There’s a classic episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show entitled “Chuckles Bites The Dust”, in which Mary admonishes the newsroom staff for laughing and making jokes at the demise of Chuckles the Clown. It seems that Chuckles, dressed as his alter-ego Peter Peanut during a circus parade, was “shucked to death by a rogue elephant.”
So of course during Chuckles’ funeral, while everyone in attendance was somber, it was Mary who couldn’t help bursting into laughter.
And so it’s puzzling why Australia Football League CEO Andrew Demetriou was criticized and felt forced to apologize on Tuesday for laughing at this:
A dwarf entertainer was set alight by an Australian Rules footballer during a drunken night to celebrate the end of the players’ season.
Entertainer Blake Johnston felt something hot on his backside and when he turned around saw thick smoke rising from his flammable costume.
Midfielder Clinton Jones held a barbecue lighter to Mr Johnston’s costume when he was partying on what is traditionally known as ‘Mad Monday’ – to celebrate the end of the Aussie rules football season – setting him alight.
Demetriou was appearing on the Australian Rules TV program Channel Nine’s Footy Classified, and was asked about the news item by co-host Luke Darcy. At first Demetriou was able to keep his composure, then he lost it.
“I was actually giggling in the beginning because I’d been told by the producer during the break before we went onto the next segment and I thought they were having me on,” he told 3AW radio on Tuesday.
“I thought it was a joke.”
“It wasn’t meant to be offensive and I apologise to anyone who is offended.”
Bonus quote, which only makes things worse:
“I don’t understand, unless someone can explain, what the purpose of having lighters? I don’t get that. We spend our whole lives telling children not to play with matches…”
St. Kilda is investigating the allegation, which occurred at a South Melbourne hotel.
It should be noted the Johnstone wasn’t hurt. So I ask you, is Demetriou’s reaction really so terrible?
In 2009 “Chuckles Bites the Dust” was ranked by TV Guide as the third-best TV episode of all time. Here it is, if you feel like watching it.