(originally aired February 22, 1998)
At this point I’ve pretty much given up on exactly what kind of performer Krusty is supposed to be. He’s a clown who hosts a children’s show filled with slapstick and buffoonery, sometimes he hosts an adult talk show, sometimes a musical revue like his Elvis-esque comeback special, and now apparently he’s a standup comedian too. He’s all of them in one; Krusty is the show’s expy for the perpetually disgruntled entertainer, a man who once loved to make people laugh, but has long since abandoned that for the call of the almighty dollar. This show is actually an interesting examination of Krusty, who steps out of his safety zone of his empire to find he’s not relevant in today’s world of comedy, and not very funny anymore. While the world has moved on to different forms of humor, he’s stuck doing TV dinner jokes and blatantly offensive stereotypes. After a slightly rusty first half, the episode really picks up when Krusty sees the light, and of course falls right back into his old trappings by the end.
There’s a comedy festival for charity in town, and Bart is stunned that amongst a roster of nobodies like Jay Leno or Bobcat Goldthwait, his hero Krusty is not listed. After some cajoling, Krusty agrees to perform, but finds the audience is not receptive at all to his incredibly dated act. After a multi-day bender, Krusty concludes he’s not fit for today’s form of observational comedy and decides to quit the business, but after riffing and ridiculing modern day comics at his press conference, he finds maybe he can be current after all. From that point, he adopts a new persona, an embittered social critic who doesn’t sell out for no one no way no how. As with a lot of Krusty shows, the anchor back to the family is Bart and his undying devotion to his idol. He gets the ball rolling with the plot, and is always present by Krusty’s side to soften any critical blows coming his way, usually in blaming the acoustics of the room. The best scene is when a hung over Krusty awakens in Bart’s room, which is plastered with cheap merchandise. We’ve seen the man sign off on promotions and licensed products without even looking at them, and Krusty is shocked to find to what great magnitude he’s sold out his image in favor of improving his work.
An interesting thing with this episode is that it’s about comedians and we see them performing, but their jokes aren’t exactly that funny. We see the sets of some of the famous comics, then later the reformed Krusty at Moe’s, the audience laughs hysterically, but not us watching at home. It’s kind of an odd feeling. A few bits of the sets are good, but the funniest is probably when Krusty bombs, where no one is laughing except us. Speaking of not laughing, all the guest stars are pretty useless; the only one with a real role is Jay Leno, who is presented in the gentlest, most congratulatory kiss-ass way. The episode was pretty dodgy up until Krusty’s bender, then it gets pretty good, and they’ve saved the best bit for last. Krusty finds that he’s destined to sell out when he’s won over by two executives wanting to use his likeness for the potentially dangerous SUV the Canyonero. At the end, we see an extended ad for the vehicle, which is absolutely fantastic. I’ll go on the record now that it’s the best bit of the entire season, a wonderful mockery of exceedingly large, gas guzzling, squirrel-squishin’, deer-smackin’ drivin’ machines. And what a catchy jingle too. Canyonerooooo! Yahh!
Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening bit at the shoe store is pretty much dead in the water. I did smirk at the store sock though.
– A representative for the comedy festival is at the mall asking folks if they like to laugh. Marge begins to respond, “Oh, yes! As long as its tasteful. And never at someone, or with, and not…” and he moves on to Homer. He also asks Dr. Hibbert (“Well yes, but only if something tickles me just right!”) then proceeds to laugh excessively.
– We establish Krusty as a lazy hack immediately, doing a kid’s birthday party whilst in a steam box. Sideshow Mel is in tow to hold the phone up to his ear and make balloon animals for him.
– Krusty’s act is so horrifically unfunny, then horrifically racist. It’s hilarious; the sound of the flapping dickey over the stunned silence of the audience is fantastic.
– Sweet bit where Marge and Lisa are watching a Spanish drama on TV and Marge intently looks to her daughter to provide translation after every line.
– During Krusty’s bender, Kent Brockman fills in for him, with a clown wig and nose, but still sitting at a news desk (“Today’s top joke: it seems a local moron threw his clock out the window. We’ll tell you why, right after this!”)
– Love the bit where Krusty’s looking at a poster of himself thinking it’s a mirror, trying to dislodge the tack from his forehead.
– Bart holds his own comedy festival at home to help test drive Krusty’s new material. He is the opening act, doing an impression of his mother, much to Homer and Lisa’s delight, and Marge’s chagrin. Krusty’s new material falls flat, with the family coming up with excuses to leave (or Homer, who just says, “I also have to go.”)
– Krusty adapts a George Carlin persona in the third act, which is all well and good, but it’s not so much parodying Carlin’s style as it is writing his kind of jokes. When they did Rodney Dangerfield jokes with Larry Burns, at least it felt a little tongue in cheek (“I get no regard! No regard at all! No esteem either!”)
– Homer gets a few good lines in at Krusty’s shows (“Impeach Churchill!” “Don’t you hate pants?”)
– The Canyonero theme has got to be in the top 5 of best Simpsons songs. It’s a hilarious song, with visuals to match, the best being the SUV causing a school bus to swerve off the road, crash into a tree and catch fire. The Boy Scouts on board stand in salute to the majestic road warrior (“Top of the line in utility sports! Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts!”)