41. Like Father, Like Clown

(originally aired October 24, 1991)
Krusty represents the quintessential entertainer: a man who’s got the whole world in his hand in exchange for his morals, ethical qualms, and his humble roots. Behind his stage persona is a angry, bitter man, but going deeper than that he is filled with guilt and remorse over his botched familial ties. With so much inner emotional turmoil based upon parental scorn, I guess it was only natural that Krusty would be revealed Jewish. We begin with the clown once again cancelling a thank-you dinner to Bart for his actions in “Krusty Gets Busted” (I think our first big call-back). When Bart is informed of this, he’s crushed. Bart’s faith in the lecherous clown is astonishing, considering Krusty can’t even remember his name, but there are limits to any rampant fandom, and this is Bart’s, who sends a scathing letter (“I always suspected that nothing in life mattered. Now I know for sure. Get bent!”)

Krusty does eventually show up, and in an emotional state regales the family with his sorted past, how his rabbi father (of course), played by Jackie Mason (of course), disowned him for his clownish ways. After finally getting it off his chest, Krusty becomes an emotional basket case, thumbing through every photo album in the Simpson house, keeping them up to all hours. He yearns for what he felt he had to give up for his fame and fortune: domestic bliss which he, of all people, admires the Simpsons for (Lisa puts it best, “A man who envies our family is a man who needs help.”) Beyond his grizzled off-stage presence is really the biggest softie: the man can’t even sit through a father-and-son themed “Itchy & Scratchy” without breaking down to tears on camera.

In a sort of reprisal of “Busted,” Bart and Lisa again set out to sort out Krusty’s personal affairs by tracking down the good rabbi. However, he can prove receptive not to childish pleas but to enlightened phrases and arguments from scripture. But eventually what breaks him is a quote about the treatment and perseverance of the Jews by Sammy Davis, Jr., an entertainer, creating the bridge for Krusty and his father, from secular to sacred. An on-air reconciliation seals the deal, and it’s a very sweet moment. Krusty’s Judaism is so ingrained in his character now, but I still laugh every time he makes the reveal that his real name isn’t Krusty, it’s Hersehl Krustofski. I can’t imagine him having any other name; it’s the perfect example of a performer re-adapting his name to distance himself from his humble roots. This is a great character-building show, very sweet and very funny.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Ms. Pennycandy, Krusty’s assistant, is a character we barely see anymore. I do like the idea that this woman would be alternately furious and admiring of the TV hero. Also, for some reason, I really liked her performance; in latter day Simpsons it seemed like every single woman character was voiced by Tress MacNeille, but Pennycandy is voiced by Pamela Hayden. I also love that Krusty passed over his dinner for the most insignificant of reasons: to scrub mildew off of his shower, a job he could easily hire someone to do for him.
– We are once again shown Krusty’s cripping illiteracy. I’m just waiting for the episode that they first said, “Fuck it,” and just made Krusty able to read. It worked for the story in “Busted,” but it’s kind of a hassle to keep going.
– Always laugh at the festive knock, horn honk, and Krusty’s laugh as he arrives at the Simpsons; Homer honestly asks, “You think it’s him?” I also love his shock about Mel Brooks being Jewish. Unrelated, but there’s a similar runner in an Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode where Frylock lists Jewish entertainers for a Hitler balloon (don’t ask) and Shake reads, “Jackie Mason?! Come on!”
– Krusty’s father is introduced in the perfect way, as a wise rabbi full of answers. After answering two meaningful questions, someone asks him if he should by a Chrysler. The rabbi asks if he can ask him in the form of an ethical question, so he asks if it’s right to buy a Chrysler. The good rabbi responds jovially, “Yes! For great is the car with power steering and dyna-flow suspension!” Also great is his discouraging of his young son’s dreams: “Seltzer is for drinking, not for spraying! Pie is for noshing, not for throwing!” And also great is later on his praising of his son being top in his class, being voted “Most Likely to Hear God.” When the rabbi he’s talking to says he’s exaggerating, he responds, “A rabbi would never exaggerate! A rabbi composes. He creates thoughts. He tells stories that may never have happened. But he does not exaggerate!”
– I guess I should just give straight praise for Jackie Mason’s performance. He’s the only guest star to win an Emmy for his work on the show. After that long string of great quotes, my favorite stuff here is his ramblings on the phone when a forlorn Krusty calls and says nothing (“Anybody there? What’s this, I hear the phone ring, and suddenly there’s nothing. I’m listening and there’s no talking.”)
– Great stuff with Reverend Lovejoy, with his Gabbin’ ‘Bout God radio program, and finding the rabbi’s address in his “non-Christian rolodex.”
– I do love the runner of Bart injecting his quotes into Rabbi Krustofski’s business, be it at a sauna, in the park, and even during a bris (“My friend, I’m still not convinced, and this is hardly the time or place to discuss it!”)
– Always love at the end that Krusty introduces the rabbi to his audience of children as his “estranged father,” followed by joyous cheering.

Also, note, I will be away until this coming Friday, so hang tight, more classic Simpsons goodness coming soon!

4 responses to “41. Like Father, Like Clown

  1. “A man who envies our family is a man who needs help” is one of my favourite lines, not only as a line, but even for the serious awareness Lisa has and for the whole scene that bring to it. Wonderfully timed and executed, as always.

  2. This episode is the first episode I saw part of to The Simpsons. I caught a bit of it, but because my parents had kicked me out of the living room, I wasn’t able to watch much of it. It wasn’t until the following week that I saw my first fill length episode.

    Anyway, it is a very strong episode. I love the callback to the first season but my favorite moment is when Lisa comes out of the library after the failed attempts and says something along the lines of, “This is it. The only thing left for me to do is learn Hebrew. Bart, I’M NOT LEARNING HEBREW!”

  3. I love when on the radio show, the religious leaders are asked whether all the world’s problems make them doubt the existence of God. Of course they all answer no. Great satire there.

  4. This is a pretty heartfelt and also fun episode. There’s some good antics in Krusty’s past and the ending is fantastic. Not my favorite episode, but a strong one nonetheless.

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