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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Clown
Season 10, Episode 05
132032
Air date December 4, 2005
Written by Christy Stratton
Directed by Kyounghee Lim
Episode guide
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Clown is the one hundred-ninety-first episode of King of the Hill. It was first aired on December 4, 2005. The episode was written by Christy Stratton, and directed by Kyounghee Lim.

Plot

Hank is dismayed when Bobby’s clowning around becomes disruptive at home, school and even church. Luann then suggests that Bobby take the course in clowning offered at Arlen Community College, assuring Hank that his age won’t be a factor; this loophole will allow Bobby to be the key member of the meat examination team in the series finale, “To Sirloin, With Love.” Peggy thinks it will be an outlet for Bobby’s creativity while Hank compares it to “taking your dog to the park for an hour so he won’t jump up on the furniture.” Bobby agrees, with Hank stipulating that he stops being inappropriately funny elsewhere.

Bobby shows up for his first day of class with a blue wig, rubber nose, polka-dot bow tie, and oversized shoes. Upon entering the class the instructor, Prof. Twilley, imperiously declares “Great clown are not born. They are made, right here. I make clowns.” He tells those who wore wigs to class that unless they can explain humor as he expresses it in an algebra-like formula, they should dispense with the props. When asked to name a funny part of the body, Bobby suggests “armpit;” Prof. Twilley compliments him on the pathos of his attempt but declares that it’s still not funny.

Bobby sees Prof. Twilley to ask why he’s not connecting with the class material after all his years of being otherwise funny. Twilley refers him to the “flow chart of funny” and assures Bobby that he hasn’t been “properly trained.” He assigns Bobby supplemental reading.

Bobby is soon analyzing humor in the same pedantic manner as Prof. Twilley, citing “Aristotle’s dictum” and “the ha-guffaw-aw-ha,ha formula.” Twilley is impressed enough to move Bobby up to the study of commedia dell’arte.

Drawing on a remark Connie made that Clark Peters was “dumb as a dog,” he flips the script and creates a commedia dell’arte-type character: Tartuffe, the Spry Wonder Dog, “a dog as smart as a boy” and “a precocious trickster.” Twilley characterizes it as “magnificently absurd.” Hank still doesn’t want Bobby doing his thing at home so Bobby doesn’t tell him. Bobby then decides to work up a Tartuffe routine for the Tom Landry Middle School Talent Show, complete with 16th century-style costuming.

On the day of the Talent Show, Prof. Twilley takes it upon himself to call Hank at work to get him to attend and show support for Bobby’s clowning. Hank is horrified when he hears the Professor tell Bobby to “Practice your flouncing” and leaves the office.

The Talent Show is about what you’d expect a middle-school talent show to be: the cheerleaders do one of their dance routines, Clark Peters bangs on a drum kit. Hank gets to the school by way of home where he picks up some of Bobby’s old comedy props, which he calls “gag toys.” He tells Bobby he doesn’t think Bobby’s funny [he hasn’t thought Bobbie was funny since “Meet The Propaniacs”] but he also thinks that his commedia dell’arte “jester crap” isn’t funny either, just weird, so he wants Bobby to do his old shtick to save himself from impending social embarrassment. Bobby, convinced that he’s learning to be a “real clown,” goes into his Tartuffe routine but realizes he’s losing his audience (except for Prof. Twilley). Hank then tosses Bobby’s whoopee cushion onto the stage and Bobby starts doing fart jokes, to the dismay of Prof. Twilley and Principal Moss, who puts Bobby in detention, and to Hank’s relief. This echoes Hank's pulling Bobby out of the fashion show in "Husky Bobby" before Dooley and his crew start whipping donuts at the boy models.

In the subplot, a kickball rolls into the alley and the residents start up a game. Dale gets picked last, but John Redcorn proves to be absolutely hopeless at the sport. Boomhauer then kicks the ball out of the alley and everybody gets on with their lives.

Trivia

Commedia dell'arte, which began in the 16th century, relied on stock characters with defined personae interacting with each other and behaving in specific situations. It can thus be regarded as a distant forerunner of improv comedy. Some of the stock characters continue to this day; Pierrot the Sad Clown, under the French name Pierrot Le Fou, was the antagonist in an episode of the 1999 anime, "Cowboy Bebop."

Tartuffe was not the name of a dog character in commedia dell'arte; there was no such character. Tartuffe, however, was the name of the title character in the 1664 play "Tartuffe the Imposter" by Moliere.

The episode title refers to James Joyce's 1916 novel, "A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man."

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