251. Insane Clown Poppy

(originally aired November 12, 2000)
A couple commenters have brought up how despite shows in the Scully era having shit for stories and awful characterization, the memorable and amusing quotes and scenes at least keep them somewhat watchable, unlike later years where episodes would be so ineffective and innocuous that they’d all run together. I think I agree with that; in spite of all the awfulness that went down during his four-year run, at least Mike Scully’s tenure has a distinctness to it, as with the show runners before him. In kind, this show has a fair amount of amusing bits, but not enough to save the totally muddled story and ridiculous ending. We open of course with stupid Homer doing stupid things, namely blowing through his chores list with dynamite. They later end up at a book fair, which for some reason is populated with the likes of Stephen King, Amy Tan, and John Updike, a veritable parade of worthless guest appearances. Updike is especially disconcerting; all he says is his name and he chuckles. That’s it? What a waste.

Krusty is doing a book signing and is shocked to find Sophie, a girl claiming to be his daughter. Born from one frisky night whilst Krusty was in the Middle East at a USO show, she finally has tracked down her show business father. Sophie is voiced by Drew Barrymore, and her interplay with Castellaneta is pretty sweet. Despite his profession, Krusty has absolutely no idea how to deal with children, and that’s especially the case with his kid (“I’m not the kind of dad who, you know, does things, or says stuff or looks at ya. But the love is there!”) The scenes with the two of them are pretty good, but where the episode loses me is when they cram Homer in there who Krusty seeks parental advice from. This inevitably leads to more wackiness and pathetic dialogue involving Homer having short term memory loss and ignoring the frightened cries of his children. It would have made more sense if Krusty enlisted Bart’s help, asking him to teach him how kids think and what they want. By the third act when Krusty bursts into the Simpsons back door asking for help, I’m wondering why this man, who I’m sure has plenty of assistants and other contacts, is turning to this schlubby upper-lower-middle class family with his personal problems.

Krusty bets his daughter’s violin on what he thinks is an unsinkable hand in poker, but loses it to Fat Tony. So Homer suggests they break into the mafia compound to get it back. Silly and ridiculous, but an idea with potential, and it has a lot of amusing bits throughout. And it gave us Johnny Tightlips (“Where’d they hit ya?” “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.” “But what’ll I tell the doctor?” “Tell him to suck a lemon.”) But there’s really no rhyme or reason to the climax; they make all this effort about sneaking in, then make their escape through the main area in front of everybody. Then a shootout ensues and they make their escape with no raminifcations at all. It’s like they had no ending and just bailed. So there’s a few amusing bits and ideas here, but with a pointless first act, loads of jerkass Homer, and an ineffective climax, this one ain’t too good on the whole. But even with all that, I’m still entertained by something like this more than I would a season 17 episode, which all just run together in a bland mess in my mind. But more on that in time.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer and Bart dymamiting their chores is totally stupid and gratiutious, though I admit I like them blowing out Marge’s drawer (“Do you want the job done right, or do you want it done fast?” “Well, like all Americans, fast.”) and being surprised that it works. Their coup de grace is completely destroying Lisa’s bedroom, on her birthday, no less. She is understandably horrified, and Homer shows little to no remorse about it (“This must be a rough time for you.  Do you have any friends or family you can stay with?”) It’s like the plot of “Make Room For Lisa,” but even worse because it’s just the throwaway opening. Lisa is not affected by this after this scene, and Homer is a jerk to her not once but twice more this show. He says he’ll do anything to make it up to her, a good start, but when she suggests the book fair, he relents. But they end up at the fair anyway. But I guess they figured he wasn’t cruel enough, so they ADR’d him saying, “Stupid Lisa.” Fuck Homer.
– I like Reverend Lovejoy’s “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Jesus” and his “stigmuffins” (with a hole in them, of course) Then there’s his Mary Magdalene’s Chocolate Orgasms, an eclair that when Homer bits into it, the cream shoots out of it. This is three questionable sex jokes in a row this season, with one of them being funny and the other two being offputting and weird.
– Dr. Nick has a booth at the fair too (“With my diet, you can eat all you want, any time you want.” “And you lose weight?” “Uh, you might. It’s a free country!”)
– My favorite celebrity in this show isn’t voiced by a celebrity… sort of. It’s Christopher Walken, voiced by Jay Mohr, reading “Goodnight Moon” to terrified children (“Please, children, scootch closer. Don’t make me tell you again about the scootching. You in the red, chop-chop.”)
– Krusty’s USO show ends disastrously thanks to some easily offended soldiers. The Cincinatti Bengel cheerleaders don’t sway them too well (“I can’t look at that! I have a girlfriend back home!” “This is an insult to our Muslim hosts!”)
– Creepy and uncomfortable scene where Homer is gossiping to God about how many guys Maude Flanders is banging in heaven. He’s so weird in this whole episode; the story’s not about him, but he’s all over the episode, making annoying noises and making dumb jokes in the background.
– The animation of Krusty searching around his car is pretty good; the flashlight shining about, him getting shot into the backseat by the airbag, it’s visually interesting. I also like his hallucination of his hand persuading Krusty to bet Sophie’s violin. But before he can, Fat Tony has his appraiser look it over (“Well, it won’t bring much cash, but its sentimental value is through the roof!”)
– Homer and Krusty attempt to get into Fat Tony’s compound via the power lines, but their weight drags them down right above Legs and Louie’s heads. Thankfully, they are none the wiser (“Hey, I heard there’s a lunar eclipse tonight. Maybe we should look up.” “Nah. For me, it’s solar or nothing.”)
– We of course have to undercut the emotional ending with Homer getting chased by mobsters, then get shot at while he screams and yells. And he’s almost scot free when he apologizes, then he taunts them and he pays the price for it. He deserves it. Shouldn’t we always be sympathizing with our main character? I find I’m rooting against him quite a lot recently.

5 responses to “251. Insane Clown Poppy

  1. Good review.

    And Jesus Christ what an ugly character design for Krusty’s daughter!

  2. “He deserves it. Shouldn’t we always be sympathizing with our main character?”

    I think they crossed that bridge with the “Kidney Trouble” episode, where Homer leaves Grandpa to die, then after he finds out they took his kidney and gave it to Grandpa, he angrily yells at Grandpa to give it back. Once you’ve had your main character leave his father to die, there’s no turning back, especially when said main character is responsible for the kidney exploding because he wouldn’t stop and let Grandpa go to the bathroom.

    Thank you for pointing out that this is the episode with Christopher Walken (voiced by Jay Mohr). I can never remember what episode that is in, and I always think it’s something like seasons 5-8. I love the reading of “children, scootch closer.” It feels like a classic episode moment.

  3. I don’t remember much of this episode, but I disagree that the book fair guests are completely worthless: I really like Amy Tan’s disgusted reaction to what I assume is an entirely legitimate reading of The Joy Luck Club. Some might say it’s a bit cruel to Lisa, but I see it as a joke about artists being precious over how their work is interpreted.

    (No doubt John Frink will pop up in this comments section telling me my interpretation of the gag couldn’t be more wrong!)

  4. Homer should have been killed in the ending. Reminds me of the halloween episode where Homer is somehow avoiding being hit by Mr Burns’ shotgun blasts despite it not being possible.

    Very poor.

  5. This episode honestly could’ve worked had they focused more on Krusty’s relationship with his illegitimate child. We could’ve had some strong emotional beats and some great jokes about Krusty’s character. Of course, what we get instead is Homer being a terrible human being during the opening but (then he promises to stop being a jerk, only to immediately go back to it), and him being really annoying throughout the episode despite it not revolving around him. We also have the weird climax that feels very by the books, like the writers wanted to finish the episode quickly. It could’ve been a pretty good episode, but too many elements ruin it. Still, it’s far from the worst of this season.

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