One 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.”
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.