Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Tale of Laughing in the Dark (Season 1. Episode 2)

Well, here we go again.

A stilted voiceover tells us: "The park was called Playland and it was the best! You could laugh and scream and get scared to death on rides and stuff up on junk food and ditch your parents, all in one night." Apparently you can also indulge in run-on sentences at Playland. Oh, and there is also a spook house called Laughing in the Dark. That name irritates me.

We are then treated to an inside view of said spook house. Two young girls, without parental supervision, of course. Does this take place in Stoneybrook? Never mind, I don't see any over-eager 13 year olds organizing the tour through the spook house.

The girls open a door. Oh no! A clown!


Back to the campfire. Kristen (the blonde one played by Rachel Blanchard) jumps up and wants to take her baby pink backpack and get the hell out of there. She lets everyone know that she HATES clown stories. Kiki (who looks exactly like a pre-teen boy in this episode) diagnoses Kristen as having "Bozophobia." How witty.

Kristen decides to suck it up and tells Betty Ann to do her worst.

And then the magic words: "Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society I call this story..."


We start (again) at Playland. I guess we are to assume the two little girls from before are dead, as our focus is now on two boys (Josh and I don't even know how to begin to spell this- Weegee? I assume it's short for Luigi) and a younger girl (Cathy, Weegee's sister). There is much talk of barfing and hurling. Charming. They stop in front of Laughing in the Dark (LITD) and Cathy mentions that the place is haunted by a clown. Cue chicken noises.Enter man in striped shirt and straw hat. Carnies around here are never that exciting. They just sweat and say inappropriate things. He tries to persuade the kids to go into LITD, but they decline. Before exiting he informs them that he's always there. That's a comforting thought.


Josh stares at the wooden cutout of a clown smoking a cigar before we fade back to the campfire to witness some more teasing/mocking/general pre-teen assholery.And back to the story! Josh, Weegee and Cathy are in Josh's bedroom. (why does she go everywhere with them? She's obviously younger. I can see taking her to the amusement park, but why is she hanging out in your friend's bedroom, Weegee?)

Whoa, Josh has a hockey... thing in his bedroom.


So they kids are looking at newspaper clippings. Ah, those innocent pre-internet days. It appears as is Zeebo the clown (who supposedly is haunting the LITD spook house) wasn't a very nice guy when he was performing in the circus. He stole the entire! circus payroll of $4000. He got caught and ran into the LITD to hide out, but ended up burning the place down with his cigar. He perished in the fire, LITD was rebuilt, and legend says the Zeebo's ghost is trapped in the spook house. Titillating, no?

Speaking of titillating, cue inappropriate tickling of your best friend's little sister. Thankfully this scene is ended by Josh being hit in the head with a garbage can lid. I believe Cathy describes it as "bung"ing him on the head.

Weegee dares Josh to go to LITD. And to prove he made it all the way through, he has to steal the nose from the dummy Zeebo that's in the spook house. Josh agrees on one condition: Weegee must wear the clown nose to school.

Back at Playland. The carney appears again (btw, he's played by the same actor that played Dr. Va-Va-Va Vink)

This spook house is pretty lame. Mirrors! Oh no! Oh, and Zeebo also appears out of nowhere. Josh shits his pants. Wait, wait, wait. A dragon comes out from a wall, shooting REAL fucking flames from its mouth. Didn't the place already burn down once? Jeez. Someone must be sleeping with the fire marshal.


Josh's sensitive nostrils are then assaulted by the smell of cigar smoke and ends up in a room containing many doors. Cue Carney voice: "Pick the right door, you'll go free. Wrong door, there he'll be"

What's behind door #5? A skull. Door #4? A hand pointing the way to the exit and canned applause. Josh needs the nose, so he persists.

Door #6? Zeebo! A dummy Zeebo, to be exact. Josh steals the nose, calls himself "the guy who beat Zeebo" and exits via door #4. The camera then pans down to the crack underneath door #6 as smoke streams under the door and into the room. My money is on the dragon.

Back to the campfire! Eric (I think, I can't keep these goddamn kids straight) says he has a cramp. I feel for the kid, really I do, but that excuse only works if you have a uterus and are trying to get out of gym class. The Midnight Society agrees with me and tells Eric to sit the fuck down.

Betty Ann then informs us that if you thought Josh was a dick before he stole the nose, then you'd be horrified by his behavior after the nose theft. I guess red, foam clown noses are the marijuana of petty crimes. Everyone knows if you smoke weed once you'll end up a crack-head hooker. I guess the same logic applies to Josh's situation. It's sad to see a good, hockey loving kid go down the wrong path. For shame.

We cut to Josh, Cathy, and Weegee (now donning the clown nose) sitting on the front steps. Cue chicken clucking. Weegee and Cathy are fed up with the dickery and leave Josh's ass outside to look for the clown nose that Weegee threw into the bushes. Once again, Josh smells cigar smoke. I'm glad Josh isn't asthmatic. He finds the nose. Camera pans to backyard just in time to see smoke drifting around the corner of the house.

Josh arrives home to find his parents have went to the theatre. Don't worry, there's spaghetti and chocolate pudding in the fridge.

A creaking door sound interrupts Josh's near orgasm over licking his pudding covered fingers. Pudding Interruptus? He drops the bowl and pudding splashes all over the floor. A metaphorical description of unfulfilled sexual desire culminating in premature ejaculation? Probably not. After dropping his load (of pudding- calm down) the first thing Josh says is "Mom." How Freudian.

Josh goes into the living room and the closet door creeks open. Josh grabs a baseball bats and tried to look and sound threatening. He's not very convincing, as you can imagine. Good thing it was just a false alarm. The phone rings. It's Weegee calling to apologize. They hang up and the phone rings again. Cue creepy clown(?) voice saying "Give it back. Give it back."

In a fearful panic, Josh sets the table for his spaghetti dinner. I always remember proper dining etiquette when a ghost clown is after me. However, I don't usually set down 50 forks, as Josh does.

Oh no! Something in the microwave is burning! Josh opens the lid to find his spaghetti has been replaces with cigar butts. Tasty. Josh screams and runs upstairs. The camera pans and we see that someone has stepped in the pudding puddle. Who could it be?


Josh runs to his bedroom and calls Weegee instead of the police. Maybe this is Stoneybrook, after all. Someone picks up the other line. Cue creepy voice making creepy demands. Cue calliope music and furtive glances towards the locked door. And then the most amazingly hilarious thing happens. A balloon in mid-inflation comes under the door. Written on it is GIVE IT BACK. It pops in Josh's face. Josh jumps out the window and lands on an inflatable pool toy (more about this later).

Next time we see Josh he's back at LITD, carrying a brown paper bag. Maybe it's the leftover spaghetti that was replaced with cigar butts. He passes the scary mirrors and flaming dragon before ending up in the room o'many doors. Door #4, the exit, is locked. Door #6 opens and smoke streams out. Josh removes the clown nose from the paper back and places it on the floor. He then takes out a box of cigars. I hope he stole them from his dad. Or is the tobacco buying policy now: you must be 18 (or 19 if you're in Jersey) to buy unless you're buying cigars to appease a homicidal clown ghost?

Door #6 closes. Door #4 opens. Josh makes his exit.

Our last glimpse of Playland is the carney guy smoking a cigar and laughing.

Back at the campfire, the Midnight Society argues about the tale's ending. Was Zeebo real? Was the carney guy really Zeebo's ghost? Was the carney guy just too cheap to buy his own cigars?

It's pretty obvious to me. It was all the work of the flaming dragon. The subtle symbolism of Josh landing on an inflatable pool toy that closely resembled a dragon (it was a sea monster) gives it all away. I imagine even with the obviously enormous budget given to this show, finding a dragon pool toy would be very difficult, so a sea monster is the next best choice. Sea monster? Dragon? Semantics. Let's not split hairs. Good job writers / prop crew!

It's only logical to assume that the dragon really burned the place down the first time and since then has been trying to place the blame on Zeebo. Everyone knows dragons are spiteful, malicious bitches.


Eric (cramp kid) puts on a clown mask to scare Kristen. Does he always carry one around? What an odd kid. The Fire is put out and the Society members disperse.

Grade: 3 flaming dragons out of 5

I think even as an incredibly easy to scare child, I wouldn't have been frightened by this one. The scariest part was the tickling.


Fear Street said...

I am so freaking happy that someone created a blog dedicated to this show!!!!

Ok, I'm cool now, moving on...I remember this particular episode so clearly. I always thought it was kind of funny even though I hated clowns with a passion.

colleenn said...

I was a bit more creeped out by this one than by some of the others, but only because of the clown factor. The story itself wasn't particularly scary, but just the image of that clown burned into my brain forever was enough. And when they showed the clown without the nose, that was the worst.

Thorny said...

That's a creepy clown, man. Yikes.

LongWinter said...

Awesome post! I went and watched this ep on surf the channel because I didn't remember it.

The guy who played Josh is really famous here in Canada for being in an early 90s Canadian Heritage commercial that still gets aired constantly.

Your pudding bit was hilarious.!

colleenn said...

longwinter - I thought the Josh kid must have been somewhat famous in Canada back when I saw this episode as a kid. I feel like I've seen him on at least a few Canadian imports from that era.

Nolan said...

OMG - I think I actually recognize that haunted house! It was one of the attractions in the kids' village at La Ronde, an amusement park in Montreal where I misspent large portions of my youth.

In case anyone was wondering, yes, the animatronics really were that lame. So lame that Zeebo is actually scary in comparison.

megan s said...

This was always my most favorite episode, even tho I don't know why, since I hate clowns!!

Josh is my favorite haha.

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