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Recap / The Simpsons S4 E22 "Krusty Gets Kancelled"

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Episode - 9F19
First Aired - 5/13/1993

A new kids' show hosted by a strait-laced ventriloquist and his smart-aleck dummy threatens to cancel Krusty the Clown's show, so Bart and Lisa round up Krusty's celebrity friends for a comeback special.


This episode contains examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: While Marge appears on screen, she doesn't gets any lines because Julie Kavner didn't like the fact that there were so many guest stars.
  • Aesop Amnesia: When Krusty loses his show, he's destitute because he never saved for this kind of situation. After getting his show back, he buys a ruby-studded clown nose.
  • Animation Bump: Gabbo's introduction is much better animated than the rest of the episode, as befitting of how over the top the sequence is.
  • As Herself/Himself: This episode had the most non-sports celebrity guest appearances up to that point in the show's run: Johnny Carson, Hugh Hefner, Bette Midler, Luke Perry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elizabeth Taylor, and Barry White.
  • Advertisement:
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: "Worker and Parasite" looks like an old propaganda cartoon from an Eastern Bloc country. The title card and end credits feature fake Cyrillic text ("ENDUT! HOCH HECH!") that does not translate into anything.
  • Beggar with a Signboard: After his show is cancelled, Bart and Lisa find Krusty holding a cardboard sign which reads, "Will Drop Pants for Food." What's worse, there's an old man doing it for free a few feet down the sidewalk (and somehow became a TV star with his own dance troupe a few scenes later).
  • Benevolent Boss: Mr. Johansson, Sideshow Mel's boss at the fast food place, treats him with more dignity than Krusty ever did, and even offers to intervene if Krusty is bothering Mel.
  • Berserk Button:
    • During the training montage to get Krusty back in shape, he and Homer practice boxing. Krusty punches Homer to vent his anger over Gabbo's show and later Homer punches Krusty to vent anger over the increase of pork meat's price.
    • Advertisement:
    • Do not litter in front of Bette Midler.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: When the kids point out that Luke Perry has a hit TV show of his own, Krusty counters with, "Yeah, on Fox."
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Moe told the Red Hot Chili Peppers that his tavern holds 30,000 people, and tells them to their face that it had that number there the previous night.
    • Right after Krusty claims to have learned his lesson about squandering, his assistant shows up with the ruby-studded clown nose he ordered.
  • Blipvert: "Gabbo! GABBO! GABBO!"
    Bart: Did you see that?
    Homer: Yeah.
    Bart: What's Gabbo?
    Homer: I'm guessing it's some guy's name. Some guy named Gabbo.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • For unknown reasons, the UK airings of this episode cut out the scene of a tidal wave coming into the Springfield Squares set. The scene where Gabbo calls his audience "S.O.B.s" is also heavily censored.
    • Done In-Universe: Krusty wants the Red Hot Chili Peppers to change the lyrics of "Give It Away". They refuse at first, but when Krusty suggests to change, "What I got/You gotta get/And put it in you" to "What I'd like/Is I'd like to/Hug and kiss you," they warm up to the idea.
      "Everyone can enjoy that!"
  • Brick Joke:
    • The Crazy Old Man who drops his pants and sings "Old Gray Mare" on the street later gets his own TV show and dance troupe.
    • Krusty mentions the week of episodes Ray J. Johnson co-hosted as the only bad episodes he did. Later, Gabbo discovers the only guest he has is Johnson.
  • Burger Fool: Sideshow Mel takes a job at a fast-food restaurant during the short time he's unemployed.
  • Cast as a Mask: Of a sort; Arthur Crandall/Gabbo is voiced by Hank Azaria, but when he demonstrates his Vin Scully imitation, Harry Shearer provides his famous Vin Scully voice, which he has used numerous times on the series and on Saturday Night Live.
  • Catchphrase: "I'm a bad wittle boy!" for Gabbo.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Sideshow Mel at first refuses to return to Krusty's show, claiming he likes working at the fast food place better; he changes his mind when the curtain goes up.
  • Channel Hop: In-universe. Gabbo is so popular that The Itchy & Scratchy Show starts appearing on it rather than The Krusty the Clown Show.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Krusty notes that the only bad shows in his run were those from the week when Ray J. Johnson was his co-host (this was presumably back in The '70s). As it turns out, he's the only guest star lined up for Gabbo's show the day the Krusty Komeback Special is airing against it.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Krusty insists that Gabbo's new show doesn't worry him. Cue shot of ashtray overflowing with burned-out cigarettes.
  • Comically Missing the Point: During the runup to Gabbo's debut, Reverend Lovejoy complains in a sermon that everyone's focusing on "Gabbo this and Gabbo that but not worship this and Jericho that!" Jasper raises his hand and asks "What's this about Gabbo?"
  • Cool Old Guy/The Ace: Most of the other celebrity guests on Krusty's special do what you might expect. Johnny Carson, on the other hand, sings opera while juggling a 1987 Buick Skylark over his head. The episode ends with Bart toasting Krusty as the greatest entertainer in the world...except for Carson who is tap dancing, playing "Good Night, Ladies" on the accordion and balancing a plank on his head that has Jasper and Grampa playing checkers on it all at once.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Krusty has a picture of him with Luke Perry. Luke's side has darts on it.
  • Demonic Dummy: Gabbo can talk and move independently of Crandall! He isn't outright evil, though — just a Jerkass.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Arthur Crandall/Gabbo thinks his viewers are "little S.O.B.s." Bart manages to get this offstage chatter on tape, but Springfield forgets about it after Kent Brockman makes a similar comment about his audience while reporting the story and got fired for it.
  • Deranged Animation: Having lost The Itchy And Scratchy Show to Gabbo, Krusty tries to find a substitute in the baffling Eastern European cartoon Worker And Parasite.
    Krusty: What the Hell was that?!
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When Snake Jailbird tosses a can out his car window onto the highway Bette Midler just finished cleaning up, she responds by chasing after him on foot, jumping onto his car, and throwing the can back in, which causes the car to swerve off the road and crash. A second driver does the same thing, and Midler simply tosses the can at the car, which causes the driver to lose control and careen into the nearby mountainside.
    Bette Midler: We're Americans. We deserve clean highways.
  • The Dreaded: Bette Midler, apparently.
    Snake Jailbird: Oh no, Bette Midler!
  • Dub Name Change: An odd case overlapping with Cultural Translation: in the Latin American dub, Luke Perry is renamed Robert Redford.
  • Dying Curse: See the second example from Disproportionate Retribution above.
    Driver: I'll get you for this, Midler!
  • Engineered Public Confession: Gabbo's rant about how children are sons of bitches; these are, unknown to anyone at the studio — including and especially Mr. Crandall and Gabbo — being broadcast live over Channel 5; Bart had sneaked into the studio and secretly flipped the switch, allowing the camera to transmit Gabbo's comments over the air.
  • Follow the Leader: In-Universe, Krusty tries his hand at ventriloquism in the wake of Gabbo's success.
  • Funny Background Event: At the afterparty at Moe's Tavern, Elizabeth Taylor can be seen peering through the window as Bart salutes Krusty.
  • Game Show Appearance: The Springfield Squares is a parody; it is a hybrid of the original 1966 version — celebrities Wally Cox (lower left) and Charlie Weaver (lower right), who had long since died — and the 1986 syndicated version, which frequently went "on location" (this episode was taped in Springfield Harbor); also appearing as "celebrities" are Rainier Wolfcastle, Lurleen Lumpkin, the Capitol City Goofball, Princess Kashmir, Troy McClure, Barry White and an unknown celebrity. The tidal wave that interrupts the game (and in this case, washes a stubborn Charlie Weaver away) is a reference to an actual incident during the original NBC daytime show, where in 1971 a mild earthquake stopped taping briefly, and everyone but Paul Lynde fled the set.
    Wolfcastle: (as everyone gathers in Barry White's square) Hurry, Charlie, there is not much time!
    Weaver: I ain't going nowhere. I been in this square purt' near 30 seasons, and I ain't a-leaving now. (gets washed away by the wave)
    (cut to Homer and Bart, watching the show at their home)
    Homer: He's dead now. (they both laugh)
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: A fifty-foot tidal wave hits Springfield Harbor right in the middle of The Springfield Squares.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: When Luke Perry begs Krusty to include him on the comeback special, Krusty fantasizes about shooting Luke out of a cannon into a brick wall and maiming his face. When Krusty actually shoots Luke out of the cannon, he crashes through a window, flies through the Springfield Museum of Sandpaper, crashes through the Kwik-E-Mart and Apu's display case full of acid, and then lands in a pillow factory...which is immediately blown up. Despite fantasizing about maiming Luke, Krusty feels guilty about it when it actually happens. Fortunately, Luke seems perfectly fine when the guests all gather at Moe's at the end of the episode.
  • History with Celebrity: Krusty's half-brother is Luke Perry, and he once co-owned a race horse with Bette Midler.
  • Homage:
    • Gabbo is named after the (apparently sentient) ventriloquist dummy that provided the title of the 1929 film The Great Gabbo. He also resembles Howdy Doody, a cowboy dummy that became one of the first TV stars, with the oldest crewmembers having seen the show in the 1950s.
    • The Hollywood Squares: The Springfield Squares is a localized version with local celebrities
    • The finale of Gabbo's introductory song has puppets and choreography pulled straight out of Pinocchio's "I've Got No Strings" number.
    • Gabbo's "That oughta hold those little SOBs" rant caught on camera is a reference to the famous "little bastards" urban legend involving the famed children's radio presenter ("Uncle") Don Carney, who allegedly said something along those lines unaware that his mike was still on (funny enough, Carney spent about half of his career clarifying that the legend was false).
    • As noted at this episode's Wikipedia page, the light-up KRUSTY letters that open the show reference the famous Elvis Presley TV "comeback special" from 1968. Indeed, the whole concept of a comeback special effectively comes from Elvis's show.
    • Bette Midler performing "Wind Beneath My Wings" for Krusty is a deliberate homage to her singing for Johnny Carson on his second-to-last episode of The Tonight Show, to the point that it's performed on a Tonight Show-esque set.
    • The scene of Krusty and The Red Hot Chili Peppers (see Bowdlerise above) is a parody of an couple of incidents involving Ed Sullivan asking musicians to change the lyrics of their songs before they could perform on his show:
      • The Rolling Stones were asked to change "Let's Spend the Night Together" to "Let's Spend Some Time Together", as "spend the night" was seen as too sexually suggestive at the time. Mick Jagger didn't warm up to the change.
      • The Doors were asked to change a line in "Light My Fire" from "girl, we couldn't get much higher" to "girl, we couldn't get much better", due to fears that the line "higher" would be seen as condoning drug use. Jim Morrison ended up singing the original lyrics on air; the band was banned from making further appearances on the show.
    • A deleted scene has Krusty promoting a parody of Madonna's "Sex" book, "featuring me in a variety of sexually explicit positions" (though he used a "stunt butt"). Since his audience consists of children, he's quickly arrested for it.
  • Hope Spot: For Luke Perry, after being thrown face-first through multiple highly painful things that probably have done damage to said face and ruined his career, it was a blessing to end up dropping into a well-stocked pillow factory... unfortunately for him, that same factory was about five seconds away from being demolished when he fell in.
  • Hostility on the Set: In-Universe examples with both rival shows — it's made pretty obvious that Arthur Crandall and Gabbo don't get along when the cameras are off even though Gabbo is Crandall's puppet and it's made perfectly clear that Krusty is a complete asshole to his co-workers (Sideshow Mel recalls a time when Krusty poured liquid nitrogen down his pants and damaged one of his flash-frozen buttocks with a hammer on the air as a reason he doesn't wants to come back to the show and when he decides to go to the comeback special after all, Krusty is only amiable for about two seconds and then starts verbally abusing him again).
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Shortly after Kent Brockman gives a self-serving rebuke for Gabbo's "all the kids in Springfield are SOBs" remark (during his "My Two Cents" opinion spot), he thinks that the newscast has gone to commercial and, snickering, says, "That oughta hold the little SOBs" ... shortly before a hastily-created graphic appears on the screen saying "Brockman in Trouble" ... and Brockman realizing he's been caught.
    • The incident that led to Brockman's moralizing, hypocritical editorial was an unknown-to-its-perpetrator instance. Gabbo and his puppeteer, Mr. Crandall, were aware that the station had gone to commercial and the live camera was off, during which time they make disparaging remarks about children and that they had to lower themselves to this sort of entertainment. Bart, however, sneaks into the studio and without anyone's knowledge, turns the camera back on, capturing Gabbo's rant live on the air and prompting an outrage.
  • It Will Never Catch On: When Bart and Lisa are recruiting celebrities for Krusty's comeback special, it cuts to Elizabeth Taylor's agent, who tells her two kids came by asking if she would appear on a TV special, so he told them to buzz off, to which she replies "Good". She's later shown watching the special (as Hugh Hefner is performing), commenting "I've got to fire that agent".
  • Japandering: Gabbo's crank call to Krusty has him tricking the clown into thinking a Japanese company wants him to appear in a commercial.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Mayor Quimby uses the city treasury to fund the murder of his enemies but gets away thanks to using Gabbo's catchphrase while publicly confessing. He even gets re-elected in a landslide. It's implied he had more people killed when the newspaper informing the election results also has a headline about two more bodies showing up.
    • Gabbo calls all of the kids in Springfield "sons of bitches" on live television and keeps his show (Kent Brockman calls people that too and it's implied that he gets in trouble for being caught by a camera). It's only when Krusty does his special that things start going downhill for him.
  • Kick the Dog: After stealing Krusty's audience, Gabbo prank-calls him and exploits his desperation to make Krusty beat himself over the head with his phone.
  • Limited Animation: "Worker and Parasite", the Eastern European Itchy & Scratchy knock-off.
  • Made of Iron: After being fired from a cannon, going through several windows, flying through a sandpaper factory, hitting jars of acid, and being blown up with a pillow factory, Luke Perry turns up in Moe's at the end no worse for wear, save for a Band-Aid on his forehead.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's not revealed whether Gabbo truly has a mind of his own, or whether Crandall is simply an eccentric who knows some FX tricks.
  • Mean Boss: Sideshow Mel considers Krusty this, hence his initial refusal to come back.
    Sideshow Mel: On our last show, you poured liquid nitrogen down my pants and cracked my buttocks with a hammer.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: A mild example comes when Krusty shoots Luke Perry out of a cannon. While Krusty fantasized about shooting Luke into a brick wall, the actual result is far worse and Krusty feels very guilty about it.
  • Narm: In-universe. Krusty's trying out for a new acting career gets passed when his clown nose ruins the atmosphere of the romantic scene he's participating in.
  • Negative Continuity: Either that or Krusty considers the show where he had a cardiac arrest on the air (mentioned via flashback in "Krusty Gets Busted") better than the one with Ray-Jay Johnson. Probably the latter, since the cardiac arrest episode is widely beloved by Krusty fans.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Gabbo's voice was based on Jerry Lewis.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: While the other celebrities look like Simpsons-versions of themselves, Bette Midler looks more like a boardwalk caricature.
  • Noodle Incident: Two instances with Krusty: the first where he discusses a disliked episode where his guest host for the show was Ray Jay Johnson and the second was where he poured liquid nitrogen down Sideshow Mel's pants and cracked his buttocks with a hammer.
  • Oh, Crap!: After littering on Bette Midler's stretch of highway, Snake quickly realises his mistake when he sees her in his rearview mirror.
  • Old Shame: An In-Universe example. When his show is cancelled, Krusty is proud of having never done a bad show...except for the week that Ray Jay Johnson was his co-host.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: Bart points out that the "patented Gabbo crank call" is a bit stolen from Krusty. Lisa tops him by pointing out that "Krusty stole it from Steve Allen", and this is confirmed when Krusty realizes the call was a trick — "If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you're stealing my bit!" Grampa Simpson even pointed out that everything is stolen nowadays, like the fax machine (which, to him, is a waffle iron with a phone attached).
  • Playboy Bunny: Naturally, seeing as Hugh Hefner guest stars, although he also seems to have them in his R&D department.
  • Rattling Off Legal: Krusty tries to keep children watching his show by offering them forty-dollar checks. A voice then says the checks won't be honored.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: Krusty performs "Send in the Clowns" by Stephen Sondheim to open his special. It changes virtually all of the lyrics, since the original song is about a failed romance.
  • The Rival: Gabbo instantly becomes this to Krusty.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Krusty mentions having beat Joey Bishop and Arsenio Hall in the ratings. Both of them attempted to compete with Carson.
    • The Worker and Parasite cartoon is a parody of the early 1960s-era Tom and Jerry cartoons, made in Czechoslovakia.
    • After having his show cancelled, Krusty attempts to land a role in Melrose Place.
    • Krusty's photo with Liz Taylor features her dressed as Cleopatra.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: Krusty's sole attempt at ventriloquism is a small-scale example of this. First the puppet's jaw falls off and the kiddies scream. He tries assuring them that the puppet is not actually alive and taps on its head — which caves in under the blows. More screams. He then frustratingly drop-kicks the grotesque remains of the puppet right into the screaming audience.
  • Status Quo Is God: The implication at the end is that Krusty will get his show back in the wake of his Komeback Special's success, while Gabbo becomes yesterday's news (Gabbo and Arthur Crandall have had only the occasional cameo since this episode, in fact, and in each they are in pretty dire financial straits).
  • Stylistic Suck: Gabbo gets the exclusive broadcasting rights for Itchy and Scratchy, and a desperate Krusty shows a short from its Eastern European counterpart, Worker and Parasite. It consists entirely of a stiff, sketchily-drawn cat and mouse bouncing around a scribbled background speaking vaguely Slavic gibberish, followed by a title card reading ENDUT! HOCH HECH! Krusty's (and our) reaction: "What the hell was that?!"
  • Take That!:
    • Krusty claims the only bad episodes in his series was the week Ray J. Johnson co-hosted the show. Later Gabbo starts panicking when he learns Johnson is the only guest available for his own show.
      Krusty: "You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay". Yeah, that was funny, for about five seconds.
  • Temporary Bulk Change: Because Krusty doesn't realize that a milkshake diet only works with diet milkshakes (or that the milkshakes he drank have a laxative effect). Fortunately a Training Montage undoes its ill effects.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Johnny Carson plays this on the accordion for the final shot.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sideshow Mel's co-worker at the taco joint tries to fish a dropped taco out of a deep-fryer by hand. Actual fast-food establishments have skimmers for that sort of thing (besides which, the kid should have just made Krusty a fresh taco).
  • Training Montage: Thanks to his milkshake diet, Krusty has to get back into shape for the special, which he accomplishes over the course of a Rocky-style montage.
  • True Companions: Subverted, when Krusty is breaking the news of his cancellation to his staff.
    Krusty: The important thing is, we're like a family.
    Sideshow Mel: (tearfully) Krusty, I—
    Krusty: (threateningly) SHUT YOUR HOLE!!!
  • Un-Cancelled: An In-Universe example. Krusty's successful comeback special leads to his show being revived.

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