Like Father, Like Clown
"Like Father, Like Clown" is the sixth episode of The Simpsons' third season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 24, 1991. In the episode, after recalling a traumatic memory, Krusty the Clown reveals to the Simpson family that he is of Jewish heritage, and that his father, Rabbi Hyman Krustofski, disowned him for pursuing a career in comedy. Krusty is emotionally upset and Bart and Lisa decide to try to reunite Krusty with his long-estranged father.
"Like Father, Like Clown" was written by the duo of Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky. Krusty's religion had not been part of the original concept of the character, so Kogen and Wolodarsky decided to parody the 1927 film The Jazz Singer and establish that Krusty is Jewish. The episode was carefully researched and two rabbis, Lavi Meier and Harold M. Schulweis, were credited as "special technical consultants". It was directed by Jeffrey Lynch and Brad Bird; as it was Lynch's first credit as a director, Bird was assigned to help him. Comedian Jackie Mason, who had once been an ordained rabbi, provided the voice of Rabbi Krustofski. The rabbi later became an infrequently recurring character voiced by Dan Castellaneta. Mason returned to voice the character in several later episodes.
In its original broadcast, "Like Father, Like Clown" finished 34th in ratings with a Nielsen rating of 12.7. Jackie Mason won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1992 for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for his performance as Rabbi Krustofski.
Although Krusty the Clown agrees to have dinner with the Simpson family as part of his repayment for Bart's help in exonerating him in the episode "Krusty Gets Busted", Krusty keeps canceling, much to Bart's disappointment. An upset Bart writes a letter to Krusty saying he is no longer his fan. Krusty's secretary is so moved by the letter that she angrily threatens to quit if Krusty does not keep his promise to Bart, finally persuading him to do so. Upon learning that Krusty is coming to the Simpson house for dinner, Milhouse comes along, to which Bart reluctantly allows. When asked to say grace, Krusty recites a Hebrew blessing. Realizing that Krusty is Jewish, Lisa speaks of his heritage, making Krusty break down in tears. After some convincing from the family to why he's so depressed about it, Krusty tells the family his real name, Herschel Krustofski, and describes his upbringing in the Lower East Side of Springfield.
His father, Hyman Krustofski, was a rabbi and strongly opposed young Herschel's wish to become a comedian; he wanted the boy to go to yeshiva instead. Krusty did attend the school, where he said he made the other students laugh by doing funny impressions of his father. As a result, Krusty became a slapstick comedian behind his father's back. One night, Krusty performed at a rabbi's convention and a rabbi squirted seltzer on him, washing off his clown makeup. Rabbi Krustofski, who was in the audience, recognized him, was furious and disowned his son, and now it has been 25 years since they have seen or spoken to each other.
In the weeks following this admission, Krusty thinks about his father and becomes depressed, breaking down on live television after watching a father-son related Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. Bart and Lisa decide to help reunite father and son, but the rabbi still refuses to accept Krusty's career choice, explaining that Krusty "turned his back on their traditions, on their faith, and on him". They decide to try to outsmart the rabbi, and Lisa does research and finds Judaic teachings that urge forgiveness, but Rabbi Krustofski has responses for each of them out of stubbornness. In a last-ditch effort, Bart convinces the rabbi to realize his stubborn ways with a quote from Sammy Davis, Jr., a Jewish entertainer just like Krusty, in which the entertainer makes a passionate speech about the struggles that the Jewish people have overcome. This quote finally convinces Rabbi Krustofski that entertainers have a place in Jewish heritage. A deeply depressed Krusty is glumly doing a live telecast of his show, when Rabbi Krustofski appears. The two joyously hug and reconcile in front of the audience of children, with Rabbi Krustofsky accepting a cream pie from Bart and throwing it in his son's face.
"Like Father, Like Clown" was written by the duo of Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky. Krusty's religion had not been part of the original concept of the character, so Kogen and Wolodarsky decided to parody The Jazz Singer and establish that Krusty is Jewish. They pitched the idea to co-executive producer Sam Simon, who rejected it, but it was approved by James L. Brooks. Krusty's last name, Krustofski, was established in this episode as pitched by Al Jean. The portion of the episode where characters quote the Bible in support or opposition of clowning were carefully researched. Cited passages from the Bible include Exodus 20:12 and Joshua 1:8. The quotations from the Talmud were also researched, and two rabbis, Lavi Meier and Harold M. Schulweis, were credited as "special technical consultants". Schulweis was asked to take a look at a draft of the script. While not a fan of the show, he felt "it was profound" and added some corrections. He later commented, "I thought it had a Jewish resonance to it. I was impressed by the underlying moral seriousness."
The episode was co-directed by Jeffrey Lynch and Brad Bird. It was Lynch's first credit as a director, so Bird was assigned to help him out and "usher [Lynch] into the world of directing things quickly". Krusty is one of Bird's favorite characters, and he always tries to animate a scene in every Krusty episode.
Rabbi Krustofski was voiced by Jackie Mason, who had once been an ordained rabbi, but had resigned to become a comedian. Mason recorded his lines in New York City, and Dan Castellaneta, voice of Krusty, went there to record with him. In the script, Bart and Lisa try to trick Rabbi Krustofski into meeting with Krusty by arranging a lunch date between him and Saul Bellow, the "Nobel Prize-winning Jewish novelist". Originally, this was intended to be Isaac Bashevis Singer, but the writers changed it when Singer died. Mason's lines had to be re-recorded in order to complete the change. Rabbi Krustofski became an infrequently recurring character, and his occasional speaking parts were voiced by Castellaneta. Mason later returned to voice the rabbi in "Today I Am a Clown" in the fifteenth season, "Once Upon a Time in Springfield" in the twenty-first season, and "Clown in the Dumps" in the twenty-sixth season, in which the character dies.
The episode is an homage to the film The Jazz Singer, about a son with a strict religious upbringing who defies his father to become an entertainer. The film is mentioned when Rabbi Krustofski states, "Oh, if you were a musician or a jazz singer, this I could forgive!" Lisa tells Homer that there are many Jewish entertainers, including Lauren Bacall, Dinah Shore, William Shatner and Mel Brooks, the latter of which shocks Homer. In Krusty's flashback, he and his father walk down the street in a parody of a scene from The Godfather Part II. In the Simpsons house, Krusty plays The Concert for Bangladesh. In Krusty's studio, there are pictures of him with Alfred Hitchcock and The Beatles. At the end of the episode, Krusty and his father sing "O Mein Papa", a 1952 song originally by Eddie Fisher. Bart quotes a passage from Sammy Davis, Jr.'s 1965 autobiography Yes, I Can. When Rabbi Krustofski reads the menu at a restaurant, the sandwiches are named after Jewish comedians including Joey Bishop, Jackie Mason (the voice of Rabbi Krustofski) and Krusty the Clown himself.
In its original broadcast, "Like Father, Like Clown" finished 34th in ratings for the week of October 21–27, 1991, with a Nielsen rating of 12.7. It was the highest rated program on Fox that week. Mason won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1992 for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for his performance as Rabbi Krustofski. He was one of six voice actors from The Simpsons to win the award in its inaugural year. He is one of three The Simpsons guest stars to win the award; Marcia Wallace won in 1992 for voicing Edna Krabappel, and Kelsey Grammer won for voicing Sideshow Bob in 2006.
The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, called the episode, "a magnificent show, with Jackie Mason wonderfully over the top as Krusty's long-lost pa, and Lois Pennycandy giving Krusty a good talking to about Bart." Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz of The Star-Ledger listed "Like Father, Like Clown" as one of the ten episodes of The Simpsons that shows the "comic and emotional scope of the show." They wrote, "Most Krusty the Klown episodes go heavy on celebrity cameos, while playing up the character's misanthropic greed. This one gave him a heart, as Bart and Lisa try to reunite him with his estranged rabbi father (voice of Jackie Mason), who has never forgiven his son for going into show biz." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson wrote that the episode "lacks a surfeit of guffaws, but it manages to be sweet and heartfelt without becoming sappy. It's more of a charming show than a laughfest, but it does the job."
- Richmond & Coffman 1997, p. 67.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Like Father, Like Clown". BBC. Retrieved 2009-06-23.
- Jean, Al. (2003). Commentary for "Like Father, Like Clown", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Kogen, Jay. (2003). Commentary for "Like Father, Like Clown", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Pinsky 2007, pp. 155–156
- Pinsky 2007, p. 150
- Bird, Brad. (2003). Commentary for "Like Father, Like Clown", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
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- Castellaneta, Dan. (2003). Commentary for "Like Father, Like Clown", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
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- Pinsky 2007, p. 151
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- Jacobson, Colin (2003-08-21). "The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season (1991)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M.
- Pinsky, Mark I. (2007). The Gospel According to The Simpsons, Bigger and Possibly Even Better! edition (Second ed.). Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-23160-6.
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