. It is not revealed whether or not Rerun does what Lucy asked him to do.

Charlie Brown comes close to kicking the football, in a 1979 storyline that begins when he is ill in the hospital. Lucy promises she will never pull the football away again, if he gets better. She does not realize that Charlie Brown will find out about her promise, but when he does, Lucy realizes she has no other choice but to let Charlie Brown kick the football. Lucy keeps her promise not to pull the ball away that year, but Charlie Brown misses the ball and accidentally kicks her hand. Later, when he apologizes for the accident, the next frame shows her bandaged hand and her angrily telling him that next time he goes to the hospital, he should stay there.

Charlie Brown is depicted as kicking the ball in the special, It's Magic, Charlie Brown, in which he becomes invisible. However, that did not happen in the strip, so was not considered canonical by Schulz.

In a strip from the summer of 1990, when Charlie Brown meets Peggy Jean. She offers to hold the football, but Charlie Brown, being too scared she will do what Lucy does, refuses to kick it. She then gets upset and leaves camp for that. However, when she returns, she does not make him kick the football.

Almost all Peanuts fans agree, the cruelest example of the trick is in the TV special, It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, in which Lucy pulls the football away during an actual game. It is not the fact that Lucy pulls away the football that upsets them, but that Charlie Brown is blamed for missing it when it is clearly not his fault. Even later when he brings her a kicking tee and she tosses it aside and he reminds her of her prank, she again reminds him she would never do such a thing. Many viewers wrote in protesting—while they could accept Lucy pulling the ball away, they could not accept Charlie Brown being senselessly blamed for something he clearly did not do. Schulz and the producers agreed, and some of the lines where Charlie Brown's teammates berate him have since been re-dubbed to make Lucy take the blame in subsequent rebroadcasts. In the DVD release, two lines where Peppermint Patty blames Charlie Brown are re-dubbed to what resembles backwards talk (at about 7½ minutes in, "Okay, Chuck, you really goofed up on that play!"; and at around 15½ minutes in, "Chuck, you can't do anything right!!").

In The Schulz Museum, there is one exhibit, of a mural composed of 3,588 Peanuts comic strips, that when they are all put together, form a picture of Lucy pulling away a football from Charlie Brown.

List of strips in which the football gag is pulled

  • November 14, 1951 (done by Violet)
  • November 16, 1952 (first time done by Lucy)
  • December 16, 1956
  • September 22, 1957
  • September 21, 1958
  • October 4, 1959
  • October 16, 1960
  • September 10, 1961
  • September 30, 1962
  • September 1, 1963
  • October 4, 1964
  • October 17, 1965
  • September 25, 1966
  • October 1, 1967
  • September 29, 1968
  • September 28, 1969
  • October 11, 1970
  • September 26, 1971
  • October 8, 1972
  • November 11, 1973
  • October 13, 1974
  • October 19, 1975
  • September 12, 1976
  • October 9, 1977
  • October 1, 1978
  • August 2, 1979 (this strip takes place after Lucy vows never to pull away the football again if Charlie Brown gets better. She does not pull away the football, but Charlie Brown kicks her hand, and misses the football)
  • November 16, 1980
  • November 29, 1981
  • October 10, 1982
  • October 16, 1983 (Lucy holds the ball, but Charlie Brown refuses to kick it; while walking away from her, he suddenly finds Sally, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Snoopy and Woodstock all holding footballs and daring him to kick them)
  • October 19, 1986
  • October 4, 1987
  • October 23, 1988
  • October 1, 1989
  • September 29, 1991
  • October 11, 1992
  • October 3, 1993
  • October 16, 1994 (off-stage)
  • October 29, 1995
  • October 20, 1996
  • September 21, 1997
  • November 15, 1998
  • October 24, 1999 (Lucy asks Rerun to do it, but it is unknown if he obeyed her)

In other media

  • In the cold opener for the Malcolm in the Middle season 4 episode "Grandma Sues", Malcolm finds out his brother Reese has never read Peanuts and then invites him outside to kick the football.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter watches the gag and kicks Lucy, causing her to cry. He then verbally forces her to hold the football down until Charlie Brown does kick it. Charlie Brown then does manage to kick it, but Peter kicks Lucy again, saying that he "had done some checking around [and she] is not a licensed therapist".
  • In the Great Pumpkin Island game on Poptropica, a player's Poptropican gives Charlie Brown a pen from Linus' desk so he can sign the contract. The gag follows, including Lucy's line, "Funny thing about this contract, it was never notarized." Afterwards the player's Poptropican takes the football.
  • In an episode of Robot Chicken, Lucy tells Charlie Brown to kick the football and he does so but he waits for her to pull it away. Charlie Brown then kicks the football and Lucy saying, "That's for years of humiliation, bitch!".

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