Chuckles Bites the Dust
|"Chuckles Bites the Dust"|
|The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode|
|Episode no.||Season 6
|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 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. The unusual circumstances of Chuckles' death provoke a wave of 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"). Meanwhile, Ted tries his best to ad lib a eulogy for Chuckles, whom he admitted he didn't know very well. Everyone continues their uncontrollable laughter, with the exception of Mary, who is appalled by her co-workers' apparent lack of respect for the deceased.
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 laugh uncontrollably as the minister recounts Chuckles' comedy characters and comic routines. She tries to stifle her emotions, but simply cannot contain herself during 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 catch phrase? 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 appear shocked at her behavior. The minister tells the mortified Mary that laughter is actually in keeping with Chuckles' life and urges her to "Laugh... Laugh for Chuckles", at which point she breaks into uncontrollable sobbing.
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."