‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’: Betty White On the Classic ‘Chuckles Bites the Dust’ Episode

by Clayton Edwards

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was more than just a great TV series. It helped to change the face of television. Moore’s protagonist was the smiling face of the women’s liberation movement. She showed the world that a single 30-something woman could hold down a home and a career. At the same time, she proved that a woman didn’t have to be on the constant hunt for a husband to be happy. On top of that, the show was hilarious. With great talents like Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White on board, how could it not be one of the funniest shows on TV?

Audiences love the show to this day. There is one episode that really stands out to many fans of the show, though. The episode is called “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” and focuses on the death of a clown.

Betty White spoke to The Television Academy Foundation about the classic episode in an interview.

Betty White on the Classic “Mary Tyler Moore Show” Episode

White said that “Chuckles Bites the Dust” is one of the most popular episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Fans always vote it as their favorite. Currently, the episode has a near-perfect rating on IMDb. However, Jay Sandrich refused to direct it, according to Betty White. She said that the veteran director didn’t find anything funny about death. He didn’t care if it was the death of a clown. He didn’t want anything to do with it.

She went on to say that Mary Tyler Moore’s character in the show didn’t find it funny either. In fact, she found it shocking that her friends could find humor in death. That is, until the funeral.

During the funeral, the rest of the cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” are done laughing. They are mourning their co-worker. However, as the minister is giving a very serious eulogy for Chuckles, Mary starts to giggle. The minister ends his eulogy with a quote from the clown, “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants,” and that does Mary in. She lets out a loud laugh.

Betty White went on to say that the humor in the episode comes from the “Beautiful juxtaposition of two attitudes.”

Betty White on why “Chuckles Bites the Dust” Is a Fan-Favorite

The interviewer suggests that it is symbolic of using humor as a coping mechanism during life’s hard times. Betty White fully agrees with him. “In real life, that’s the only way you get through some things,” she said. White went on to say that she learned that lesson early in life. She continued, “The only saving grace sometimes is to just…,” she trails off for a moment, gathering her thoughts, “A little part of your brain plays the funny side of something or there’s a play on words.” White said that being able to laugh in times of sorrow has helped her get through many hard times.

The reason that “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” is a constant favorite for fans of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” is simple. It showed the audience that it was okay to find humor in the darkest moments of life. At the same time, it gave them permission to express their feelings even if those feelings felt inappropriate for the moment.