Chuckles Bites the Dust
|"Chuckles Bites the Dust"|
|The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode|
|Directed by||Joan Darling|
|Written by||David Lloyd|
|Original air date||October 25, 1975|
"Chuckles Bites the Dust" is an episode of the television situation comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show which first aired October 25, 1975. The episode's plot centers on the WJM-TV staff's humorous reaction to the absurd death of Chuckles the Clown, an often-mentioned but seldom-seen character who starred in an eponymously titled show at the station.
News anchor Ted Baxter is hired as the grand marshal for a circus parade, but is ordered by Lou Grant to turn down the "honor." Ted is upset and tries to rally Mary to his side. Mary agrees that Lou was perhaps too hasty in his order, but then tells Ted that Chuckles the Clown had been asked in his place and has accepted the honor as grand marshal.
The next day, as Mary and Murray are watching Ted deliver the live newscast, Lou rushes into the newsroom in shock and tells the staff that Chuckles has been killed during the parade. He had dressed as the character Peter Peanut, and a rogue elephant tried to "shell" him, causing fatal injuries. During a commercial break, Lou orders Ted to adlib a eulogy for Chuckles, with disastrous results.
The next day at the studio, the unusual circumstances of Chuckles' death provoke a wave of workplace jokes, especially by Lou, Sue Ann Nivens, and Murray Slaughter (e.g., "You know how hard it is to stop after just one peanut!" and, "He could've gone as Billy Banana and had a gorilla peel him to death"). They continue in helpless laughter, with the exception of Mary, who is appalled by her co-workers' apparent lack of respect for the deceased. They try to assure her that they mean no disrespect for Chuckles. Their reaction is simply an emotional release, a response to humankind's fear of death: "Everyone does it." Mary shames them into uncomfortable silence by answering, "I don't."
At the funeral, the jokes continue until the services are about to start, at which time a final scolding by Mary encourages all of the attendees to become properly somber. However, Mary alone begins to giggle uncontrollably as the minister recounts Chuckles' comedy characters and comic routines. She tries to stifle her laughter, but cannot contain herself as Reverend Burke delivers the eulogy:
- "Chuckles the Clown brought pleasure to millions. The characters he created will be remembered by children and adults alike: Peter Peanut; Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo; Billy Banana; and my particular favorite, Aunt Yoo-Hoo. And not just for the laughter they provided—-there was always some deeper meaning to whatever Chuckles did. Do you remember Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo's little catchphrase? Remember how, when his arch-rival Señor Kaboom hit him with a giant cucumber and knocked him down, Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo would always pick himself up, dust himself off, and say, 'I hurt my foo-foo'? Life's a lot like that. From time to time we all fall down and hurt our foo-foos. If only we could deal with it as simply and bravely and honestly as Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo. And what did Chuckles ask in return? Not much. In his own words, 'A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.'"
Mary's co-workers and the other attendees are shocked by her laughter. The minister, however, asks the mortified Mary to rise, and assures her that her laughter is actually in keeping with Chuckles' life's work. "He lived to make people laugh. Tears were offensive to him; deeply offensive. . . . So go ahead, my dear. Laugh for Chuckles."
Mary bursts into loud, helpless sobs.
In 1997, this episode was ranked #1 on TV Guide's "100 Greatest Episodes Of All Time". In 2009, TV Guide ranked the episode #3 on "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time". Written by David Lloyd, this episode earned him an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series."