Mary Tyler Moore Show, The: "Chuckles Bites the Dust"
About This Show
"Chuckles Bites the Dust" is an episode of the television situation comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show which aired October 25, 1975. The episode centers on the death of Chuckles the Clown, an often-mentioned but seldom seen character on the TV series (he was the star of an eponymously titled series airing on WJM-TV), and the news staff's reaction to the seemingly absurd circumstances of Chuckles' death.
Chuckles is hired as the grand marshal for a circus parade, after news anchor Ted Baxter is ordered by director Lou Grant to turn it down. In the parade, Chuckles is asked to dress in character as Peter Peanut. During the parade, a "rogue" elephant spots Chuckles and tries to shell him. Chuckles dies from his injuries.
Upon receiving the news, Lou rushes into the newsroom and announces the death to the newsroom staff. The unusual circumstances of Chuckles' death provoke a wave of jokes, especially by Lou, Sue Ann Nivens, and Murray Slaughter ("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"). Baxter's on air announcement of the tragedy results in him barely being able to contain his laughter. Everyone in the newsroom begins collapsing into 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 become properly somber, with one exception: Mary inexplicably feels a strong urge to laugh at the minister's remarks. 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. 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 are shocked at her behavior, but the minister tells the mortified Mary that laughter was actually in keeping with Chuckles's wishes and urges her to "Laugh for Chuckles," at which point she breaks into uncontrollable sobbing.
This episode had at one time been ranked #1 on TV Guide's "100 Greatest Episodes Of All Time". It is now ranked #3 on TV Guide's "100 Greatest Episodes Of All Time". It was directed by Joan Darling and written by David Lloyd, who received an Emmy for "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series."