2016 was defined in part by what seemed like an unusually high count of celebrity deaths, including longtime cultural icons Carrie Fisher, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Robert Vaughn, Arnold Palmer, Merle Haggard, and more.
Sadly, 2017 has already seen a few similar losses, including today’s news that legendary actress Mary Tyler Moore has died at age 80.
Though Moore had dozens of TV roles over the decades, she’s best known for sitcom work, first as Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” then as the star of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
Perhaps the most fitting tribute to one of the first ladies of American comedy is to revisit how her own show handled death — a reminder that laughter can honor a life just as much as tears can.
In “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” written by David Lloyd, the whole newsroom is stunned to learn their colleague Chuckles the Clown was killed rather tragically in a parade (he was stomped to death by an elephant while wearing a peanut costume). It takes a while for the news to sink in, but once it does, the newsroom can’t help but crack jokes while remembering Chuckles.
However, Mary is appalled that her coworkers are taking the situation so lightly and scolds them repeated to act appropriately. When it comes time for the funeral, Mary cracks up during the eulogy and realizes it’s okay to laugh at death.
The episode, which originally aired on October 25, 1975, earned David Lloyed an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.” And it’s easy to see why, watching the funeral scene below (hat tip to the Daily Beast for the video):
Personally, I’ll always remember her from “Dick Van Dyke” first and foremost, but the above is certainly a classic too. Thanks for the memories, Mary Tyler Moore, and may you rest in peace.