Comments & Curiosities: He finally speaks

Ninety-four years without a word. That has to be a world record.

Are we talking about an elderly Buddhist monk? Marcel Marceau's autobiography? Neither one.

We're talking about someone much, much more important who just happens to be one of my favorite people in the world, except that he's not a person. He's a peanut. But not just any peanut. He is the nut that is large and in charge, the mother of all peanuts, except that he is a guy, which means he can't be a mother. Yes, we're talking about Mr. Peanut, and now you know.

I am a huge Mr. Peanut fan, and I have been since I was an annoying little brat. I even have a Mr. Peanut collection, including a wind-up Mr. Peanut and a rubber Mr. Peanut, sort of a cross between Mr. Peanut and Gumby. This week, after 94 years of strutting his very stylish stuff in silence, Mr. Peanut spoke. This is huge.

On Tuesday, Kraft Foods, which owns Planters Peanuts, which owns Mr. Peanut, launched a new commercial starring Mr. Peanut on Facebook. Within hours, hundreds of thousands of Mr. P lovers — there are a lot of us — viewed it and gave it two thumbs up.

Here is the scene. Mr. Peanut is hosting a holiday party with an odd assortment of pals including a grasshopper, a mouse, a couple of birds and Mr. P's butler, who is a little peanut, which makes sense I guess.

Looking stylish as always in his top hat, white gloves, monocle and spats, Mr. Peanut says, "At Planters, we know how to throw a remarkable holiday party — just serve classy snacks and be a gracious host."

The world has waited 94 years to hear those words. Once you get over the shock of hearing Mr. Peanut speak, you'll recognize his voice immediately. Yes, that is Robert Downey Jr. Everyone is having fun at Mr. P's party until an uninvited guest shows up — a holiday nutcracker. Yikes. Awkward. They all gasp then wait to see what Mr. Peanut will do, but you'll have to see that for yourself.

Mr. Peanut is very spry for 94. He was born in 1916, in a nationwide contest that Planters held to find a new trademark. A 14-year-old kid from Virginia named Antonio Gentile, which leads me to believe he was Italian, won the big prize for his sketch of a happy looking peanut-man.

The Planters art department added Mr. Peanut's very chic black tie formal duds. But in all these years, Mr. P has never uttered a word, until now. What made the story jump out at me was Mr. Peanut, of course. But I was a little worried that there might not be a local tie-in for the Newport-Mesa-Irvine land. No local tie-in my patoot! Check this out.

The commercial is part of Planters' "Naturally Remarkable" campaign, in which they will partner with The Corps Network, a present day peace corps that works to turn neglected land around the country into community-friendly spaces. The landscape architect in charge of the program will be a major-league, heavy-hitter big-deal New York-based architect named … wait for it … Ken Smith. Ring a bell? It should.

Ken Smith is the master architect for the Great Park, which I'm guessing you've heard of. How is that for a bank shot? Ken Smith, the Great Park and Mr. Peanut. It's a funny old world, no? Yes, it is.

I am glad to report that the Robert Downey Jr. iteration of Mr. Peanut is very true to the traditional Mr. P, which is good, because Mr. Peanut fans do not like to see anyone take liberties with the nattiest nut of them all.

In 2006, Planters conducted a national poll to see if people would like to see Mr. P decked out in a bow tie and cufflinks or have a pocket watch that he could check now and then. The answer came back a resounding, national "no."

Don't touch anything, don't add anything, don't do anything: top hat, monocle, gloves, spats and cane. That's all he needs.

Mr. P, we love you, dude. You may be a genuine nut case, but you are our nut case. You're 94 years old and still stylin'. Now that is one impressive nut. I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at

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