Bozo’s big controversy

Bozo the ClownOne would like to think someone as loveable as Bozo the Clown would be exempt  from the kinds of controversy that plague other celebrities.   Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, America’s most famous clown, and  longtime host of “Bozo’s Circus” is forever linked to one of television’s most  enduring urban legends.  The story goes back about 50 years, but  circumstances involving the nature of early television make it very difficult to  confirm whether or not the incident ever really happened.

The Bozo story goes something like this: During a broadcast of “Bozo’s  Circus,” a young male is competing in some kind of game, hoping to become  eligible for a prize.  When the boy fails to win, he is heard swearing, at  which point Bozo scolds the youngster, reminding him that his words constituted  a “Bozo no-no.”  Without missing a beat, the kid just looks at Bozo, and  says, “Ah, cram it, clown.”  Although there are a number of different  versions of the tale, the gist is always that Bozo is told off by a  smart-mouthed kid.  It is never revealed what happened next, so listeners  to the story must decide for themselves what fate might have had in store for  the outspoken lad.  Whether or not Bozo immediately cut to commercial or  not is hard to say, but it’s safe to assume the kid did not make it to the end  of the show.

The validity of the Bozo story is not easy to pin down.  Bozo the Clown,  by the early 1960’s, was a television franchise, and thus there were several  Bozo shows that ran simultaneously in dozens of different regional  markets.  The truth behind this urban legend is elusive, as the story can  change its locale as well as specific time period.  Bozo’s supposed run-in  with the kid hit the Bay Area rumor mill in 1962, as the incident was attributed  to KRON’s version of the Bozo show, but eventually it became apparent that the  story had circulated nationally, and virtually every major city’s Bozo was at  one time or another, thought to be the recipient of the “cram it” insult.   Since the Bozo programs either were aired live or shown by  way of re-useable video tape, the shows were generally gone forever shortly  after the conclusion of the broadcast.  It’s the absence of existing film  footage that can keep a TV urban legend alive indefinitely, as in the case of  what some young bride was supposed to have said on the “Newlywed Game,” or  Arnold Palmer’s rumored poor choice of wording on the “Tonight Show.”

The best guess is that the Bozo legend never happened.  It’s more likely  that someone speculated about how funny it would be if something like that  actually happened, and another individual either misunderstood it as being true,  or deliberately changed it to a real event.  In any case, it’s easy to see  how kids would be attracted to such a story.  The idea of any adult icon,  even a clown, being told off by one of their own would certainly have its appeal  to a young audience.

Television urban legends have become virtually an extinct species.   VCR’s and the internet now keep a 24/7 watch on everything that is  televised.  Any outrageous moment that transpires on TV can show up on You  Tube by the end of the day.  What’s more, internet sites like Snopes.com  currently investigate virtually every rumor that comes along, and can defuse a  fake story before it can take on a life of its own.  But the persistence of  the “Obama was born in Kenya” myth demonstrates that the phenomenon known as the  urban legend will never entirely disappear.