Peanuts Wiki
Peanuts Wiki

The football gag is a joke that has been 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 comes running up and 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 on his back and hurting himself. The gag usually ends with Lucy pointing out to Charlie Brown that he should not have trusted her.

In the strip from October 18, 1953, Charlie called Lucy van Pelt hopeless and told her that little girls don't belong on football fields, and ordered her home, even failing to tell her the football was hers. This could've lead to this gag of Lucy van Pelt constantly pulling the football away from Charlie for malicious reasons.


The first strip to feature the gag, from November 14, 1951.

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 Charlie Brown, with the exceptions of 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, the final strip to feature the football gag, in which Lucy asks Rerun to play the trick instead, but Rerun decides to torture Lucy (and by extension, the readers) by refusing to reveal if he let Charlie Brown kick the football or not. In You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown the gag is briefly stopped by Peppermint Patty telling them about a football punt, pass and kick contest. While Lucy is distracted Charlie Brown makes an attempt to kick the ball, but Lucy still manages to pull it away.


The strip from August 2, 1979.

Charlie Brown comes close to kicking the football in a 1979 storyline that begins when he is ill in the hospital. In the strip from July 27, 1979, Lucy promises she will never pull the football away again, if Charlie Brown gets better. She does not realize that the boy 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. In the strip from August 2, 1979, 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.


The strip from August 3, 1979

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, 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 ("Boy, Chuck, you really goofed up on that play!"; "Chuck, you can't do anything right!!").

Charles M. Schulz noted that, after he drew the final Peanuts strip, he realized to his sadness that Charlie Brown would never get to kick the football, although he also stated that having him actually succeed would be a disservice to the character.

At The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, there is a mural composed of 3,588 Peanuts comic strips. When they are all put together, they form a picture of Lucy holding a football while Charlie Brown is trying to run up and kick it.

List of strips in which the football gag is pulled[]


The first time Lucy plays the gag on Charlie Brown, from November 16, 1952.

List of appearances of the football gag in animation[]

Run Up Kick that Ball Charlie Brown

The football gag, as seen in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

List of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show episodes where the football gag is pulled[]

List of Snoopy in Space episodes where the football gag is pulled[]

In other media[]

Ted Rall football gag

A 1996 political cartoon by Ted Rall

  • In the cold opener for the Malcolm in the Middle episode "Grandma Sues", Malcolm finds out his brother Reese has never read Peanuts and then invites him outside to kick the football.

Peter from Family Guy intervenes

  • In an episode of Family Guy called "Brian's Got a Brand New Bag". Peter watches the gag and angrily tells Lucy that it will be the last time she pulls it, before proceeding to kick her repeatedly. He then verbally forces her to hold the football down until Charlie Brown does kick it. Charlie Brown then does manage to kick it to his delight, but Peter kicks Lucy again knocking her out, saying that she is"not a licensed therapist". In "Lethal Weapons", Lucy pulls away a football as Lois tries to kick it. Lois then kicks her in the face and she cries.
  • 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 takes the football.
  • A 1983 issue of MAD Magazine, which was critical of how comic strips had become snarky and sinful, warned of popular strips going bad. Peanuts had also been spoofed in that Charlie Brown runs, then a *POW!* gag is seen. Lucy is then seen on the ground, admitting she deserves to be kicked for all those years she cheated him, but why did he aim for her head. Charlie responds "Where you were positioned, I could not reach your butt!" (Some of the original strips did have Charlie Brown kicking Lucy, although never intentionally).
  • A 1989 The Family Circus strip has Dolly performing the same stunt on her brother, only to get punished by her mom. Dolly protests "But everyone laughs when Charlie Brown does it to Lucy!"
  • A 1992 political cartoon showed Charlie Brown flat on the ground, only in this case Ross Perot was the one who yanked the football away, and Charlie is wearing a T-shirt which says "VOTERS". Perot asks "Want to try again?"
  • 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. She does, but Charlie Brown stops, gives a sly look to the camera, and kicks the football and Lucy together, saying, "That's for years of humiliation, [b****]!". This inadvertently leads to the discovery of Linus' mutilated remains, as he had been eaten by the Great Pumpkin the night before.
Charlie Brown vs Angelica Pickles
  • One of the covers for the August 3, 2002 issue of TV Guide depicts Angelica Pickles from Rugrats pulling the football gag on Charlie Brown.
  • In an episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, when Mac, Bloo, Wilt, Eduardo and Coco are locked out of the house, they try to get back into the house by kicking Bloo into an open window. Wilt then holds a football-shaped Bloo down while Mac runs up to them, Wilt then removes Bloo before Mac can kick him into the window, fearing that Bloo will hurt himself, Mac is sent flying into the air and landing on his back. After multiple tries, Wilt then realizes that he is not cut out for this. A relived Mac then says Charlie Brown's catchphrase, "Good grief".
  • In the July 2, 2000 strip of The Boondocks, Huey hears a very Peanuts-like yell outside his house. He then walks out to its source, passing Cindy walking in the other direction with a football. Finally he finds his brother flat on his back, the victim of Cindy's homage/prank. When he asks "But how was I supposed to know she would...", Huey tosses him a newspaper and says, "Read, dummy!"
  • In the movie The Replacements, after Nigel Gruff (kicker) reveals that he has to intentionally miss a game winning kick or else the mafia will take away his pub, Shane Falco (holder) pulls the gag to turn the play into a fake. Nigel goes flying through the air and ends up breaking his arm, but thanks Shane for saving him from the mafia.
  • In the FoxTrot strip published on October 3, 2004, Jason and Peter watching a football game on TV in which one of the players, "Van Pelt", pulls this gag on another player, "Brown".
  • In another FoxTrot strip, Jason replicates the gag, except nobody is holding the ball - he simply misses it. He muses, "At least Charlie Brown has Lucy to blame."
  • In a Baby Blues strip, Darryl holds a football for Hammie and promises not to pull it away like Lucy does. Darryl goes on to explain the gag and how it "cracked [him] up every time". Hammie gets the impression that "Dad thinks bullying is funny."
  • In the physics blog "Musings", string theorist Jacques Distler compares the experience of reading papers about "loop quantum gravity", and expecting them to make sense, to being Charlie Brown, trying to kick the ball.[1]
  • In The Loud House episode "The Loudest Yard", Lucy Loud does this to her brother Lincoln during his football training montage.
  • In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Sports a Poppin" Dee Dee does this to her brother Dexter.
  • In the episode "Bad Heir Day' of The Fairly OddParents, one child is seen pulling a football away from another who falls on his back. A dog lying on top of a purple doghouse is also seen.
  • In the episode "Johnny Dodgeball" of Johnny Test, during a montage that involves Sissy, Sissy pulls the football away from Johnny, causing him to land on his back.
  • In the episode "Storm in the Room" of Steven Universe, when Steven meets his mother Rose Quartz, they decide to play football. Steven tries to kick the ball but falls on his back because Rose pulls the football away.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Bully Bromance Breakup", during the song, "Hole in My Heart" while Buford and Baljeet are remembering all the good times they had together, an image of Buford pulling away a football from Baljeet is shown, an obvious reference to the football gag.
  • The episode "Chain Letter" of Sonic Boom has Team Sonic playing soccer with the hedgehog about to score a goal, only for Dr. Eggman to swipe the ball away, making Sonic fall. He even utters "Good grief" afterward. In another episode called Victory, Knuckles makes Cyborg Knuckles miss the ball and fall on his back.
  • A May 16, 2018 political cartoon from Tom Toles has Kin Jong-un pulling the gag on Donald Trump, with Kim's nukes in place of a football. The cartoon includes "apologies to Schulz". [2]


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