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December 21, 2011

Jake Young is Afraid of the Dark: Episode Two

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Written by: Jake Young
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Jake Young is Afraid of the Dark.

In 1992 the Nickelodeon network unveiled a show. This show was so different, so unheard of, so revolutionary that it left a permanent impression on an entire generation of Canadian and American youngsters. That show was “Are You Afraid of The Dark” and its goal was to make 10-year olds poop their pants. Now, many years later Jake Young is going to confront his fears, one episode at a time.

 Episode 2:


That title is SPOOKILY awkward, and MONSTROUSLY phrased!

Now this episode was a big one for me, because this is one of the stories that had a tangible effect on my psyche. The reason for this is because it preyed upon two of my big fears as a child, haunted houses and clowns. At this point in our discussion, I should just confirm your suspicions and admit that yes, I was a gigantic wussbag throughout most of the 90’s. In my defense, the very institution of clowning as an artform/entertainment style is freaking insane. Think about it, everyone else at the circus is presented as an actual person: the acrobats are people who flip around, the lion tamer is a person who has trained animals, but what on earth are clowns supposed to even be? They are normal people pretending to be otherworldly inhuman mirth-creatures, never once dropping the act and suggesting that they have a name besides “Boingo” or “Whimzers”. Clowns are just WRONG. They should not BE.

 

Step 1: Look at this for 30 seconds.

Step 2: Never know a restful night’s sleep again.

The episode starts with a cold open, which I think is rare for this series, way to bust out some intermediate-level screen-writing! The story takes place in an amusement park called “Playland” where there’s a very special attraction, a haunted house called “Laughing in the Dark” (which is more of an awkward sentence fragment than a designation). In this haunted house dwells a creature so horrifying, so unsettling, so deeply and unfathomably perverse that it can kill the soul of newborn infants, ZEEBO THE CLOWN. As a writer, it is embarrassing when words fail me, but when trying to describe the design of ZEEBO THE CLOWN, all I could come up with is “it looks like if the western world’s failure to act decisively in Darfur was a clown’s face”.

 

I wonder which of these characters have ATTITUDE?

Our main protagonist is Josh and he’s yet another “Nickelodeon Tuffguy” as evidenced by his backwards cap, jean jacket, and behavior that no young person has ever exhibited ever. This particular example of “Tuffguy” has invited his best friend and his best friend’s little sister to the amusement park where it’s all fun and cotton candy until they reach the haunted house. There, a strange southern gentleman urges them to take a look inside.

 

I promise I ain’t gonna touch you much”

Wisely, they decide not to go inside.

 

JINKIES, eh?

Back at the Canadian kids compound (the whole bedroom is decorated like a hockey arena, thus betraying shows strange foreign roots), Josh’s nerdy friend and his little sister dump exposition on us like a bag of orphaned rocks. Apparently ZEEBO THE CLOWN was a cigar chomping gangster-type, who died in a fire at the haunted house after trying to rob his circus. All this backstory is told to us so rote and unnaturally that it boggles my mind as to why they included it. If you need a reason for a clown to be scary, here’s a good one: HE’S A FREAKING SOULLESS CLOWN. Boom, ’nuff said, that’s all you need to know. Another thing worth noting is the “Newspaper” the friend just kind of manifests for convenience’s sake, all I’m saying is the layout guy at the Ottawa Citizen Gazette sucks.

 

FFFUUUUUUU- NOOOOO!

Josh, spurned by this new information, vows to enter the haunted house and steal the nose off the clown, proving his manliness and hopefully shaming his friends, who bet that the red-headed dynamo will be too chicken to accomplish the deed. No mention is made that this challenge still counts as vandalism and is pretty illegal, but whatever. Once inside the haunted house there’s a scene I genuinely forgot existed. As Josh wanders around the attraction, this weird live-action ZEEBO THE F***ING CLOWN emerges from the shadows and then they just cut away to a random scene with the friends! What are you doing, TV Show? WTF just happened there!? When it cuts back, the clown is gone and Josh just shrugs it off and keeps walking. I call “shenanigans” irrelevant entertainment program meant for 11-year olds!

 

Sidenote: this is the same expression I made the first time I touched a boob.

So Josh gets the nose off the puppet/mannequin ZEEBO THE CLOWN, and his friend is shamed, but something isn’t right… there seems to be a menacing presence following him… as Josh is preparing his dinner later that night, something has entered his house, something supernatural, with a very specific intent. This leads to my favorite sequence in the episode:

 

That’s Just Pudding, Harmless Brown Terror Pudding.

At one point, our hero is grabbing a ludicrously huge bowl of pudding out of the fridge, hears a noise, then drops it all over the floor. Here’s how I imagine the writers meeting went down for this episode:

Writer: …and then Josh is so scared that he just POOPS EVERYWHERE. Like just a bunch of POOP all over the place. He just can’t stop POOPING because he’s so SCARED.

Producer: You realize this is a children’s show on Nickelodeon, right? That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard.

Writer: … I meant, PUDDING. He drops a bunch of CHOCOLATE PUDDING.

Producer: I see nothing wrong with that.

This is the only explanation for this sequence I can imagine.

  

The store was out of malt liquor and codeine, so…

As the mysterious presence closes in, Josh bolts out of his window and runs all the way back to the amusement park, which keeps all its attractions open and powered up and doesn’t have any security guards on duty. Once inside the haunted house, Josh returns to nose to the clown puppet, alongside a box of cigars. I don’t know if you knew this, but in canada, 13-year olds are allowed to buy tobacco and firearms in the middle of the night and nobody cares because of the free healthcare. So with that gesture of peace and goodwill between bully and clown-ghost, the balance is restored and ZEEBO THE CLOWN is no longer a threat. The story ends, and the credits roll. It’s episodes like this that made me want to do these reviews. Goofy, unsettling, poorly made, it’s what I remember the best from this show.

Tune in next week for another favorite of mine…

 

Nobody’s scared of dead girls who AREN’T Japanese

*****

Jake Young is a Standup Comedian living in Brooklyn. He can be seen performing alongside The Geek Comedy Tour (geekcomedytour.com) and posts amusements at getbacktowork.tumblr.com. Also, he co-hosts the podcast “Nerd of Mouth” on cavecomedyradio.com.

 

 



About the Author

Jake Young





 
 

 
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