Flickr: Douglas Muth

How Charlie the Tuna Became a Canned Tuna Icon

When you pass by popular brands at the food store, it's easy to think of their matching mascot. Take for example Green Giant. A very popular brand of canned vegetables and other vegetable products. Does someone come to mind when you think of green beans? Of course, it's the Jolly Green Giant!

Now, when you think of tuna fish, I'm sure StarKist Tuna comes to mind. As well as Charlie the Tuna. Decked out in a red beret and thick glasses, this hipster-looking spokes-tuna for the StarKist brand is one of the most recognizable mascots in American advertising.

Charlie the Tuna dates back to the 60s' when creator, Tom Rogers, an advertising copywriter, came up with the popular 'spokesfish'. Funny enough, Charlie the Tuna was based on a friend of Tom Rogers, Henry Nemo. Nemo was a New York City musician, songwriter, and actor who had a reputation as a hipster and was eventually the inspiration for Charlie the Tuna.

Voiced by actor Herschel Bernardi, Charlie the Tuna is all about being caught by StarKist because he thinks his good taste makes him the perfect catch for StarKist. Unfortunately, poor Charlie is always rejected by announcer, Danny Dark. He explains in his famous line, "Sorry, Charlie. StarKist doesn't want tuna with good taste, but tuna that taste good!"  Sorry, Charlie went on to become one of the most popular American catchphrases.

Sure, that all must've been a downer for Charlie, but the poor guy seemed to remain in good spirits and ended some Starkist commercials with encouraging words to viewers, "Tell 'em, Charlie sent you!"

Check out this vintage StarKist commercial from the 60s'.

Helping StarKist become the number one brand of tuna, Charlie went on to star in over 85 advertisements for the StarKist brand until 1989 when the campaign was retired.

In 1999, Charlie swam back to make a comeback to promote StarKist's Flavor Fresh Pouch. He also had the opportunity to appear on the red carpet in the first annual TV Land Awards. In 2005, he appeared with many popular mascots on television like the Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Mr. Clean, and Chef Boyardee. And in 2012, he was featured in the animated movie, Foodfight! along with other popular characters. It sounds like a pretty successful career for a just blue tuna fish if you ask me!

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