By age 11, my TV taste had become quite sophisticated. When I came home from school I’d watch refined fare like Leave It to Beaver, Mr. Ed, Bugs Bunny, and my favorite, the inimitable Rocky & Bullwinkle (which I still love, btw). And then there was the Hanna-Barbera juggernaut: Huckleberry Hound, Top Cat, Quick Draw McGraw, Yogi Bear… Heck, even Mommandad watched The Flintstones and The Jetsons with me, everyone did (though not literally “with me;” our couch was too small and we didn’t have a color TV).
But none of those “little kid’s shows,” no siree. OK, yeah, I still had a soft spot for Captain Kangaroo and kinda had a crush on Shari Lewis. But then I also had a crush on Shelley Fabares (The Donna Reed Show) and Connie Stevens (Hawaiian Eye). So you can see how erudite I was.
Nevertheless, the top after-school show was Bozo the Clown. My urbane buddies and I would watch it just to burlesque it as Bozo cavorted with fake glee in front of a live audience full of screaming meemies.
Between cartoons, Mr. the Clown would engage in intellectually stimulating activities such as “accidentally” hitting himself on the foot with a giant hammer. But my favorite activity was Joke Time, during which the on-set meemies were invited to run forward, face the camera, and blurt out their jolliest japes.
One day, as I tucked into my milk and cookies, a beefy ten-year-old, Stevie, rushed forward, shouting, “Me! Me!” Bozo grinned, maybe (who could tell under that permanent greasepaint smile?), and said, “Go!”
“What’s green and hangs from trees?” Stevie shrieked at the camera.
“I don’t know,” Bozo chortled. “What?”
“Elephant snot!” Stevie screamed. And then he stomped maniacally back to his seat, joining his guffawing supervillain-friends-in-training.
Bozo turned jelly bean green.
I snorted half my glass of milk out through my nose.
After the commercial break, Bozo announced that henceforth all jokes must be whispered into his ear before they could be shared with TV land.
The actors who played Bozo changed regularly, by the way. This was necessary, I suspect, in order to allow previous Bozos…
To attend AA meetings.