(originally aired April 29, 1990)
On tonight’s episode we get our first major look at one of the greatest major secondary characters in the Simpsons pantheon: Krusty the Klown. A goofy, buffoonish harlequin, Krusty is at heart a true entertainer, by whatever over-the-top or potentially dangerous or humiliating (usually to his sidekicks) means necessary. Later seasons will shine light on his angry and sleazy off-stage antics, but for now, Krusty and his empire is a perfect microcosm of children’s television: a madhouse of bright colors and loud shenanigans, and more show-related merchandise than you can shake a stick at (at the time, the Simpsons was cranking out its fair share of useless products as well.) In this episode we get a look at Bart’s undying hero worship, Homer’s struggles to keep in his son’s good graces, and an epic war in kiddie TV.
We begin with a look at Krusty’s show, an chaotic affair of showboating, the audience blindly screaming catchphrases ([Krusty] What would do if I went off the air?” [Audience] We’d kill ourselves!), and senseless violence directed towards Krusty’s long-suffering second banana Sideshow Bob. Between these antics and the first “official” Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, it’s completely void of any redeeming or educational content, just the way we like it. That night however, Homer bears witness to the clown robbing the Kwik-E-Mart, and he is promptly arrested and stands trial. There’s some neat stuff within these segments sticking with the season 1 theme of Homer’s desire to not embarrass his son, but nevertheless, he must finger out his son’s TV idol in court, much to his chagrin.
With Krusty incarcerated, his show is handed off to Sideshow Bob, voiced by the blessedly voiced Kelsey Grammar. Having been mute save for his slide whistle in his two appearances, he reveals himself to be a learned and brilliant thespian, and proceeds to change the format of the show to “learn about nutrition, self-esteem, etiquette, and all the mindly arts.” Bob creates a show the polar opposite of Krusty’s, a mindful and refined program where he reads “Man in the Iron Mask” and outros singing Cole Porter. Meanwhile, Bart remains loyal to Krusty, believing he was framed, and enlists Lisa to help him find evidence. During a taping of Bob’s show, which then takes the form of a kiddie version of a daytime talk show, Bart uncovers the truth: Bob is the culprit, given away by his grotesquely large feet. Years of torture and undermining from his former boss has chipped away at him, leaving him to frame him for armed robbery. Watching this again knowing of Bob’s greater intelligence in later seasons, I feel this was a very weak plan coming from him. I mean, really, even Chief Wiggum should have been able to see the connection with the feet.
There’s so much stuff I missed talking about, like the town-wide vilification of the beloved clown in form of a public bonfire of all things Krusty, and the wonderful news biography of the entertainer’s life, from his humble beginnings as a street mime in Tupelo, Mississippi (just like Elvis) to his famed on-air heart attack whilst hocking Krusty Brand Pork Products. There’s just so much going on in this episode, but it all works within their own means, and it all turned out so fantastically, a wonderful introduction to a wonderful character. Comedy, thy name is Krusty.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Krusty uses the phrase, “I didn’t do it!” which would become Bart’s accidental catchphrase on the clown’s show in a much later episode. Just interesting to hear it this early.
– Great meta, semi-self deprecating line from Lisa on why Itchy & Scratchy is lost to her mother: “If cartoons were meant for adults, they would put them on prime time.”
– Bob managing to perfectly disguise himself as Krusty still confuses me. Body padding would give him the build, but how could he have managed his mountainous tufts of hair down? He’d have to have them cut, but that would only arouse suspicion. Whatever. After the robbery, Apu has a great line to a hiding Homer: “You can emerge now from my chips. The opportunity to prove yourself a hero is long gone.”
– The police line-up sequence is so wonderful, with an unusually competent Wiggum ordering “Send in the clowns!” and Homer’s uncontrollably chuckling at the jesters before him (“If the crime is making me laugh, they’re all guilty!”)
– “Earlier this evening, the Springfield SWAT team apprehended the TV clown, who appears on a rival station, opposite our own Emmy-award winning Hobo Hank.” Now I really want to see Hobo Hank’s show. Must be pretty good if it won an Emmy.
– The animation of Krusty’s heart attack is absolutely amazing, so raw and horrifyingly drawn, but still hilarious through the whole thing. His weakened, guttural “Dying… I’m dying…” under the maddening cheers from his audience makes it.
– Krusty without his clown makeup is such a strange sight. I may be wrong, but I think this is the only time we see him like this. Nowadays, even walking around in public he’s got that get-up on, and nobody thinks twice about it. He’s just Krusty.
– Not quite sure why Marge calls Krusty an “insane criminal genius” for robbing a convenience store. Partially-educated jailbird Snake seems to do it on a regular basis.
– Lovejoy at the bonfire: “Good people, I’m so happy you’re all here tonight. But please, just a few words of caution. Now, we are going to set this pile of evil ablaze, but because these are children’s toys, the fire will spread quickly, so please stand back and try not to inhale the toxic fumes.”
– “Krusty wore big, floppy shoes, but he’s got little feet, like all good-hearted people. But Sideshow Bob really filled those shoes with these ugly feet!” He uncovered the truth, but I still don’t get Bart’s point. So all people with large feet are evil?
– Homer has a great line toward the end apologizing to Krusty: “I’m man enough to admit I was wrong, and I’m sorry I fingered you in court. I sincerely hope that the horrible stories I heard about what goes on in prison are exaggerated.”