Friday, April 15, 2016

Laugh and the World Laughs With You

In the episode of Bewitched that aired 45 years ago tonight, "Laugh, Clown, Laugh," Darrin (Dick Sargent) was under the gun, as it were, to appease a client of his advertising agency who, it was believed, was on the verge of taking his account somewhere else.

As so often happened, his mother–in–law, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), showed up while he was working at home, and she was offended by what she regarded as his brusque behavior. She felt he had no sense of humor — so later at his office she popped (unseen, as the witches in Bewitched were wont to be) in and cast a spell on him that made him tell jokes at inappropriate times.

With a truly humorless client — and his wife — coming in, it is safe to say it was neither the time nor the place for jokes — even good ones but especially not bad ones. And Darrin's jokes were bad.

Some reinforced the old saying that many a truth is said in jest. For example, on the subject of mothers–in–law, Darrin said, "My mother–in–law has one terrible habit. ... Breathing."

Paging Rodney Dangerfield.

The client, as I say, was a humorless sort. He already thought Darrin wasn't serious enough to handle his account. That impression hardened when Darrin came into a meeting with the client and his boss (David White) telling bad jokes.

His boss sent him home on the pretense that he wasn't feeling well. He then tried to pitch Darrin's ideas to the client himself, but Darrin left with the sketches for his advertising ideas.

While he was at home, Darrin and Endora interacted again, and Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) implored Endora to take the spell off Darrin. Reluctantly, she did so, but after Darrin was summoned back to the office and he was out of Samantha's sight, Endora put a new spell on him: He would no longer tell jokes, but now he would laugh whenever he heard something sad or terrible. In fact, according to Endora's spell, the worse it was, the more he would laugh.

So Darrin decided not to return to the office. After all, the client ran an insurance company, and it was introducing a new line of policies to protect people from the scourge of pollution.

It was a recipe for disaster, but, of course, the mere mention of the word disaster was enough to have Darrin in stitches.

His boss, meanwhile, had decided to bring the client and his wife to Darrin. The client had decided to take an early flight home, apparently having decided (but not confirmed) that he would be changing advertising agencies — and Darrin's boss volunteered to take them to the airport.

Since Darrin's house was kind of on the way to the airport, they would swing by to meet with him. It would give him one last opportunity to save the account.

"I thought you said he was sick," the client said.

"He is," Darrin's boss said, "but he's not unconscious."

So they went to Darrin's house — and Darrin and Samantha, with some fast thinking, persuaded the client to use a humorous approach to advertisements for a serious product.

Endora was foiled again.