This week’s episode starts with three Itchy & Scratchy parodies: “The Cat’s Speech,” which satirizes The King’s Speech; “The Social Petwork,” which cleverly skewers the way that The Social Network told part of its story in text-heavy splash screens at the end; and “Black And Blue Swan,” which is mainly just Itchy killing Scratchy while performing ballet. The best part of this segment is when Krusty, irate at how much of his show is being filled with cartoons, points out that all the movies they are mocking are over a year old. “It’s like those parodies were written when the movies came out,” he says, “but it took so long to animate them that we look dated and hacky!” Ha!
The script, written by Dan Castellaneta and his wife Deb Lacusta, is funny throughout and unafraid to pile on more sweet, sweet meta-humor. For instance, the Simpsons visit a museum of TV where Homer admires Fatso Flanagan, a slightly more violent Honeymooners knockoff. When Marge points out the similarities to the Honeymooners, Homer dips her à la Jackie Gleason, and she calls him “Ralph,” “Fred,” “Archie,” and “King of Queens” before hitting on “Homer.” While Homer admires Fatso’s size 48 pants, his agent, the hapless Annie Dubinsky, appears and offers them her card, which entitles them to free representation. Annie is voiced by Joan Rivers.
Meanwhile, Krusty is getting the heave-ho from his network for his dated references. He goes to see his agent, who similarly tosses him. The Simpsons, on their way back from the TV museum, find him bawling in a Krustyburger ball pit, and take him to see the agent they just met, Annie. Annie knows him already, though. As she explains, in the 1960s, she helped transform his persona from that of a black-turtlenecked bohemian comic to the pratfalling clown that made his career. She refuses to forgive him for leaving her, but when he begs, she quickly relents. In another bit of meta-commentary, Krusty’s 1960s audience includes a youthful Jasper Beardly, a youthful Hans Moleman, and Seymour Skinner, looking exactly the same as he does in the present.
Annie books Krusty for a series of live stand-up recreations of his shows for adults, pointing out that nostalgia is big business. There are at least three versions of the same joke about how people love nostalgia in this segment, and all of them are funny. In their excitement, Krusty and Annie spark back up their decades-old fling. Krusty’s success brings in an offer from the premium channel HBOWTIME, which proudly pays for its quality shows with soft porno and boxing. Krusty, uncharacteristically smitten with Annie, insists that she be his producer. She proves to be a battleaxe on set, though, and the HBOWTIME brass, annoyed that she is engaging in the sort of meddling that only they are allowed to do, insist that Krusty fire her. Krusty has an unlikely moment of growth, though, and opts to lose the show and keep Annie, even though this means that they both turn up on The Knowledge Network’s “Sex Over 60: The Mechanics Of The Impossible.”
It’s possible that I’m just a sucker for a good Krusty episode, but this one really worked for me. Unlike last week’s Mad Men parody, this one has a guest star who can employ her trademark humor within the world of The Simpsons without hijacking the plot or satire. The Simpsons themselves are sidelined for a good chunk of the show, but Krusty is such a large part of the supporting cast that he carries this episode well. While it may seem a little funny that Castellaneta, who voices Krusty, wrote such a large part for himself, it is also a testament to his empathy for Krusty that this episode both deepens our understanding of Krusty and actually allows him growth as a character in an organic fashion. Although he usually reverts to type by his next appearance, Krusty has grown as an individual during a few episodes before, most notably in season three’s “Like Father, Like Clown.” Jackie Mason, who helped make that episode such a great one with his portrayal of Krusty’s father, Rabbi Hyman Krustofski, returns here for a one-line cameo. Kevin Dillon and Janeane Garofalo also appear as themselves. Next week: a futuristic holiday episode, or so says Wikipedia.
- Chalkboard gag: “Caucus is not a dirty word.”
- “No more TV! We’re going to get some fresh air and visit a museum. Of television!”
- Homer’s bullet shoots J.R., hits the Enterprise, bounces off of Superman’s chest, and strikes black gold at the Beverly Hillbillies exhibit.
- “If you ever hear a star’s name and wonder: Is he dead? The answer is either ‘I represent him’ or yes!”
- “They took my dressing room, my parking space, even my writer, so I don’t have a funny third item.”
- “Today’s kids are less sensitive than an army condom. They see more on TV than my mother did on her wedding night. And they don’t complain about it for the next 50 years!”
- “I was so mad at him, I didn’t have sex with a clown for five months!” “What about mimes?” “C’mon, I’m not made of stone.”
- “They were kids, and we gave them candy if they laughed! And if they didn’t, until the 70s, I hit them with a stick! Some jerk tracked down the kids and made a documentary. It’s called ‘Circus of Shame’ or something.”
- “Everything’s perfect about the past except how it led to the present.”
- The best reviews of Krusty’s career: 2½ stars- for fans only
- “And you know that anything said at a network pitch meeting can be taken to the bank.”
- It’s hilarious how excited the crew is about chimp tacos.
- “She’s out of control! She called the network vice-president unhip.” “And he reads GQ! And he’s straight!”
- “Wow, Krusty! Adjusting for age, that was amazing.”