Chuckles the Clown
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|Chuckles the Clown|
|First appearance||"The Snow Must Go On"|
November 5th, 1970
|Last appearance||"Son of 'But Seriously, Folks'"|
October 27th, 1973
|Portrayed by||Richard Schaal (1970)|
Unknown walk-on (1972)
Mark Gordon (1973)
|Alias||George Bowerchuck (real name)|
|Spouse||Louise Bowerchuck (until 1975; his death)|
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.
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.
Prior to the show's debut in September 1970, Daily Variety reported that Lennie Weinrib had been cast in an episode called "Chuckles the Clown", but it doesn't appear to have been made, and Weinrib never appeared on the series.
Chuckles's first on-camera appearance was in the episode "The Snow Must Go On". Richard Schaal portrayed 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 following 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.'
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.
- Richard Schaal, TV Actor and Second City Veteran, Dies at 86 - The New York Times, November 6, 2014
- Daily Variety, Aug. 11, 1970, page 11, column 1
- Comic Actor Richard Schaal Dies at 86 - The Hollywood Reporter, November 5, 2014