(originally aired February 12, 1995)
There are quite a few episodes I remember that I saw in syndication constantly; either they’d rerun them more or I happened to catch them over and over. Some of them I’ve grown a bit tired of. This one, I’ve seen it at least fifty times and I still absolutely love it. Not only is it hilarious start to finish, it has so many perfect elements to it in its story and characterizations. There’s no real overarching theme I can pick through, so let’s just go point by point. First off, this is some of the best Krusty stuff ever on the series; we haven’t seen him much this season, and boy did he come back with a vengeance. The first two scenes with him are brilliant, first juxtaposing his tireless wacky showman persona, then immediately switching to the disgruntled, sell-out shill he is. The jokes come flying fast, but all illustrate Krusty’s personality: stealing George Carlin’s routines, ordering roses for Bea Arthur’s grave (who wasn’t dead at the time), and pushing release of more shoddy merchandise to get him out of a financial hole while he’s already burning money (literally.)
Krusty’s accountant urges he open a clown college to train imitation Krustys to create extra revenue. This brings us to Homer, and an over-the-top examination of powerful subliminal advertising. He’s so excited for “new billboard day” that he causes multiple pile-ups stopping to look at each one, creating a mental list so he can buy all the products. Initially he is unfazed by the clown college ad, but the image has permeated his subconscious, as he visualizes his family and co-workers as clowns with circus music playing. It’s not long before he’s convinced that his life’s mission is to go to clown college. It’s not so much a biting satire on marketing, more like showing how easily a mush head like Homer can be manipulated. Homer turns out to be a semi-competent clown, who only starts to enjoy himself when he learns he can reap discounts from local merchants posing as the actual Krusty, which he of course tries to push to the nth degree.
As set up in act one, Krusty is in pretty deep in gambling debts with Fat Tony, and ends up fleeing the country when his time is up. This leaves Homer clear in Tony’s sights, who is easily mistaken as the genuine article. The two clowns come together when Krusty returns to face the music, creating a bit of a dilemma. The two must face off with Don Vittorio, a self-described old Italian stereotype, whose violent retribution can only be calmed if the two perform an elaborate routine on a miniature tricycle. The final scene is so spectacular because, again, all of the groundwork has been set. The very first scene is Krusty doing the trick, then we see Homer attempt multiple times to do the same at the college. Seeing Krusty and Homer bumble, but then succeed with flying colors is very satisfying, especially when Homer gets in the last big feat. Then of course, we completely deflate the crisis: Vittorio won’t kill Krusty, but still demands payment… of forty-eight dollars. Some could cry it’s a stupid cop-out ending, which I guess I can’t argue that fact, but I love me that stupid cop-out ending something fierce. This episode’s so perfect to me; it was one of my favorites when I was younger, and still is today.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Bart continues to speak great reverence of his hero Krusty: “He can take a simple, everyday thing like eating a bicycle and make it funny.”
– Great direction with Krusty tilting his head grinning and waving as the curtain falls, then as he is submerged in darkness he immediately grimaces and lights up a cigarette. What a perfect visual representation of his two-faced nature: it’s like the stage lights literally light him up, and when they’re gone, he’s back to his bastard self.
– So many great bits in that first scene: “Put five thousand bucks on the Lakers. Hire Kenny G to play for me in the elevator. My house is dirty; buy me a clean one,” Krusty not wanting to hear the end of any sentences, and continually paying people off with ten grand, placing a double or nothing bet on the opera (the tenor,) the accountant’s brilliant advice on gambling (“Gambling is the finest thing a person can do if he’s good at it,”) and of course the horrendous Krusty products, specifically the Lady Krusty Mustache Removal System.
– I love the build-up toward Homer cracking and enrolling in the college; it’s like the billboard has infected his brain and dulled Homer’s mental functions even further. At the dinner table he sculpts a circus tent out of mashed potatoes (a la Close Encounters of the Third Kind.) The best bit is a worried Lisa asking, “Mom?” Marge responds, “I think I’ll have some wine.”
– The clown college gives us more great bits: how “one Krusty per territory” works out… almost, the baggy pants fitting Homer perfectly, the funny place names (Seattle!), Krusty pieing a priggish royal in the face so hard she puts a crack in the wall (Homer takes note, “Kill wealthy dowager,”) and of course Homer’s multiple attempts to do the loop-de-loop, the final try his pants get caught in the pedals and he ends up bare-assed (Krusty says aside to his accountant, “Burn that seat.”) The best line is from Krusty: “These Krusty brand balloons are three bucks each. But get a cheap one and what happens? It goes off, takes out the eyeballs of every kid in the room! What’s that going to cost you?” Then, to his accountant, “Hey, Bill, what did that cost us?”
– I also like how this plot is kind of a behind-the-scenes callback to how Krusty was originally modeled to essentially be like Homer with clown make-up; as Matt Groening put it, it was ironic that Bart idolized a man who looked so much like his father, but hold Homer with contempt. The Homer-Krusty model is great, with the only differences being Homer has no tuft on the top of his head, and his nose is painted red rather than having a fake nose. I also like how Homer gained some skill, doing a bank shot to spray Lisa and Bart at the same time (he sheepishly takes a compliment, “It was my major.”)
– The first act break is hilarious, with Krusty gleefully smacking his hand-buzzer all over a wailing Homer.
– Oh dear God… the Krusty Burglar scene is one of the best scenes in the whole series. I love how seriously Homer took it (“Oh my God! He’s stealing all the burgers!”) and how viciously he beats the shit out of the midget actor (last scene as Lisa in “Burns’ Heir.”) Then of course we have the crying child (“Stop it! He’s already dead!”) and the horrified crowd clapping awkwardly as the midget lies down in horrible pain (“Please look at my Medic Alert bracelet…”)
– Homer arrives to Milhouse’s birthday party, and whether this was part of his entrance or not, I don’t know, but he skids on the lawn and crashes into a tree. Beat. Then he crashes through the windshield and greets the children. I like how his act consists of balloon animals, and dancing like a buffoon as kids throw things at him.
– What a good sport Dick Cavett is, especially since they made him look like a pathetic moochy asshole (“Let’s walk and talk. I have some wonderful stories about other famous people that include me in some way.”)
– Another great Springfield product: Gigantic Asses Magazine. You’ll never guess what’s on the cover.
– Classic classic bit of Krusty betting against the Harlem Globetrotters and watching the game devastated (“That game was fixed. They were using a freakin’ ladder, for God’s sake!”) And another quick joke about the fate of the clown college, now under Fat Tony’s ownership (“Kids have a lot of money these days. So after you finish your performance, you might consider robbing them.”)
– The car salesman is a pretty cool collected customer; he doesn’t even skip a beat once the car is shot at and Homer asks what the holes are (“These are speed holes. They make the car go faster.”) Then the hood becomes riddled with bullet holes and the windshield shatters (“You want my advice? I think you should buy this car.”) Then later there’s the great scene of Ned getting shot twice, first saved by the Bible close to his heart, then a piece of the true cross. Then Homer’s pick axe is hit. Tony runs low on options (“I told you we should have bought more than three bullets. Let’s just grab him!”)
– I like Homer’s thought process of coming up with fake names for the mob: he first sells out his best friend, then throws out Joe Valachi, who I’m sure he doesn’t know, the worst name he could have picked at random, then Benedict Arnold, a similarly bad choice.
– More great direction in the build-up for Homer doing the trick where it seems he’s going to do it. We see it from Homer’s POV as Vittorio, Tony and the goons look on excited as he goes upside-down… then disappointment as he goes back down the same way and fails. The drawing of Homer flat on his ass is pretty funny too.