Compare & Contrast: Krusty’s Struggles

Like Father, Like Clown13

“Hi, kids.  Today’s show is gonna be the funniest, side-splittinest, cavalcade of . . . ah, the hell with it.  Roll the cartoon.” – Krusty the Klown

There are a lot of big, flashing similarities between “Like Father, Like Clown” and “Clown in the Dumps”, most prominently that both are about Krusty and his father, and, even moreso, about Krusty missing his father.  But there are also a lot of small, individual scenes and jokes that are very similar.  So let’s consider one of the former and then one of the latter.

For our overarching theme, just look at how each episode handles Bart and Lisa.  In Season 3, Bart and Lisa have a reason to meet Krusty (their saving him in “Krusty Gets Buster”), and then we follow them as they set out to help him.  We see them asking Reverend Lovejoy how to find a rabbi, we see them meet Rabbi Krustofsky, get rejected, and then their attempts to win him over.  (The Simpsons being The Simpsons, Sammy Davis Jr. succeeds where the Talmud fails.)

Meanwhile, the episode checks in on Krusty as we see him wallowing in depression: watching a TV movie in a bus station, cracking up on his own show, and dialing his father over and over again.  It’s genuinely sad, but it’s still funny because the movie is Hercules vs. the Martians and Krusty’s on-air break down is his touched response to a particularly brutal and gory Itchy & Scratchy.

Like Father, Like Clown12

“And didn’t Scratchy Jr. look happy playing with his Dad until they got run over by the thresher.”

By contrast, in the blasted wasteland of Season 26, Bart and Lisa are just sort of there for the ride.  Lisa because she was shunted off to an unrelated (and very repetitive) B-plot; and Bart because we don’t see him do anything except show up and explain to us the stuff we didn’t see him do.

In addition to this not making sense, it sucks out a lot of the fun.  Instead of getting to see Bart and Lisa as active characters who get to do things like lie to Reverend Lovejoy about liking his radio show and dress up in curls and a hat to argue Jewish philosophy, we watch Bart talk to Krusty, talk to Krusty, and then talk to Krusty again.


Great, good conversation there.

And it’s not like what we do get to see is any better.  Krusty bounces from one manic episode to the next, but they fall flat over and over again, which brings us to our individual scene of wretchedness, Krusty hosting his show and airing what I almost hesitate to call an “Itchy & Scratchy” cartoon.

Things open with Sideshow Mel helpfully expositing everything that’s happening:

“Boys and girls, you know that we’ve been dark for a couple of days because of a tragic loss in the Krustylu family.  Now, put your hands together for the man who’s falling apart before our eyes, Krusty the Klown!”

That is quintessential “tell don’t show”: not a single word of that needs to be there.  It’s filler from start to finish.  We already know what’s going on, and while there’s something to be said for a dry description of the obvious from time to time, Zombie Simpsons uses it so much that it’s impossible to tell if they’re even trying to be funny with it.

The really bad part, though, is that they’ve become so bad at showing things, they almost have to resort to this sort of thing.  After Krusty appears and tells them to roll the cartoon, we see a very short Scratchy cartoon (Itchy isn’t in it), and then this:


Krusty, looking a little miffed.

Krusty is kind of upset, but he looks completely normal, and his dialogue is just him setting up a rimshot worthy punchline:

Oh, my God, who made this monstrosity?

Which is immediately followed by a recording of him on the TV claiming credit (rimshot), then more exposition:

Kids, I’m experiencing a crisis of conscience.

It goes on from there while he explains each joke as it happens and tells us what he’s going to do.

Compare that to Krusty also barely holding it together in “Like Father, Like Clown”.  For one thing, we get a real Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, one of the bloodiest and most violent ever, “Field of Screams”.  Just like in Zombie Simpsons, it starts with Scratchy playing with Scratchy Jr..  Since Zombie Simpsons ends it right there, that’s where the similarities stop.  “Field of Screams” has Scratchy and Scratchy Jr. run over by a mechanized thresher driven by Itchy and Itchy Jr., whom we then see playing catch with Scratchy’s head.  There’s a lot of blood, Bart and Lisa (watching from home) laugh uproariously, and then we see Krusty:

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 Now that’s sad, and he didn’t even need to tell us what he’s feeling.

Take a look at those two images.  In one, we see Krusty acting perfectly normal (or what passes for it for him), in the other one, we see a broken man just barely holding it together who chokes up and starts crying as he desperately tells them to go to commercial.  The Simpsons doesn’t need to have Krusty tell the audience how he’s feeling because we can see it plainly on his face.

Both episodes have the exact same scene (Krusty bombing his show because he’s upset about his father), but the version from The Simpsons has no gratuitous exposition, a much better Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, and enormously more emotional punch, all while letting the jokes speak for themselves instead of explaining or pre-explaining them.  Furthermore, that incident is what prompts Bart and Lisa to go in search of Rabbi Krustofsky.  They can see Krusty is in pain, and they try to do something.  In Zombie Simpsons, Bart just kinda shows up from time to time.

It’d be one thing if Zombie Simpsons was just repeating things.  Twenty-six seasons is a lot of stories, after all.  But they can’t even repeat things competently, and the way they bungle characters, scenes and even jokes over and over again gives the distinct impression that they don’t care enough to try.

22 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Krusty’s Struggles”

  1. 1 Stan
    1 October 2014 at 2:16 pm

    imo, This one episode was such a perfect opportunity to turn Krusty in a rabbi himself, that you had to remain completely fuckless to miss it. First, we’ve never seen Krusty as rabbi before. Second, there would’ve been actually possible to pass Jewish jokes without feeling racist (like FG does with their Goldman character). And third, you’d still be killing one insignificant character for the same of the show.

    But I’ll tell you this, boys and girls. Krustofsky died for nothing… NOTHING!

    • 2 Jack
      1 October 2014 at 6:03 pm

      Why would Krusty become a rabbi?

      • 3 Stan
        1 October 2014 at 6:11 pm

        Because the show needs fresh material.
        After Krustofky’s sudden death, Krusty feels bad for never trying to live up to his dad’s expectation of becoming a rabbi, instead sacrificing his own life for cheap laughs that only few found funny (they were doing a Krusty-quits-comedy episode anyway, right?). So he goes for it as to give his dad a passing tribute. But then Bart convinces Krusty to return as a clown, and Krusty discovers he had comedy roots in his lineage all along.
        At least, it wouldn’t have been as bad as the current garbage.

  2. 4 Joe H
    1 October 2014 at 3:00 pm

    That breakdown during his show in “Like Father, Like Clown” (and the whole episode for that matter) was infinitely better than what they did in last week’s episode.

    One of the funniest things about the classic episode was that Krusty was losing control on the innocuous set-up of Scratchy playing catch with his son, completely ignoring the violence entirely. The drawing of Krusty in the brink of tears was hilarious. It goes without saying that the cartoon itself was also much better in the sadistic way it alludes to the “father & son” theme of the episode.

    Last night’s I&S kinda tried that, but really badly. Krusty’s reaction to the cartoon was also just randomly being offended by the violence instead of that Scratchy Sr died or something like that to really tie into the main story.

    One also has to wonder what appeal there is for the audience in the new episode to watch I&S on a television set while the old one had the appeal of the cartoon projected on a makeshift movie screen.

    • 5 Joshua
      1 October 2014 at 10:38 pm

      I agree with your last point, I’ll never get used to seeing Itchy and Scratchy being shown on a widescreen TV or the Simpsons having one in their home for that matter.

  3. 1 October 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Picking nits because I love: does Krusty say “crisis of conscious” as a malapropism gag or does he say “crisis of conscience?”

    • 8 Stan
      1 October 2014 at 4:09 pm

      He says “Kids, I am Krusty the Clown, you are watching the first episode of the 26th season of the Simpsons, in which it just turned out that my dad has died, and upon seeing some father-son bonding cartoon apparently created by me but too violent for my current senses, I am solemnly declaring that, at the end of the 11th minute into the said episode, I am experiencing the crisis of conscious.”

    • 9 Joe H
      1 October 2014 at 8:11 pm

      @ Patrick R

      He actually does say “crisis of conscious”

      Something like “Attention children! I am having a sudden crisis of conscious!” It was pretty bad.

  4. 11 FireFlower
    1 October 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Yes that is great animation on sad Krusty’s face. I miss the days when cartoon characters actually had expressions and personalities. I am not just takling about Zombie Simpsons. I mean TV in general.

    • 12 Sarah J
      1 October 2014 at 6:41 pm

      It’s pretty common for longer-running cartoons to get more stiff in their animation. You can still see wilder animation with newer shows, but if they run past 3 years it’s likely that will change. I’m disappointed to see it happening with Adventure Time, though at least the show is still interesting and well-written. The Zombie Simpsons animation hasn’t just gotten stiff, it’s gotten sterile. Backgrounds lack any interesting detail and background jokes are few and far between. Character expressions aren’t just less exaggerated, they’re barely there.

  5. 2 October 2014 at 7:25 am

    One of the problems of Zombie Simpsons is that they aren’t allowed to go off-model any more, which really handicaps them in the emotional reaction department.

    • 16 Angelm Young
      2 October 2014 at 2:50 pm

      I thought Matt Groening called a moratorium on going off-model as early as season five.

      • 17 Frank
        2 October 2014 at 3:57 pm

        what is “off model” and why would anyone with any creative and artistic sense actually allow this?

        • 2 October 2014 at 4:05 pm

          Characters in cartoons have something called a model sheet, which is basically the rules of how they have to be drawn. It depends on the context whether it’s good to go off-model or bad. Just go look up the Animation Showcase article on here, it shows how much off-model drawings can add to the humour of a scene.

        • 2 October 2014 at 4:19 pm

          Not entirely sure, but I’d imagine that animators are basically given a sheet of typical expressions, poses etc. for each character which the animators basically just trace from as needed.

          Speaking of animation though, Krusty really really doesn’t look like Krusty in the above shots. I mean, he looks a long way from season 3 standards (like everybody else) but he seems especially like just a colour and hair swapped homer. Maybe I’m just being overcritical – and Krusty has always generally looked that way – but it always seemed like the point of Krusty was that his look came from a kind of hyper-elasticity in his mouth (kind of a la Jim Carey) but there’s no quintessential Krusty dimple (or is it a jowl?) in the above shots. For illustrative purposes, here’s four Krustys: http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/krustyhomer.jpg

        • 21 Jack
          2 October 2014 at 4:22 pm

          I seem to remember a good many DVD commentaries where the commentators were overly fixated with the fact that they couldn’t keep pupil sizes 100% consistent.

      • 2 October 2014 at 4:03 pm

        Yeah, Matt hates good looking animation.

        Though that was the same season that had Homer Goes to College which had great animation but yeah after that season or so it stiffened up.

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