KALAHEO — There’s not a joke Charlie Brown hasn’t heard.
Yes, Charlie Brown — Charles, actually — but friends call him Charlie and they have fun with it.
They think they’re clever. They think they’re crack stand ups. Even his old 5A high school teammates from Charlie’s football playing days, competitive as Friday Night Lights in the Lone Star State may be, still found time to rib him.
“They said, ‘Watch out for Lucy, she’ll pull the football from you,’” Charlie said, recounting all the jokes he’s heard over his 33 years. “I said, ‘I’ll never be a kicker.”
Today, Charlie is a long way from his southern childhood. Growing up in a military family in Louisiana and Texas, he moved around a lot. He settled in Kalaheo a year ago to be closer to his fiancee and son — 9-year-old Charles III. He volunteer coaches for the county recreation youth league and is planning to start his own basketball teaching clinic, Elite Basketball Training.
But on his youth team, called Yung Ballers —that’s Yung pronounced young — he coaches his son with the same name.
And from the deep South to Washington state, where Charlie also lived, to Kauai’s Westside, all the jokes are the same. The geography might not be, but the wisecracks are.
“I heard it my whole life,” Charlie said about the name that his father and grandfather also shared before Charlie gave it to his son. “And he’s going to hear it, too.”
Sometimes, Charlie will pull out Peanuts references that even catch the jokers off guard. The comic strip created by the late Charles Schultz ran from 1950 to 2000 and made the lovable, affable Charlie Brown a staple in American pop culture as it branched out to movie specials.
But the cartoon featured dozens of characters, so when someone serves up a softball and asks, ‘Where’s Snoopy?’ — which, believe it or not, has happened more than once — Charlie digs a little deeper in the character well and one ups them.
“I tell ‘em Cool Joe, he’s in the sky right now,” Charlie said of Snoopy’s alter ego character, who sported dark shades and masqueraded as a college student.
“He’s a red bandit!” Charlie added, referencing another Snoopy character, the one who wore a red bandana and flew his doghouse.
Charles III already embraces it. His father admits there were times growing up he’d bemoan the name, but that faded. But Charles III said he’s proud of the name. He owns a yellow T-shirt with the black squiggly line that the cartoon character made famous and loves wearing it.
“Charlie Brown in the show is smart and he always thinks about stuff before he does it,” fourth-grader Charles III said. “He does dumb stuff, but it always ends happily.”
Jokes aside, Charlie loves his coaching duties. Seeing kids work together and achieve success is “a blessing.”
“Every kid is different. I want them to know that they’re all good,” he said. “If I can keep them together and they’re close friends until they get older, that will be a blessing, man.”
But back to the cartoon. It shouldn’t fade from American culture anytime too soon despite no longer being in print. In 2013, TV Guide ranked Peanuts the fourth-greatest TV cartoon of all time and a computer-animated feature film based on the strip, The Peanuts Movie, will be released on Nov. 6.
And it is a little funny, right?
“Yeah,” said Miles Davis, the center for the Yung Ballers, who tried to hide his smile beneath his jersey when asked if it was funny having a coach with such a name. “Kinda. I say, ‘Hey Charlie Brown …’”
That’s a pretty standard one, but alas, so goes the game.
“There’s not one I’ve never heard. I can tell you that,” Charlie said. “Many of them are so broad, but I love it, man.”