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I Visited the Charles Schulz Exhibit with ‘Peanuts’ Superfan Lyle Larue

'Schulz once said in an interview that he never let Charlie kick the ball. Wrong.'

Lyle Larue with Patrick Strait

When I heard about the new Charles Schulz exhibit opening up at the Minnesota History Center a few weeks back, I immediately thought of Lyle Larue. 

A standup comedian, music aficionado, and baseball enthusiast, Lyle is one of the kindest and most unique individuals you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. He’s also the biggest Charlie Brown fan I’ve ever known. 

Lyle first learned about Charlie Brown at a young age, and was enamored with Peanuts from the very beginning. 

“In second grade there was a reading contest, and I finished second place,” he says. “My prize was a hardcover copy of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! I still have it. I would also get my haircut by a man named Charlie Brown, but he was a Korean War veteran who had the name before the comic strip was released. He had Charlie Brown books for us kids to read while we waited.” 

I was curious to find out what Lyle would think of the exhibit, and how it would live up to his extremely high standards when it comes to the Peanuts gang. So last weekend, we arranged to see it together. 

Lyle Larue at MNHS | Photo by Patrick Strait

When I first arrived at the St. Paul museum, Lyle was waiting for me in the lobby. His Charlie Brown drip game was extremely on point, complete with Snoopy T-shirt, Charlie Brown hat, and Lucy socks. Lyle wasn’t the only one who dressed the part, however—dozens of visitors of all ages wandered about wearing Peanuts T-shirts and backpacks. 

The exhibit brings visitors all the way back to Charlie Brown’s origins, sharing how Schulz was creatively motivated by his own life experiences. This is something Lyle connects with deeply. 

“What made the comic strip so relatable was that it featured kids struggling with everyday things that happened in their lives,” he says. “It’s no secret that Schulz based the character off people that he knew. I saw a lot of myself in Charlie Brown. He never seemed to win.”

That’s not the only character who Lyle connected with, however. 

“I feel like I’m most like Linus,” he says, referring to the philosophy-minded, blanket-toting member of the Peanuts gang. “He’s the loyal friend and the intelligent one of the group. I mentioned this to a woman during an internet date once, and she tried to turn it into a joke. She said, ‘Oh, so you must have a blanket?’ and I thought, ‘Oh so you think you’re getting another date?’ There was so much more to Linus than just his blanket.”

Lyle Larue at MNHS | Photo by Patrick Strait

As we wandered through the exhibit, we were able to see the very first Charlie Brown comic strip (which was surprisingly mean spirited), as well as some of the most famous Peanuts moments, like the iconic Lucy-pulls-the-football gag. 

“I never liked that part of the comic strip,” Lyle reflects. “Schulz once said in an interview that he never let Charlie kick the ball. Wrong. There was a special called, It’s Magic, Charlie Brown! Where he was invisible and was finally able to kick the ball. That one isn’t very well known.”

While the history and educational aspects of the exhibit are interesting to Lyle, it’s the nostalgia and memories that flood back upon seeing it that’s the best part. 

“My old man took me to see one of the movies in the theater when I was like 4, and it drove me crazy because I couldn’t remember it,” he says. “Eventually I remember it was about a spelling bee. The movie was called A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” 

Lyle Larue at MNHS | Photo by Patrick Strait

The exhibit also features dozens of pieces of rare Charlie Brown memorabilia, including books, toys, drinkware, and more. An avid collector, Lyle says he too has a considerable amount of paraphernalia. 

“I have popcorn tins, drinking glasses, lunchboxes, bobble heads,” he says. “Sometimes when people find out that I’m a Charlie Brown fan, they’ll give me things.” 

He pauses as we look into a case of all things Woodstock, Snoopy’s yellow bird friend. “The thing I had the longest was a Woodstock hairbrush that my mom found at Avon. I had it until I dropped it and it broke, but I was able to replace it with another one that was similar.” 

Lyle Larue at MNHS | Photo by Patrick Strait

As we move into the area of the exhibit that features historical photos of the Mall of America’s Camp Snoopy, as well as Knott’s Berry Farm, a Peanuts-themed amusement park in California, Lyle shares how he has traveled all over the country to learn more about Schulz’s past and see iconic pieces of Peanuts history. 

“I’ve been to the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, which was a day trip when I was in San Francisco,” he says. “I always said if I was that close to it and didn’t see, I would regret it, so I rented a car and went.” 

Other voyages were less travel intensive. 

“I’ve found over 100 of the statues,” he says, referring to the nine-year public art projects in St. Paul and Santa Rosa, which resulted in 800 Snoopy statues that were hand painted by local artists and place around town. “Some places were very welcoming about letting me come in and take pictures, and others weren't,” he says. 

As we near the end of the line (stopping to snap a pic in the Lucy’s Advice Booth first), Lyle is able to sum up what this exhibit—and Schulz and the Peanuts legacy—means to him as a whole. 

“There’s a lot of negative energy on social media,” he says of finding like-minded Charlie Brown superfans. “I’m too afraid that people are going to argue about something I love about Charlie Brown and Snoopy, so it’s better that I don’t go there. I’m very happy they have places like this instead, where you can learn more and just look at the positive things that come from the characters.” 

"The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz" exhibit is on display now through June 2024 at the Minnesota History Center.

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