The Simpsons Season 30 Episode 8 Review: Krusty the Clown

The Simpsons get back to serious silliness as Krusty the Clown uncovers the truth behind the glut of scripted shows.

This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.

The Simpsons: Season 30 Episode 8

One of the first rules of comedy, and it goes back to Vaudeville, is if you’re not getting a laugh, drop your pants. There is no one better to put the seltzer in the water of a tired joke than the title character of The Simpsons season 30 episode 8, “Krusty the Clown.” The series is groaning in old age since it became the longest running comedy in TV history, and Krusty was old when it started. Not that it matters in a town which houses a family with a baby who’s still an infant more than a generation after conception. The series has been more clever than funny lately and in need of serious silliness.

A vengeful clown finds his roots. In Krusty’s case that’s a loud fringe of green. No, he was never a circus clown, never went to clown college. He is no Emmett Kelley. He doesn’t have the heart of John Wayne Gacy. Krusty is a low-rent Bozo on a small network. Living in and off the past, he gets taken down by encroaching modernization. The episode opens with its focus on Lisa, editor of The Daily Fourth Grader , which operated at a loss of 34 dollars the prior semester. An intrepid reporter worthy of her His Girl Friday bona fides, she gets tossed aside for a fifth grader who demands headlines that grab you by the book bag.

Further reading: The Simpsons Season 30 Episode 2 Review: Heartbreak Hotel

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Lisa is demoted to TV recapper, the most important job a hated online journalist can get. Hatred usually adds up to readership, but Lisa’s traditional integrity won’t let her mind sink to the lowest common denominator. What kind of person can describe TV at a fourth grade level based on a bunch of knee jerk reactions? Homer of course.  He’s already been a reviewer. His food column in the Springfield Shopper in the season 11 “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?” episode was so popular every restaurant wanted to feed him. But then he was reviewing food. There was nothing not to love, even if he was pressured to feign a loss of appetite.

But Homer is also the father who hugged the family TV and begged it never to let anything come between them again. Not even Snowball, the cat. What’s not to like? A lot, apparently, as even The Walking Dead gets a C+ because there’s too much walking and not enough dead. He’s only saying what we’re all whispering under our masks. While he appreciates the eternal struggle of futility in “Itchy and Scratchy,” Homer whips the Krusty the Clown Show right in the face with a chain like a motorcycle guy. He doesn’t care.

Krusty’s measured response to bad criticism makes him a fugitive from justice on an attempted homicide charge. With no way to hides his famous face, except maybe to take off the pancake makeup, something he did when he faked his own death in “Bart the Fink” from Season 7.  He enhances it, slumming as a circus clown with a new name and a red wig. Soggy the Clown tones his cathode ray persona down. Circus clowns hate TV clowns, riding four in a car like royalty and eating stew from a bowl.

Further reading: Marge Simpson’s Julie Kavner Is a National Treasure

Soggy the Clown’s opening night at the Ding a Ling Circus is a bust. Everything he tries to hold together gets broken and everything he’s supposed to break remains intact. By the time Krusty’s  mastered his unicycle solo the audience consists only of Bart, who looks bored. Krusty loses the gig and falls into deep nihilism, singing “who will claim my body, maybe the monkey,” on a tightrope without a net. He takes a perilous pratfall and is reborn as Soggy, the clown who wants to die. The thin skinned Hollywood narcissist turns into a fine clown. He gets hooked not only by the sound and feel of real applause, without TV prompts, but also by the fact that he never has to pass another drug test for the rest of his professional life, and after a while Hippo juice, kind of grows on you.

Homer’s job goes to his head and affects him in the bedroom. Savvy viewers will notice the husband hasn’t brushed his teeth. Marge creates what feels like false jeopardy, but they get rid of the best character early. But what happened to Lisa? They kind of dropped her and her paper off the face of the earth after bringing in the bossy fifth grader. What? She’s good for the premise and left to rot. It feels like a segment is missing and what little gap is left is taken up by Bart discovering, without the circus to kick around as an exit plan, the only place he has to run away to is college. In a not-so-telling moment, Bart runs to Krusty over his father, when the ambulances are taking the two of them away.

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Further reading: Are The Simpsons Conservative, Liberal or an Equal Opportunity Offender?

Homer quits to save his marriage, something perhaps all recappers should consider, which sets the stage for the best gag premise of the season: There are so many shows on TV, some of them aren’t really there. The USA Network originals like Suits, you’ve heard of them but have you seen them? Of course not, not even England’s Royal Family and one of them reportedly married a cast member. Those shows were never produced, but since they only got a B-minus grade, who’s going to check? Not when you learn nine things we do wrong every day while scrambling an egg.

Everyone on the jury votes in favor of justifiable Homer-cide. They can all understand why someone would want to kill him, whether he’s been reviewing the show or not. In the early days of The Simpsons, The Krusty the Clown Show was a stand-in for the series. It took the hits the yellow-bellied family had lobbed at them. Krusty’s show hired two kids to write an award-winning episode of “Itchy and Scratchy,” over-merchandised its properties and offended parents of all ages, faiths and comic persuasion. It also launched the career of Sideshow Bob. “Krusty the Clown” is a cautionary episode in that if any recapper or reviewer gives it a bad star rating, Krusty might show up for a personal drive by escort. “Krusty the Clown” is a great episode, good enough to be on season 4. It’s funny, character-driven and dare I say it? Timely, as overused a word in reviewing as the use of the comic rule of three on The Simpsons. The episode gets an A. A is for Ralph.

“Krusty the Clown” was written by Ryan Koh, and directed by Matthew Faughnan.

The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum, Professor John I.Q. Nerdelbaum Frink Jr., and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers.  Guest stars: Billy Eichner as Billy and Peter Serafinowicz as Corporate CEO.

The Simpsons‘ “Krusty the Clown” aired Sunday, November 25 at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.

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Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.


4.5 out of 5