Lifetime of Simpsons

S26 E01 – Clown in the Dumps

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After yesterday’s unpleasantness, it feels nice to get back to the real Simpsons, and ring in the 26th season with today’s episode. It kind of feels like a masterpiece next to yesterday’s trainwreck, but in objective terms it’s kind of just fine. Not exactly a flashy way to open the 26th season, but whatever. We do get a fun and surreal opening sequence animated by Don Hertzfeldt, which ends up feeling incredibly similar to his magnificent World of Tomorrow short. So that’s cool!

The actual episode begins with a frankly baffling little scene that I’m still not sure I understand. It begins with Bart, Lisa, and Milhouse placing a coffee table with a bowl of popcorn on it in front of the couch. They measure out the distance from the couch, and then hide so they can watch what happens when Homer comes to sit down. Homer gets into his groove, and tries to reach for the popcorn, finding it just out of reach. But he keeps stretching until his fingers appear to break under the strain. Why? No idea! Because we move on immediately.

As soon as Homer’s fingers snap the kids come out from their hiding place, and just get ready to watch TV with Homer, because that evening there’s going to be a Roast of Krusty the Klown. The kids are very excited, and we quickly learn that this is a very typical modern Roast. They even have Jeff Ross hosting and taking aim at Krusty. And, as usual, the comedians quickly start piling on Krusty, mocking every little thing about him.

And, really, Krusty seems not to mind it. His biggest problem seems to be that they keep taking his laughs before he can make the same jokes. But eventually the whole affair really starts to wear down on Krusty, so when it’s his turn for a rebuttal, he kind of loses his cool, and starts yelling about the whole process, primarily the fact that he doesn’t even know these comedians, and they apparently had to find random people to make fun of him because he doesn’t have any real friends.

After this little outburst Krusty starts to get really depressed, and at the next taping of his show Bart hangs around to chat with him. Krusty and Bart talk a bit, and Bart tells him that if he’s feeling lost he should talk to his father, Rabbi Krustofski. Krusty thinks this is a great idea, and heads over to the Temple to talk to his father. And, feeling some low self-esteem, Krusty decides to just flat out as Rabbi Krustofski if he thinks he’s funny.

Rabbi Krustofski isn’t quite sure how to respond to this, since he isn’t usually the warmest person in the world. He lists some other people, mostly Rabbis, that he does find funny, but when he gets to Krusty, he just says “eh” and trails off. Forever. Because at this point Rabbi Krustofski dies, right in the middle of his sentence, sitting at his desk, with Krusty watching. Krusty obviously begins panicking, but there’s nothing to do. His father has passed away.

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We then head straight to Rabbi Krustofski’s funeral, which the Simpsons are obviously attending. Krusty manages to saw some sweet words about his father, but the more he thinks about his father the more he starts to panic. He starts seeing everyone in the Temple as his father, and starts hearing everyone just saying “eh” haunting him with his father’s final words. He just can’t get over the idea that his father never thought he was talented.

And during this funeral, and the ensuing reception, we’re introduced to a very slight and inconsequential B-Plot. It begins with Lisa hearing Krusty’s sadness over the loss of his father, causing her to start worrying about losing Homer. She becomes terrified that Homer could die at any moment, and becomes fixated on his health. Which is obviously a losing battle, since Homer just starts eating nonstop at the reception, much to the horror of Lisa.

Krusty then begins seeing a clown-specific grief counselor, trying to get to the root of his problems. Even though it seems pretty clear what his problem is. They talk a lot about his childhood, and how Rabbi Krustofski raised him, which is mainly just a lot of incidents of the Rabbi shooting down all of Krusty’s attempts at humor. And this therapy really isn’t helping, so Krusty just gets more and more depressed, until he finally decides he can’t do his show any more, and retires yet again.

Meanwhile, Lisa is still fixating on Homer’s health, and it’s starting to driver her crazy. She tracks all of Homer’s movements and actions, and becomes convinced that he’ll suffocate in the middle of the night. He tries to convince Marge that she should start sleeping in their room so that she can save Homer if need be, but Marge deflects it and insists that she has it all taken care of, and that Lisa shouldn’t worry about such things. Which she ignores.

Now that Krusty has stopped doing his show, he really has nothing else to do but wallow in his own misery, becoming more and more depressed. Bart is still really concerned about this, so he decides to try and cheer Krusty up. He shows up at Krusty’s house, and tries cheering him up by showing him a bunch of old clips of Krusty. Which really backfires when Krusty realizes that his act never really changed, and the he made the same hacky jokes for decades.

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So, after confronting the idea that he actually may have never been funny, Krusty decides to start getting super drunk. And, of course, this leads to some sort of alcohol-induced hallucination where Krusty gets transported to Jewish Heaven. It’s mainly just a lot of hacky jokes, like having Kosher Pickle forests and dreidel shops. But Krusty seems really impressed with the place.

However, as Krusty is wandering around Jewish Heaven with what appears to be a bad impression of Rodney Dangerfield, he’s suddenly approached by Rabbi Krustofski who has some bad news. He explains that there’s no such thing as Jewish Heaven, and that this is a fantasy. He also still refuses to say if Krusty was funny or not, but says that that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Krusty do something good with his life, and that he feels fulfilled.

But before we get to that, we need to finish the Lisa/Homer safety plot. Which doesn’t really have a satisfying conclusion. We just hop over to see Lisa busily bubble-wrapping Homer while he’s asleep in the hammock. He wakes up and tells Lisa that she shouldn’t worry about him, and that he’ll be fine. At which point Otto drives the bus straight into their backyard, smashing into Homer. And he’s only alive because of the bubble wrap. So, I’m not sure what the moral there is.

Anyway, Krusty awakens from his hallucination and decides he should do something good with his life. He then manages to open a retirement home for circus animals, but finds that this still isn’t the answer. He’s about to slip back into depression, when Bart shows up and says that he found something to help. Bart then brings Krusty to a Temple, where one of the Rabbis that Rabbi Krustofski said is funny preaches. And, when they give his sermon a listen, they realize that he’s ripping off all of Krusty’s jokes. So, if Rabbi Krustofski found this guy funny, he found Krusty funny. Which is a good enough answer for him!

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You know, I feel like Krusty episodes sure haven’t been up to snuff lately. They used to be some really fun episode, and delving into the twisted and tortured life of Krusty the Klown usually lead to some fun episode. But lately it’s just kind of all the same. Krusty realizes he’s a hack, he retires, and he finds out he’s not a hack. That’s really all there is to these episodes anymore. This one just had the added spice of killing off Krusty’s father. Which I guess is a way to begin a new season of the show. I don’t know, this episode is just really forgettable. It just uses all the usual “Krusty’s career is in peril” and the “Krusty’s personal life is a mess” tropes, and doesn’t do anything different with them. Honestly, I’ll probably mix up parts of this episode with other recent Krusty episodes, because they’re all just the same. Oh well, at least it’s better than Family Guy.

Take Away: What matters most in life is if you do something good, and something that makes you feel fulfilled.

 

“Clown in the Dumps” was written by Joel H Cohen and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2014.

 

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