EXPIRED: 11/10/09 – David Lloyd, 75, was one of the first people to ever make me truly laugh. And it all had to do with the awkwardness of stifling a laugh at a funeral. “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”
Lloyd started his career by writing jokes for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show in New York City. But he wanted to work in Hollywood so without ever seeing the Mary Tyler Moore Show, he quickly wrote a spec script and sent it off. He sold it. That was the beginning of an incredible career throughout which he never had an agent. He negotiated his own deals. And worked throughout a bright period in TV history: Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show The Tony Randall Show, The Associates, Rhoda, Phyllis, Cheers, Taxi, Frasier, Lou Grant, Best Of The West, Amen, Wings.
As a staff writer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show he wrote their best-remembered episode, and one of the best sitcom episodes of all time, “Chuckles Bites the Dust” (which first aired on October 25, 1975). In this episode, WJM-TV’s children’s host, Chuckles the Clown, is appearing in a parade dressed as one of his characters, Peter Peanut, when a rogue elephant kills him while trying to shell him. Of course this leads to the staff making jokes about the death, which horrifies Mary, who thinks the jokes are tasteless and is appalled by her co-workers’ apparent lack of respect for the deceased.
At the funeral, all of the attendees are properly somber except one: Mary. Mary inexplicably feels a strong urge to laugh and tries to stifle her emotions. However, she cannot contain herself while listening to the minister’s eulogy, especially whe he gets to Chuckles’ clown credo was “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”
Durring the episode, Edward Asner’s character, Lou Grant, is asked why he thinks people make jokes after a death. Lou’s classic response is: “It’s a release. A kind of defense mechanism. It’s like whistling in a graveyard. You try to make light of something because it scares you. We laugh at death because we know death will have the last laugh on us.”
This episode is ranked #3 on TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes Of All Time.” It received an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.”