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Charlie the Tuna

Charlie the Tuna

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Charlie the Tuna, the cartoon
A cartoon is a form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art. While the specific definition has changed over time, modern usage refers to a typically non-realistic or semi-realistic drawing or painting intended for satire, caricature, or humor, or to the artistic style of such works...

The term mascot – defined as a term for any person, animal, or object thought to bring luck – colloquially includes anything used to represent a group with a common public identity, such as a school, professional sports team, society, military unit, or brand name...

Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

 for StarKist Tuna, was created by Tom Rogers of the Leo Burnett Agency after StarKist hired Leo Burnett in 1961. StarKist Tuna is the name of a brand of tuna currently owned by Dongwon Industries.

As reported in news stories about Rogers, Charlie the Tuna was based on Rogers' friend, the actor-songwriter Henry Nemo
Henry Nemo
Henry Nemo was a musician, songwriter and actor in Hollywood films who had a reputation as a hipster and was sometimes referred to as the "creator of jive" talk...

. B-movie actress Maila Nurmi
Maila Nurmi
Maila Nurmi was a Finnish-American actress who created the campy 1950s characterVampira. She portrayed Vampira as TV's first horror host and in the Ed Wood cult film Plan 9 from Outer Space...

 claims that the character was originally sketched six years earlier by the actor James Dean
James Dean
James Byron Dean was an American film actor. He is a cultural icon, best embodied in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause , in which he starred as troubled Los Angeles teenager Jim Stark...

 while she was sitting with him one night in Googie's coffee shop
Googie architecture
Googie architecture is a form of modern architecture, a subdivision of futurist architecture influenced by car culture and the Space and Atomic Ages....

 in Los Angeles. However, StarKist and Burnett both give full credit to Rogers, and there is no actual evidence for Nurmi's claim.

The advertisements depicted Charlie (voiced by actor Herschel Bernardi
Herschel Bernardi
Herschel Bernardi was an American film, Broadway, and television actor....

) as a hipster
Hipster (1940s subculture)
Hipster, as used in the 1940s, referred to aficionados of jazz, in particular bebop, which became popular in the early 1940s. The hipster adopted the lifestyle of the jazz musician, including some or all of the following: dress, slang, use of cannabis and other drugs, relaxed attitude, sarcastic...

 wearing a Greek fisherman's hat and glasses, whose goal is to be caught by the StarKist company. Charlie believes that he is so hip and cultured that he has "good taste," and he is thus the perfect tuna for StarKist. Charlie is always rejected in the form of a note attached to a fish hook that says, "Sorry, Charlie." The reason given by the narrator (voiced by Danny Dark
Danny Dark
Danny Dark was widely acknowledged in the commercial industry as the voice-over king. For nearly four decades, he embedded pop culture with memorable lines in advertisements for Budweiser , Raid Ant & Roach Killer and StarKist Tuna...

) for the rejection was that StarKist was not looking for tuna with good taste but rather for tuna that tasted good. The commercials were animated by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises
DePatie-Freleng Enterprises
DePatie-Freleng Enterprises was a Hollywood-based animation production company, active from 1963 to 1981. They produced theatrical cartoons, animated series, commercials, title sequences and television specials. Notable among these is The Pink Panther film titles and cartoon shorts and the Dr....


"Sorry, Charlie" became closely associated with StarKist and was also a popular American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 catchphrase. Charlie appeared in more than 85 advertisements for StarKist until the 1980s, when the campaign was retired. The "Sorry, Charlie" slogan was parodied mercilessly by Canadian editorial cartoonists and journalists. George Carlin
George Carlin
George Denis Patrick Carlin was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, actor and author, who won five Grammy Awards for his comedy albums....

 took up the slogan after "reporting" that Charlie had died from mercury poisoning.

Charlie made a comeback in 1999, when StarKist revived him to introduce their new line of healthier tuna products. He has been the mascot of the company since then. He made an appearance on the Red Carpet
Red Carpet
Red Carpet is a software management tool for Linux that was developed as part of the Ximian desktop. Ximian and therefore Red Carpet is now owned by Novell....

 countdown during the first TV Land Awards
TV Land Awards
The TV Land Awards is an American television awards ceremony that generally commemorates shows now off the air, rather than in current production as with awards such as the Emmys. It is presented in a manner that spoofs other entertainment award ceremonies...


Bernardi, the original voice of the character, died on May 9, 1986. Rogers died on June 24, 2005. Just that February, Charlie appeared in a MasterCard
Mastercard Incorporated or MasterCard Worldwide is an American multinational financial services corporation with its headquarters in the MasterCard International Global Headquarters, Purchase, Harrison, New York, United States...

 commercial titled "Icons" alongside other merchandising icons like Mr. Clean
Mr. Clean
Mr. Clean is a brand name fully owned by Procter & Gamble. It is used for a cleaning solution and related products, and as "Mr. Clean Magic Eraser", for a melamine foam cleaner.-History:...

 and Count Chocula.

American hip-hop star Chali 2na
Chali 2na
Charles Stewart , better known as Chali 2na is an American rapper and hip hop artist, formerly associated with the groups Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli.-Early life:...

 chose his rap name by slightly modifying the name Charlie Tuna, a nickname his uncle gave him in his youth. American football head coach Bill Parcells
Bill Parcells
Duane Charles "Bill" Parcells is a former American football head coach, most recently with the Dallas Cowboys from 2003 to 2006...

 earned the nickname "The Big Tuna" when he responded to an obviously false statement from a player with the incredulous "Who do you think I am? Charlie the Tuna?" Los Angeles radio personality and voiceover artist Charlie Tuna
Charlie Tuna
Charlie Tuna is the stage name of Art Ferguson , a radio personality based in Los Angeles, California currently working at KRTH-FM....

 (real name: Art Ferguson) chose his on-air name early in his career upon the departure of another Oklahoma City
Oklahoma city
Oklahoma City is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Oklahoma.Oklahoma City may also refer to:*Oklahoma City metropolitan area*Downtown Oklahoma City*Uptown Oklahoma City*Oklahoma City bombing*Oklahoma City National Memorial...

 disc jockey. All disc jockeys at KOMA were told to draw their on-air names out of a hat, and by the time Chuck Riley
Chuck Riley
Charles C. Riley, also known as "Charlie" was an American football player and coach. He was born in Indianapolis, Indiana....

picked his on-air name out of a hat, every name had been drawn except for "Charlie Tuna." Riley used the name for a week, and then left. His replacement, Art Ferguson, inherited the name, and he would keep the Charlie Tuna name upon relocating first to Boston and then Los Angeles.