749. Clown V. Board of Education

Original airdate: May 14, 2023

The premise: In an effort to save the rapidly dying clowning industry, Krusty starts up his own clowning school, attracting Bart and other like-minded jokesters. When the school proves to be a success, Fat Tony enters the picture, looking to get into the education racket.

The reaction: Boy, this plot summary sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Although by the time the episode actually gets rolling, even when Fat Tony eventually shows up, the similarities between this and “Homie the Clown” instantly dry up. “Homie” was about Krusty lending out his likeness to other poor schlubs to work low-level gigs for him and make some extra moolah, with us seeing it through the eyes of one of those poor schlubs, Homer. This episode features Krusty starting a clown school to herald a new generation of performing jesters, as we see that he can barely get an audience for his own show anymore. I’ve talked about many times how antiquated a character Krusty is; in 1990, he was already a throwback to the TV kiddie performers Matt Groening and other Gen Xers watched when they were kids. I was actually shocked to find out The Bozo the Clown Show was still running until 2001, that’s much longer than I thought it would be. But we’re over twenty years past that, with kids who were basically born with tablets in their hands. Why the hell would anybody watch Krusty’s show? So this episode at least addresses that, with Krusty and his fellow down-and-out colleagues bemoaning how their industry is on death’s door. Krusty’s solution is to open a school to get kids into clowning, which he quickly gets a ready-and-eager class of children for… but wasn’t the whole point of the opening that kids don’t give a crap about clowns? Krusty also is excited to get rich off of private school tuition, but if it’s that pricey, how are Bart, Milhouse, Nelson, and others affording to pay? Whatever. The school itself is actually teaching academics, which I don’t know why, because the whole point was to turn kids into performers, but Bart crushes it at a science competition wearing clown make-up and riding a unicycle, so I guess it’s both? Then Fat Tony shows up and turns Krusty into another one of his scam businesses to run his affairs through, and it’s all just so boring. And another topic I’ve discussed before, how uninteresting Fat Tony and his gang are now, since it’s just the same mafia jokes we’ve seen a million times before. With them and Krusty together, this feels like an episode from over a decade ago. Actually, it reminded me a lot of a 2000s-era Simpsons comic, with a premise that feels a little too silly for an actual episode, and then they kind of sleepwalk through it and that it’s the last page. Definitely one of the lazier offerings this season.

Three items of note:
– There’s a feeble attempt to make this episode have some emotional element to it with Krusty repeatedly talking to a portrait of his late father, himself a faith teacher of men, hoping he could make him proud for his new educational endeavor, except it doesn’t feel like it means anything. Again, I’m really not sure if Krusty’s mission is to train kids to be clown performers to save his line of work, or to run an actual school. It’s set up as the former, then becomes the latter, with no real bridge between them. The episode ends with Krusty hearing Bart ask him out for nachos, thinking he said “naches,” the Yiddish term for parental pride, an incredibly labored and sweaty bit, but I guess it’s good enough to feel like some kind of a meaningful ending.
– Krusty’s school seems to be filled with Springfield Elementary regulars (Ralph, Sherri & Terri, Janey, Lewis, etc.), but there’s no real look at how it affects that school. They compete in the science challenge, and Lisa rabble-rouses about Bart for a little, but that’s basically it. Skinner’s lost a big chunk of his student body, how is that not part of the plot? Instead he’s randomly there at the science thing, and Agnes is also standing there, telling him he can’t come to her funeral. Okay.
– Almost all episodes recently have had no opening title sequence, just getting right into things, since I guess commercial time has just gotten longer and longer. Episodes nowadays are barely getting to 21 minutes including credits. As such, we’ve seen a lot of extended scenes happen during the credits, just so they can get another scene in somewhere. This time, we see Fat Tony doing the morning announcements at Krusty’s school, which clearly seems to be a scene that got cut for time, but I guess they liked it so much they slapped it at the end. We also get an unnecessary “ONE WEEK EARLIER” chyron on the screen, I guess to not confuse you as to why this scene is happening after we’ve already seen Fat Tony burn down Krusty’s school for the insurance payout. In the scene, we hear Fat Tony tell the kids not to go into the meat locker, and how they “didn’t see nothin’,” all while Krusty is sadly filling cream into cannolis. There’s actually been quite a few Fat Tony episodes this season, and I really don’t know why. Like I said, the vein is completely tapped on mafia jokes, there’s absolutely nothing left to do. Joe Mantegna has famously talked about how much he loves doing the character, and I’m sure he’s fun to have in to do the voice, so I guess that’s reason enough?

7 thoughts on “749. Clown V. Board of Education

  1. Homie the Clown is genuinely one of my favorite episodes, in no large part due to the show analyzing Homer’s invasive thoughts and the fact that the gig absolutely sucks, leading into him instead using his uncanny similarities for free shit, which absolutely fits into what Homer Simpson would do. Of course, an episode like that today would have to make it about Homer replacing Krusty altogether as a performer, and that’s lame.

    Next week is the season finale, where it’s yet another relationship episode and Homer, quite literally, has an adventure through the windshield glass.

  2. Also, the mafia are acting all mafia like, like they’re a cartoon mafia. I know this is a Jean episode but if someone goes “erm, actually Selman showran this one”, then it just shows how homogenous these episodes are now that I can’t tell the difference.

  3. I have a very strong suspicion that this is one of those “we came up with the pun title first and then wrote the story around it” episodes.

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