On Wednesday, the entertainment world lost a legendary talent with the news that Mary Tyler Moore has died at age 80, her rep confirmed to Bustle. As well as being an Oscar nominated actor (in 1981, for her role in Ordinary People), Moore was a comedy legend and starred in one of the most influential, iconic TV sitcoms ever made — The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And with the tremendously sad news of her passing, it's worth revisiting one of the best Mary Tyler Moore Show comedy scenes that ever aired. And it's a particularly poignant one at this moment in time.
Taken from the iconic episode, "Chuckles Bites The Dust" from Season 6 of the show, the scene manages to deal with death in a truly human and imperfect manner. The plot of the episode follows the absurd death of Chuckles the Clown, a performer from the station where Mary works. Dressed up as the character Peter Peanut, the character is bizarrely killed by a rogue elephant during a parade who attempts to "shell" him like a real peanut.
Naturally, when Mary attends Chuckles funeral, she's forced to reprimand her fellow co-workers for cracking jokes about the man when they should be showing respect. Except, as soon as the service begins, Mary herself begins cracking up with laughter which she fails to contain.
It's a wonderful comedic sequence which manages to perfectly, and hilariously, portray the complexities of death — something which is made all the more poignant when the priest pauses the service to inform Mary that she shouldn't feel bad for laughing during Chuckles' service, as he lived for laughter. However, the sentiment is so touching that the second she's given permission to laugh, she ends up bawling instead.
There's a lot to love about the scene, and Moore's spectacular sense of comedic timing and utterly charming desire to just be respectful are, without a doubt, part of the supreme driving force of what works about it. But as a scene of dark comedy, it also manages to tap into the nervous energies of loss and question modes of respectability.
Mary can't control her laughter when it feels forbidden and tasteless, but then she can't stop her tears the second she discovers that such a response could be a respectful way to mourn a loss and celebrate a life. Ultimately, the scene explores the mawkish unrest of mourning and suggests that there is no standard, appropriate manner with which to say goodbye to someone. You just have to go with your feelings.
And that's a reaction that I can't help but feel that Moore would approve of for fans mourning her death. Because though her passing is sad, her legacy is one of supreme comedic talents that brought a lot of much-needed laughter to the world. So, if you need to say goodbye, then by all means, laugh.