David Lloyd Remembered
What more could be said about David? Although it might seem strange to suggest that he was honored with the 2001 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television for lacing one-liners with wit for Jack Paar and for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, for Bob Newhart quips, and punch lines for Dick Cavett, a collaboration that stretched back to their undergraduate days at Yale in Saybrook College might have been anti-climactical. Or capricious to argue that this highest award for television writing by the Writers Guild of America given to him for his hilarious skits, which flourished into TV scripts for Mary Tyler Moore and Frasier and the gang in Taxi and the crowd in Cheers was an also ran. But, perhaps his name was lit in brightest lights in July 1997 when “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” which he authored, was selected by TV Guide as the Number 1 of the 100 best television episodes of all time.
Well done, you decent, delightful, funny man, well done. And may you rest in peace.
William H. H. Rees, September 29, 2022
Obituary for David Lloyd
David Lloyd, an Emmy Award-winning television comedy writer who wrote the classic “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” has died. He was 75.
Mr. Lloyd died of prostate cancer Tuesday at his home in Beverly Hills, said his son, writer-producer Christopher Lloyd.
“I do think he was the preeminent writer of television comedy,” said Les Charles, cocreator of “Cheers,” which Mr. Lloyd wrote numerous episodes.
“If you consider how long his career was and how much he wrote for such really popular shows, he’s got to have been responsible for a record number of laughs in this world,” Charles said.
In a four-decade comedy writing career that began with writing jokes for Jack Paar on “The Tonight Show” in 1962, Mr. Lloyd’s situation comedy credits include “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Phyllis,” “Rhoda,” “Lou Grant,” “Taxi,” “Frasier,” and many other shows.
“He was a remarkable writer,” said Adam Burns, who cocreated “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” with James Brooks and began working with Mr. Lloyd when he came to Hollywood in 1974.
“The word wit doesn’t come up an awful lot when you’re talking about television comedy, but that’s what David was, a genuine wit,” Burns said. “And he was just remarkable in his ability to write wonderful stuff very quickly.
“I would sit at my desk and laugh out loud, which I don’t do often. His drafts always made me laugh out loud and with such unexpected, off-the-wall humor.”
Said Brooks: “From the moment he came out until now, he was the very best. I mean, I was saying the other day he was a one-man writing staff. The work was always that good and that witty. And it was extraordinary that it was that fast.
“He was a perfect writer and a great guy and was a major part of every show he was connected to.”
Mr. Lloyd’s most famous piece of writing is his Emmy Award-winning 1975 script “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” in which the WJM-TV news staff deals the death of one of their Minneapolis TV station colleagues: kiddie-show host Chuckles the Clown, who died while serving as grand marshal for a visiting circus.
As Ed Asner’s Lou Grant informs the newsroom staff: “It was a freak accident. He went to the parade dressed as Peter Peanut…and a rogue elephant tried to shell him.”
For a man whose clown credo was “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants,” the reaction to his being crushed to death by an elephant quickly generates newsroom quips.
Although Mary thinks there is nothing funny about Chuckle’s death, even she gets a case of uncontrollable giggles at the funeral for the man whose characters included Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo, Billy Banana, and Aunt Yoo-Hoo.
“I think it was David’s sort of mordant take on what is funny and what isn’t,” Burns said of the episode, “and that you can make death a subject and wring a lot of humor out of it. I mean, a lot. As people say, it’s the funniest episode we ever did.”
Said Brooks: “We were laughing as hard on stage as we ever did. It was a joy to do.”
Burns said he feels it was ironic that Mr. Lloyd’s most famous television episode dealt with death “and here we are mourning his death.”
“And I wonder how funny a funeral it’s going to be,” Burns said. “I have an idea it’s going to be funny because that’s what he’d want.”
By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times