Episode 22 - Krusty Gets Kancelled
28 July 2011
Synopsis: A new ventriloquist act called Gabbo makes a big splash in Springfield and airs opposite the Krusty the Clown show. Gabbo destroys Krusty in the ratings and the show gets cancelled. Krusty is miserable and loses what little money he has left. Bart and Lisa find him on the street and come up with the idea for a comeback special when they remind him of all the celebrities he has been friends with over the years. Bart and Lisa go calling on Jonny Carson, Hugh Heffner, Better Middler, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Elizabeth Taylor.
The Good: This is a terrific episode which has a lot in common with Season 3's "Homer at the Bat" (317). Both episodes have a large collection of celebrity cameos but are anchored by a familiar resident of Springfield's strong character.
That character of course is Krusty and here we see him in all his 'glory.' He is an angry, arrogant addict who treats everyone around him poorly and flushes his money down the toilet. Yet he remains a charismatic and charming entertainer and those traits manage to drag in the help of old friends along with the ever faithful Bart. That strong believable character allows Krusty to be really funny in almost every scene in the episode. One of his go-to manoeuvres is to steal other comedian's material and so copying Gabbo's success he tries to have his own ventriloquist act which goes horribly wrong and freaks out his audience of children. He then attempts bribery, offering $40 to every viewer followed by the swift voiceover legal warning that "Cheques will not be honoured."
Soon the show is cancelled and Krusty has to console his staff. He tells them that they are like a family and when Sideshow Mel tries to say a few words Krusty violently yells "Shut your hole!" Again it's that tightrope between love and abuse which is so believable. Krusty fails to get a job anywhere else and is humiliated by a Gabbo crank call. Bart and Lisa find him on the street and have to convince him to turn to his old celebrity friends for help.
So in come the celebrities. I think their role here was far less important or amusing than in "Homer at the Bat" but they are an impressive line up. Beloved talk show host Johnny Carson gets a suitably exaggerated role as a man of many talents. Hugh Heffner allows his Playboy Mansion to be giggled at and perhaps surprisingly Elizabeth Taylor is happy to be portrayed as snobbishly aloof. Bette Midler plugs her own anti-littering campaign and her biggest comedy contribution is the hilarious suggestion that she and Krusty once owned a racehorse together called "Krudler"! Luke Perry and The Red Hot Chili Peppers are good sports too (see Best Joke) and the latter re-enact a scene from The Doors movie as Krusty asks them to change their lyrics. Amusingly they agree with Krusty's wholesome rewrite commenting "everyone can enjoy that." The star studded line-up makes it plausible that Krusty would have been able to reclaim his comedy crown and his renditions of "Send in the Clowns" and "Wind Beneath My Wings" were a lot of fun considering his gravelly voice.
The episode was very well constructed and several other jokes and good lines found their way into the script. During the parody of the Hollywood Squares we hear about the new Rainier Wolfcastle movie where "my son returns from a fancy East Coast college and I'm horrified to find he is a nerd." He then solemnly explains that it is not a comedy which still amuses me to this day. We get a formative appearance from the moustachioed man who plays many cynical bureaucrats and shop keepers. Here he is a Gabbo cameraman and happily admits to Bart that he is "quite low brow" in that flippantly accurate shorthand characterisation that the show does so well. When Krusty is begging on the street he offers to drop his pants for food. However he is being undercut by a crazy old man dancing with his pants already down singing "Old Grey Mare she ain't what she used to be." Later on in contradictory and surreal manner Krusty turns on the TV to see how tough his competition will be to find the "crazy old man singers" giving a chorus of their song. Again you sense the writers are so confident in the depths of silliness they can reach. Finally I loved the simplicity of this line from Krusty who can't see the irony "Thirty five years in show business and already no one remembers me. Just like what's his name and whos-its and that guy, always wore a shirt?"
The Bad: I suppose some exaggerations felt a bit needless. I can overlook Johnny Carson's car-lifting but not Mayor Quimby admitting to murdering people and getting away with it.
Best Joke: As you know Krusty's temper and lack of self control make him an ideal character to spout traditional sit com punch lines. You know, where a character will claim one thing and then instantly contradict themselves. It doesn't get much better than this though as we see the Red Hot Chili Peppers singing "Give it Away" on stage in nothing but their underwear. From the sidelines we see Krusty's face as he says "Dancing around in their underwear; that is so degrading." The shot pans out to show Krusty dressed as an old fashioned child with a big lolly and the stage manager says "Thirty seconds till your Little Stinker sketch." Krusty sternly demands "Get me a bigger lolly."
The Bottom Line: This is a really fun end to Season Four. The key to the episode is not the celebrities but Krusty himself. Its amazing how well rounded a character he is and this is one of his finest episodes.
Season Four started and finished with a string of strong episodes but there was a lull in mid-season. However five episodes from the season scored over a 70 from me which put them up there with some of the best comedy you will see on TV. I think that's the impression the season will have left at the time. In those episodes the writers showed a tremendous skill and confidence in constructing plots which crammed in joke after joke without ever breaking the flow.
To have almost a quarter of your season's work be perceived as classics is what really put The Simpsons on the map as a top quality TV show. Going forward the expectations for what the show could produce were raised considerably.
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