Chuckles Bites the Dust

In the “not about language” file, something personal (You Have Been Warned):

The NYT of November 13 carried an obit (by Bruce Weber) for David Lloyd, who wrote “scores of scripts for some of the most popular television sitcoms of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s”. Headed:

David Lloyd, 75, Dies
Wrote ‘Chuckles’ Episode

The reference was to a 1975 episode (“Chuckles Bites the Dust”) of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (with MTM as an earnest news producer for a Minneapolis television station), in which

[news anchor Ted Baxter] is invited to be the grand marshal of a circus parade, but [station manager Lou Grant] forbids it as undignified. Ted’s replacement is Chuckles the Clown, the host of a children’s show on the same television station. But on the day of the parade, Lou rushes into the newsroom, stunned, and explains that Chuckles, who attended the parade dressed as one of his characters, Peter Peanut, had been crushed to death. As Lou explains it, “a rogue elephant tried to shell him.”

This is funny enough, but then, at the funeral the priest lists Chuckles’s characters (Mr. Fe Fi Fo) and catchphrases (“A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants”), and Mary involuntarily dissolves in laughter, then (when the priest encourages her to let it all out) bursts into tears.

It’s a comic gem, all the more so for being compressed into a small space. (Kudos to the director and the ensemble cast as well.)

Lloyd wrote many wonderful scripts, but it pleases me that on his death he’s recognized so publicly for one of them. As an old man, I would like to think that when I die people will celebrate at least one of the things I’ve written (or one of the lectures I’ve given).

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