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Home --> Radio & TV --> Television --> Cram It, Clown!

Cram It, Clown!

Legend:   A youngster who fails in his efforts to win a treasure chest full of toys on a live Bozo the Clown show expresses his displeasure by exclaiming "Cram it, clown!"

Example:   [Los Angeles Times, 1994]

One of the prevailing urban myths among '60s Southern California youth was that, on one televised Bozo show, things got out of hand. A child playing Bozo Buckets reputedly accompanied a missed shot with a choice swear word. To which Bozo replied, "That's a Bozo No-no." To which the child then reportedly responded, "Aw, cram it, Clownie!"

Variations:
  • The city in which the show took place varies, with Chicago and Boston being the two most frequently mentioned.
  • The contest at which the child contestant failed also varies; versions include the youngster's losing at a ping pong ball toss, a ball-in-bucket game, a block-building contest, an egg race, and even a quiz.
  • The tyke's retort to Bozo's attempt to console him is said to be one of "Cram it, clown!"; "Ram it, clownie"; "Fuck off, clown!"; and even "Right here, Bozo!" (while pointing at his crotch).
Origins:   This tale certainly has all the hallmarks of an apocryphality: Cartoon of the legend No one seems to agree on the city in which the show took place, when the incident occurred, what game the child was competing at, and what "naughty phrase" the contestant blurted out. Moreover, this same story has been told about not just Bozo the Clown specifically, but about nearly every town's local clown show. (There was no one Bozo the Clown show; many different markets each had its own "Bozo" show, produced locally and featuring a different actor as Bozo.) In short, there's no reason to believe this is anything than yet another made-up bit of television lore that has now become so ubiquitous many people are convinced they actually saw it take place.

The legend has been advanced as true in recent years by none other than Larry Harmon, the purported creator of Bozo and the original portrayer of the red-haired clown on television. Harmon claimed in a 1996 article (the year that marked the fiftieth anniversary of Bozo's creation) that the "Cram it!" incident occurred while he was producing Boston's local Bozo the Clown show "in the early sixties," and he reiterated the same claim a few years later for a TV Guide piece on television legends:
[TV Guide, 1998]

It took place during a game, Bozo's Treasure Chest, which boasted a huge cache of toys as a prize. "One day this young, underprivileged kid was competing and his eyes were as big as saucers looking at those toys," Harmon recalls. The boy had to toss three Ping-Pong balls into a barrel. He landed the first two, but missed the third. The show's ringmaster said to the boy, "You're never a loser on the Bozo show, you're just an almost-winner," and handed him a Bozo towel as a consolation prize. "The kid looks at the towel," Harmon says, "he looks at the ringmaster, then looks at Bozo and says, 'Cram it, clown!'" Bozo's response? "That's a Bozo no-no."
Larry Harmon has some credibility issues, however. First of all, although Harmon stated that he's been "asked about the story for years," he apparently didn't start claiming it was true until it had been circulating for nearly three decades. Secondly, although he has repeatedly identified himself as both the creator of Bozo and the first person to portray Bozo on television, he is in fact neither of those things. (Bozo was created for Capitol Records in 1946 by Alan W. Livingston, and he was first portrayed on television for Los Angeles station KTTV in 1949 by Pinto Colvig. Harmon now claims that he did not assert he was Bozo's creator and that he has been "misquoted and blatantly misrepresented" in numerous newspaper articles.) Most importantly, the details of this
incident as recalled by Harmon don't check out: the Boston Bozo show had no "ringmaster," and no one else connected with the show (including the man who portrayed the Boston Bozo from 1958 to 1970, Frank Avruch) remembers anything about it.

This legend is plausible in that most of the Bozo shows were broadcast live, and thus an incident like this could have made it onto the air. Moreover, the Boston Bozo program was syndicated to markets that didn't have their own Bozo show, which could account for people in several different cities all reportedly having seen the same thing. (As well, this isn't the type of incident whose non-appearance in media reports would be surprising; a tot acting up on a local children's TV show isn't exactly big news.) Nonetheless, the legend appears to have originated around 1964 or 1965, spread by word of mouth and (like the apocryphal Uncle Don remark) eventually "re-created" for a bloopers record that purportedly included all "authentic" material. It demonstrates both the pitfalls of live television and the difficulties working with children, and it features a common role-switching juxtaposition: the sophisticated youngster who dishes out a grown-up's rebuke to a mild, cloying adult character. While very young children still enjoy characters such as Barney the dinosaur and Ronald McDonald, older children have increasingly seen them as worthy targets of verbal and physical abuse: perhaps a symptom of our youngsters' more rapid loss of innocence in today's society.

Additional information:   The RealAudio sound clip below is a "recreation" of this legend from a 1960s bloopers record.

        Bozo blooper   'Bozo' blooper

Last updated:   5 August 2007

Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2014 by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson.
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
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  Sources Sources:
    Beckerman, Jim.   "Yo! Bozo! Are You Having Fun Yet?"
    The [Bergen County] Record.   30 September 1996   (p. Y1).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   "Just Clowning Around, These Legends Create a Real Bozo!"
    The San Diego Union-Tribune.   8 October 1987   (p. D2).

    Mitchell, Sean.   "TV Confidential."
    TV Guide.   25 July 1998   (p. 16).

    Roeper, Richard.   "We Cheer As Movie Thumbs Nose at Clowns."
    Chicago Sun-Times.   12 March 1992   (p. 11).

    Washburn, Jim.   "Wowie Kazowee — She Is Bonkers for Bozo."
    Los Angeles Times.   29 November 1994   (p. E1).

    Wolf, Buck.   "Who Is the Original Bozo?"
    ABCNEWS.com   (The Wolf Files).


  Sources Also told in:

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.
    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 199).