Chuckles the Clown

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Chuckles the Clown is a fictional character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS, 1970-1977). His character is best known for his off-camera death in the episode Chuckles Bites the Dust.

Chuckles was known for his popular philosophy in verse: "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants". His real name was George Bowerchuck (although Lou Grant refers to him as "Chuck" in the episode "Who's In Charge Here?"). He had a wife named Louise, and a daughter, Betty, who was briefly romantically involved with Ted Baxter.

Character biography[edit]

Chuckles The Clown was the popular host of WJM-TV block of children's programming, hosting the cartoons and performing sketches. He portrayed a range of characters on his show, including "Peter Peanut", "Mr Fee-Fi-Fo", "Billy Banana" and "Aunt Yoo-hoo", and was known for his slapstick humor. He was frequently referred to by the newsroom staff, but seldom seen on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Chuckles's first on-camera appearance was in the episode "The Snow Must Go On", originally broadcast November 7, 1970. Richard Schaal portrays Chuckles when he arrives at TV station WJM the morning after a city election, to find the news staff —having lost contact with City Hall during a blizzard— still on the air. Chuckles has the election results in his newspaper, and announces the winner of the mayoral race on the air in clown character.

In season 3, Chuckles had a brief non-speaking role in the third season episode, titled "Who's in Charge Here?", where he was portrayed by an uncredited extra. In this episode, Chuckles meets with Lou Grant, who has been temporarily promoted to WJM's program manager. Chuckles is seen arriving for the meeting in full clown makeup. Mark Gordon next played Chuckles in "Son of 'But, Seriously Folks'"; aside from these appearances, Chuckles, like Phyllis Lindstrom's husband Lars, existed only off-stage.

One of the most remembered episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was "Chuckles Bites the Dust" (October 25, 1975), written by David Lloyd, which involved the death of Chuckles and in which Chuckles, as usual, is never seen on camera. In that episode, Chuckles is hired as the grand marshal for a circus parade (after news anchor Ted Baxter is told to decline). At the parade, he dressed as a popular character, Peter Peanut. Tragedy struck when "...a rogue elephant tried to shell him...," and he died from his injuries. News of Chuckles's demise results in laughter and joking in the newsroom, except for Mary, who is shocked by their response.

However, at the funeral everyone is actually overcome with grief, except for Mary, who stifles laugh after laugh during the eulogy. When the minister tells the embarrassed Mary that the laughter was actually keeping with Chuckles' wishes, she suddenly breaks into inconsolable sobbing to her greater humiliation. This episode was ranked #1 on TV Guide's 1997 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.