Homie the Clown
"Homie the Clown" is the 15th episode of The Simpsons' sixth season, and aired on February 12, 1995. When Krusty the Clown opens a clown college to deal with his debt, Homer Simpson enrolls and ends up impersonating Krusty at public events. Mistaking him for the real clown, the Springfield Mafia kidnaps Homer, demanding their money. Joe Mantegna returned as Fat Tony, while Dick Cavett and Johnny Unitas guest starred as themselves.
The episode was conceived and written by John Swartzwelder and directed by David Silverman. Swartzwelder's script required very little rewriting and Silverman considers this one of the best episodes he has directed. He later used it to help him when directing The Simpsons Movie. One dropped storyline for The Simpsons saw Krusty being revealed as Homer's secret identity and this episode allowed writers to comment upon the similarity of the two characters' design. The episode features references to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Godfather and The Maltese Falcon.
Krusty's massive gambling debts and extravagant personal life land him in deep trouble with the Springfield Mafia and only a month away from bankruptcy. To make money, he launches a training college for clowns. Homer sees an advertisement about the college and at first says that it had no effect on him, but then becomes obsessed with it, eventually announcing to his startled family that he is going to enroll. After graduating, he impersonates Krusty at private and public events that the real Krusty deems unworthy of his personal appearance.
At first, the stress of impersonating Krusty makes Homer consider quitting. However, he discovers that he receives all sorts of benefits from authority figures and businesses, because they mistake him for Krusty due to their uncanny resemblance. The impersonation goes too far when Homer is kidnapped by the mafia, who mistake him for the real clown. Mob boss Don Vittorio DiMaggio tells Homer he will kill him unless he performs a loop-de-loop on a tiny bicycle, the only trick Homer never learned to do. He fails, but the real Krusty arrives and the confused Don instead forces them to perform the trick together. The trick is a success and their lives are spared, but Krusty still has to pay off his debt to the mob — a total of $48.
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by David Silverman. Swartzwelder came up with the idea and his script required very little rewriting. The episode is one of Silverman's favorites and he was pleased to direct it, after enjoying Swartzwelder's script. Silverman felt he himself "brought a lot to the party on [this] one," and although "people didn't like [Swartzwelder's script] at the read-through," Silverman thought "the script was really funny, and I had an idea for the opening and presented it with a lot of circus music that inspired the music they used for it. It was great fun." He used it, along with "Three Men and a Comic Book", to help him when directing The Simpsons Movie.
Brad Bird also helped Silverman, particularly with Krusty's design. An early idea for The Simpsons saw Krusty the Clown being revealed as Homer Simpson's secret stage identity. This storyline never developed, but this episode allowed writers to comment upon the design similarity of the two characters. Krusty's appearance and design is just that of Homer's, with clown make-up. Silverman enhanced the lines under Krusty's eyes, and reshaped his beard line in order to make a clearer distinction between the two characters.
Homer beating up the Estonian dwarf (who first appeared in "Burns' Heir") was a joke Matt Groening "had trouble with". David Mirkin wanted the scene to be violent, but Silverman stated that he thought he had animated the finished product to be too realistic. However, nothing was changed. Fox objected to the mafia buying ammunition from a Big 5 Sporting Goods until Mirkin pointed out that Big 5 sold ammunition. The second act break was, up until the animatic, after Fat Tony's line "cancel the world search."
Joe Mantegna returned as Fat Tony. Mirkin said Mantegna is a joy to direct and that Mantegna loves the role so much, he wishes to voice him "even if he only coughs". Dick Cavett guest starred as himself. Mirkin commented that Cavett's part was probably the "meanest" they had ever been to a guest star. Cavett often told stories involving himself and other famous people and Mirkin decided to make light of that. Cavett did not have any objections.
The episode's title is reference to the character Homey the Clown from the sketch comedy show In Living Color. Krusty lights a cigarette with an issue of Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman, and one of the rarest comic books of all-time, while Homer forms his mashed potatoes into a circus tent in a parody of Richard Dreyfuss' character forming his potatoes into a replica of Devils Tower in the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The episode contains several references to films related to organized crime, such as the notes played on the wine glasses during Homer and Krusty's bicycle trick forming those of the theme from the film The Godfather. Additionally, Silverman inserted a low-angle shot of Fat Tony sitting in a chair as a tribute to a similar shot of Sydney Greenstreet's character in The Maltese Falcon, while Don Vittorio is based on actors William Hickey and Don Ameche.
In its original American broadcast, "Homie the Clown" finished 59th (tied with Behind Closed Doors II) in the ratings for the week of February 5 to February 12, 1995, helping Fox to an overall Nielsen rating of 7.9. The episode was the fifth highest rated show on the Fox network that week.
Mike Brantley of The Mobile Register named "Homie the Clown" the 48th greatest television episode of all-time. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, stated the episode was "notable for its scenes of Homer on trying to emulate Krusty's mini-trike loop the loops." Ryan Keefer of DVD Verdict felt it "features one of the more amusing stunts to cap an episode", giving it an A. Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide said in a review of the sixth season DVD that the episode "offers a truly terrific show," and also praised the "clever Close Encounters reference, and the ways that it ties together Krusty's mob connection with Homer," concluding "it's a real winner."
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Created by Matt Groening; edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ASIN 0006388981. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. ISBN 0-00-638898-1, 978-0-00-638898-2. p. 174.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Homie the Clown". BBC. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- Mirkin, David. (2005) Commentary for "Homie the Clown", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Silverman, David. (2005) Commentary for "Homie the Clown", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Merrie Leininger (2007-07-27). "Simpsons super-sized". Reno Gazette-Journal. p. 01E.
- Peter Brown (2007-07-31). "Interview: 'Simpsons Movie' Director David Silverman Loves Making D'oh". iF Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- Larry Carroll (2007-07-26). "'Simpsons' Trivia, From Swearing Lisa To 'Burns-Sexual' Smithers". MTV. Retrieved 2007-07-29.
- Groening, Matt. (2005) Commentary for "Homie the Clown", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Associated Press (1995-02-16). "Nielsen Ratings". The Tampa Tribune. p. 6.
- Mike Brantley (1999-12-31). "Timeless television". The Mobile Register. p. D01.
- Keefer, Ryan (2005-08-29). "DVD Verdict Review — The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
- Jacobson, Colin (2003). "The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season (1994)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
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- "Homie the Clown" at The Simpsons.com
- "Homie the Clown" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Homie the Clown" at TV.com
- "Homie the Clown" at the Internet Movie Database