In 1972, Jerry Lewis made a movie about a washed-up circus clown sent to a prison camp during WWII. The clown’s camp is adjacent to a Jewish camp, and when a group of Jewish children gather at the fence to laugh at his antics, it restores his confidence in his abilities as a performer (plus, there’s that whole bringing joy to hopeless children thing). The movie is highly controversial, especially its climactic scene in which the clown is forced to lead Jewish children to the gas chambers Pied Piper-style. Additionally, it’s been argued that the movie itself is not very good, with awkward and uneven changes in tone – really? In a movie about a holocaust clown? – with Harry Shearer himself calling it “so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is.”
It is precisely Shearer’s strange comment from a 1992 interview, recalling the rough cut he saw of the movie in 1979, that makes me wish someone would frickin release this thing already. Not only is it a Hollywood artifact from my favorite era, it’s a piece of cinematic postmodernism ahead of its time – cultural DaDa, a psychological LSD fever dream. Goddamnit, there’s a television show out called “Amish Mafia,” but the The Day the Clown Cried is deemed unfit for public consumption?
Discovery Channel’s latest gift to humanity is the Amish Mafia. Yes, there is such a thing (maybe – it is possible DC has enough expendable income to stage this show that is inherently low-tech), and it’s on television now because of course it is.
My dad finally saw the commercial for this show a couple of evenings ago. The commercial came on at approximately 9pm and was shortly followed by an advertisement for Trojan’s newest vibrator. Providing commercial actors with inner monologues is one of my hobbies, so when the wife excitedly showed her husband that their package from Trojan had arrived, I unthinkingly cried out, “Isn’t it great, honey? Now I’ll finally be sexually fulfilled!”
“WHAT?!” My dad isn’t especially naïve or repressed, so I think the reason he didn’t pick up on the product’s purpose right away is because he’s lived most of his life in world where commercials for vibrators were always played late at night and called their clearly phallic items “back massagers.” So I got to explain to him that vibrators are advertised on basic cable before the average seven-year-old’s bedtime.
The conversation reminded me of the time I saw the vibrator disguised as a lipstick for the stealthiest of masturbators. The package said the lipstick vibrator was perfect for carrying in your purse, and if, say, someone spotted it sitting on your desk at work, they would have no idea what it actually is. Because there are people who can’t control themselves in public and need to have their toys constantly at the ready? I guess I can see the practical need, though I recall going through my mother’s purse as a young kid for gum or candy and trying on her lipsticks. So there’s some potential nightmare fuel.
Amish Mafia reality programs and sex toy advertisements during family time are brought to us by the same society that finds The Day the Clown Cried morally and culturally irrelevant. Don’t get me wrong, people – I don’t think TDTCC is some mind-blowing, life-changing instant classic of cinema, I just really, really, REALLY want to see this character in action, to watch Jerry Lewis deviate from his typical routine and juggle so many opposing emotions, both as an actor and as a filmmaker (and sometimes while actually juggling).
Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page for The Day the Clown Cried. Can we get a Kickstarter going on this or something?