Eulogy For Chuckles Lauds Clown, Laughter, Trouser Effervescence

Mary reacts to eulogy for her WJM colleague, Chuckles The Clown

A little song,
A little dance,
A little seltzer down your pants

Chuckles The Clown
WJM TV Minneapolis, MN

____________________

Chuckles Bites The Dust Is The Heck of a Guy Heck of a Eulogy Award Winner In The Following Categories:

  • Best Eulogy For A Fictional Character
  • Most Delightful Eulogy
  • Best Eulogy Delivered Using The Phrase, “I hurt my foo-foo”

The Life and Death of Chuckles

The Wikipedia entry for Chuckles the Clown is admirable for its thoroughness in tracking that character’s appearances on the Mary Tyler Moore Show prior to the October 25, 1975 episode in which, as its title notes, “Chuckles Bites The Dust,”1 and its refusal to indulge in histrionics over the death of a TV entertainer.

Chuckles’ first on-camera appearance was in the episode “The Snow Must Go On,” originally broadcast Nov. 7, 1970. … Chuckles 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 on the air in clown-character. Chuckles later had a brief non-speaking role in the third season episode “Who’s in Charge Here?” … Chuckles has a meeting with Lou Grant, who has been temporarily promoted to WJM’s program manager. Chuckles is seen arriving for the meeting in full clown make-up. … Chuckles’ 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.

In “Chuckles Bites the Dust” Chuckles is chosen as the grand marshal for a circus parade. During the parade, tragedy strikes. Lou Grant breaks the news to the folks at WJM.

Excerpt from script:

Lou enters, genuinely stricken.

LOU
(Mutters)
Oh my! Oh, dear…!

MARY
Mr. Grant…?

LOU
(Really shaken)
Something terrible has happened.

MURRAY
(Sober)
What is it, Lou?

LOU
Someone we all know is dead.

MARY
What! Mr. Grant–who?

LOU
(Getting control)
No… I won’t tell you about it now… I don’t want to upset you…

MARY
(Frantic)
Mr. Grant!!…

LOU
Where’s Ted? I gotta tell Ted…

MURRAY
He’s on the air, Lou. What happened? Who died? Tell us!

LOU
(Still dazed)
Chuckles. Chuckles the Clown is dead. It was a freak accident. He went to the parade dressed as Peter Peanut… and a rogue elephant tried to shell him.

They are both stunned.

MARY
Oh Mr. Grant…

LOU
(Moving to door)
I gotta get this on the air. You start working on the formal obituary, Murray. Chuckles’ real name was George… his wife’s name is Louise…

Lou starts out, then turns in the doorway, with an afterthought.

LOU
…The elephant’s name is Jocko…

The circumstances of Chuckles’s death occasions much joking and laughter, except for Mary, who remonstrates the others for behaving disrespectfully.

Excerpt from script:

MURRAY
I’m sorry, Lou, but I can’t stop. I’ve been doing it ever since you gave us the news yesterday afternoon.

LOU
Me, too. It was some shock.

MURRAY
(Very serious)
It sure was.

LOU
A real tragedy.

MURRAY
(Ditto)
Terrible thing.

LOU
Lucky *more* people weren’t hurt. Lucky that elephant didn’t go after anybody else.

MURRAY
(Solemnly)
That’s right. After all, you know how hard it is to stop after just one peanut…

Murray goes to pieces. Can’t help it. Breaks up completely.

LOU
(Going fast)
That’s not funny, Murray…
(He breaks up too)

LOU
Chuckles worked at this station for twenty years. The least we can do is put together some kind of tribute to him.

MURRAY
I think I got a title for it. “Requiem For A Peanut.”

Murray immediately regrets having said it, and covers his face. Lou gives him a reproachful look.

LOU
That isn’t very respectful, Murray.

MARY
Then why are you laughing?

SUE ANN
Mary, dear–don’t the circumstances strike you as being the least little bit… bizarre?

LOU
After all, the guy died wearing a peanut suit, killed by an elephant.

MURRAY
Yeah–born in a trunk, *died* in a trunk!

MARY
Okay. *Forget* what he was wearing! Suppose he *hadn’t* been dressed as a peanut–would it still be funny?

There is a pause while they all consider that. Then Murray, very somberly, says:

MURRAY
…It could have been worse… he could have gone as Billy Banana–and had a gorilla peel him to death.

Without a word, Mary tosses clipboard on desk and exits

The Funeral

At the funeral, however, everyone except Mary is overcome with grief while Mary cannot help but laugh during the service – until the minister observes that her laughter was congruent with Chuckles’s wishes, at which time she suddenly breaks into inconsolable sobbing.

The Eulogies

While references to the eulogy in Chuckles Bites The Dust invariably have to do with the minister’s oratory at the end of the episode, Ted Baxter serves up a dandy ad-lib offering at the end of his newscast after Lou Grant tells him about the traumatic death of Chuckles during a commercial break.

TED (ON THE AIR)
(Reverently)
Ladies and gentlemen–sad news… one of our most beloved entertainers and a close personal friend of mine is dead. Chuckles the Clown died today of — (flounders, can’t think how to put it) …um, died today a broken man! Chuckles… um, leaves a wife. At least I assume he was married… he didn’t seem like the other kind… I don’t know his age, but I’d say he was probably in his early sixties … of course, it’s hard to judge by a guy’s face–especially when he’s wearing big lips and a lightbulb for a nose… Anyhow, he had his whole life in front of him–except the sixty years he’s already lived… I remember… Chuckles had a motto he used to recite at the end of his shows. It was called “The Credo of a Clown.” I’d like to offer it now, in his memory… (religiously) “A little song–A little dance–A little seltzer down your pants.” That’s what it’s all about, folks… that’s what he stood for–that’s what gave his life meaning… (Ted is winging now) Chuckles liked to make people laugh. And you know what I’d like to think? I’d like to think that somewhere up there tonight– (eye heavenward) behind those pearly gates… in the Great Beyond, where some day all must go… somewhere up there tonight, in honor of Chuckles, a celestial choir of angels… (his big finish) …is sitting on whoopie cushions. (Quickly) Ted Baxter, good night and good news!

The official funeral eulogy is even better, at least within the context of the funeral scene:

BURKE [The minister officiating at the funeral]
Chuckles the Clown gave 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.

Mary stifles a laugh.

BURKE
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 Senor Caboom would hit him with the giant cucumber and knock him down? Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo would always pick himself up, dust himself off and say, “I hurt my foo-foo.”

Mary again stifles a laugh. The others in the row glare at her.

BURKE
Life’s a lot like that. From time to time we all fall down and hurt our foo-foo’s.

Mary again stifles a laugh. Other people turn to look at her.

BURKE
If only we could all deal with it as simple 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 has great difficulty in stifling herself here. Many people turn to look at her.

BURKE
(Looking right at Mary)
Excuse me, young lady… yes you… would you stand up please?

Mary, with no alternative, stands up.

BURKE
You feel like laughing, don’t you? Don’t try to stop yourself. Go ahead, laugh out loud. Don’t you see? Nothing could have made Chuckles happier. He lived to make people laugh. He found tears offensive, deeply offensive. He hated to see people cry. Go ahead, my dear–laugh.

Mary bursts into tears

The Videos

While the entire Chuckles Bites The Dust episode and excerpts from that show have been on You Tube and other sites, these videos have repeatedly been withdrawn or removed. As of 21 May 2011, the scenes that include Lou’s announcement of the accident leading to the demise of Chuckles and the eulogy, with Mary’s reactions during the funeral, are available below.

Lou Grant Has Bad News About Chuckles the Clown

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Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckles the Clown’s Funeral

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Previous Heck of a Guy blog entries dealing with eulogies

  1. Chuckles Bites The Dust was ranked #1 on TV Guide’s “The 100 Best 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.” []

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