This is one of the most iconic episodes in television history and other than “funniest TV moments” specials I had not seen it until this week. The season 6, episode 7 episode of The Mary Tyler Moore show first aired October 25, 1975.
The star of a local kids show, Chuckles the Clown, dies in a freak accident at a parade. While dressed as a large peanut, Chuckles is shucked to death by an elephant. Every other member of the newsroom staff is using laughter to help their grieving process for this bizarre situation. Mary, however, is chastising every one of them for making light of death. Until the third act funeral scene when Mary sees the humor of the situation and cannot contain herself.
While not the usual Halloween content, the Chuckles the Clown episode does make an excellent point about how we deal with death. “Whistling through the graveyard.” Making jokes in order to hide our true fears. Which, isn’t that what Halloween is all about too? Dressing in scary costumes. Decorating with fright. Watching scary movies. All to have some safe scares and laughing in the face of danger. “I’m not scared of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
In the meantime we need to surround ourselves with family, friends, and create memories. Much like this cast on the Mary Tyler Moore show. Again, this is the first time I’ve watched an episode of the series in its entirety. In one episode I learned every characters name, personalities, dynamics, and they felt familiar. Which is such a change from far too many modern shows where I realize I’ve watched multiple seasons and still don’t know a single character’s name.
And isn’t that the point of this time of year? Halloween, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day. A time to remember those who are gone. From ghouls and goblins to grandma and grandpa. To laugh, to scream, to cry. To feel. To turn the world on with our smiles. To feel remembered in any manner once we’re gone. Whether those we left behind laugh or cry at the absurdities of our lives. And, honestly, we’ve all stared down the rampaging elephant that is 2020 and no longer know what emotion to have now that an end is in site. It looks like we’re going to make it after all.