Flunky the Clown was an early character that would appear on David Letterman
's NBC Late Night talk show. Flunky, dressed like Bozo the Clown
but with a cigarette in hand, would plunk himself down in the interviewee chair and help Dave answer a particularly hard Viewer Mail
question. Usually, however, he'd just ramble to Dave about his prostate
In one bit, Flunky had a bandage
around his arm. Letterman asked what happened:
Flunky: I got a tattoo but it's infected. It's all oozy and puss covered...not something you want to see.
Dave: Eww. That's too bad. What's it a tattoo of?
Flunky: A hula dancer. I thought I'd be able to make the tattoo dance and that would look cool.
Dave: You can't get it to dance?
Flunky: No. Apparently you need some muscle tone to do that. I don't have any. You know, carnival food.
Flunky might have originated the phrase "bite me
" which Letterman later turned into his own signature phrase. During a viewer mail segment a representative of some sort of clown
society wrote in to complain about Flunky. He took issue with not only Flunky's negative portrayal of clowns but Flunky's earlier allegation that circus people were disease-ridden, garbage-eating bums. Letterman brought out Flunky to answer the charges. Flunky took a long drag on his cigarette, shrugged his shoulders, and quipped "bite me".
Flunky was played by Letterman writer Jeff Martin
. There's a lot of speculation that The Simpsons Krusty the Klown
is based on (or a rip off
of) Flunky. Those who argue the "based on" idea point out that Jeff Martin is now a writer for The Simpsons
. Those who argue for the "ripped off" idea point out Martin didn't join The Simpsons
team until 1990. Flunky existed while Martin was still with Letterman and then the chain-smoking, tattooed, junk food
eating Krusty magically appeared on The Simpsons
years before Martin started writing for Fox
Many of the writers on Letterman and The Simpsons
got their start at the Harvard Lampoon
and many remain friends. As well, early Letterman writer George Meyer was also doing double duty with The Simpsons
since its inception. It's not unbelievable that there's a crosspollination
of ideas and many obscure tributes that go back and forth. "Hey, Jeff help me brainstorm a new character" "Well, over on Letterman I used to do this smoking clown bit..." "Great idea!"
So it's likely Krusty isn't so much a rip off but a tribute to Flunky. Consider as well that Jeff Martin and Damon Wayans
are friends. It's no coincidence that Wayans had a Flunky-like character called Homey the Clown