The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean told The Hollywood Reporter that the build-up toward the death of a major character was “a little over-hyped.” Jean said he was shocked by the anticipation, and explained to THR where he thought it started.
“I was doing an interview where they asked what episodes we had coming up and I said, ‘Well, a character dies and the actor who played the character won an Emmy for that portrait,’ and that turned into this huge puzzle. People all over the world were trying and are trying to solve still this mystery. … When we titled [the episode], we said we weren’t going to play games; that we’d give it a title that’s a pretty good clue and we had people going, ‘You’re going to kill Krusty?!'”
Tonight’s episode is called “Clown In The Dumps,” leading many to speculate that it would be the beloved Krusty the Clown who would die. Turns out, it was Krusty’s father, Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky, voiced by Jackie Mason.
Although Jean claimed he did not want to create a year of hype by providing tantalizing clues, his note about the Emmy win was a serious trip-up for those trying to figure out the identity of the character. Dan Castellaneta voices both Homer and Krusty, and has been honored by the Emmy folks. Those trying to figure out the mystery apparently did not consider guest stars, such as Mason, who have won Emmys for their work on the show.
While most were probably thrown off-track by the Emmy clue, Rabbi Krustofsky made Global Grind’s list of plausible theories of who might pass away.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jean was asked whether the death would be a disappointment to fans. He was clear he had used the word “beloved” to describe the character, and not “iconic,” which is what had been repeated.
“He is beloved. Jackie Mason is wonderful. And he’s still with us. Secondly, we’re not the kind of show that does these really horrific things to its characters. Everybody loves these characters, and I would never kill Krusty. I thought I was never even implying that. But people misinterpreted ‘Clown in the Dumps,’ and then once I was tied into this craziness, I said, ‘Okay, I guess we should go with it.’ But the third thing is I think it just works as a sweet show, which is most important. It was something that would be a good exploration of the characters. I thought it’d be good to say, ‘This is what people think of heaven but it’s not exactly what you’re going to get—it’s more what you do on Earth that matters.’…. If you look back at the clues we gave, everything adds up, so I would find that satisfying. I wouldn’t feel like I was misled.’
In the Hollywood Reporter conversation, Jean said he has a vision for the series finale, if and when it comes. He hopes to have the Simpsons family getting ready for the Christmas pageant that was the featured event in the series’ first episode, so it is a continuous loop.
“But I hope I never have to use it!” Jean told THR.
The Simpsons airs Sunday nights on Fox.