David Lloyd dies at 75; TV comedy writer wrote the classic 'Chuckles
Bites the Dust' sitcom episode
Over four decades, he wrote jokes and scripts for 'The Mary Tyler
Moore Show,' 'Taxi, 'Cheers' and many others.
By Dennis McLellan
5:20 PM PST, November 12, 2009
David Lloyd, an Emmy Award-winning television comedy writer who wrote
the classic "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore
Show," has died. He was 75.
Lloyd died of prostate cancer Tuesday at his home in Beverly Hills,
said his son, writer-producer Christopher Lloyd.
"I do think he was the preeminent writer of television comedy," said
Les Charles, co-creator of "Cheers," for which Lloyd wrote numerous
"If you consider how long his career was and how much he wrote for
such really popular shows, he's got to have been responsible for a
record number of laughs in this world," Charles said.
His four-decade comedy career began with writing jokes for Jack Paar
on "The Tonight Show" in 1962 and included writing for "The Bob
Newhart Show," "Phyllis," "Rhoda," "Lou Grant," "Taxi," "Frasier" and
many other shows.
"He was a remarkable writer," said Allan Burns, who created "The Mary
Tyler Moore Show" with James L. Brooks and began working with Lloyd
when he moved to Hollywood from New York in 1974 to write for the
"The word 'wit' doesn't come up an awful lot when you're talking about
television comedy, but that's what David was -- a genuine wit," said
Burns. "And he was just remarkable in his ability to write wonderful
stuff very quickly.
"I would sit at my desk and laugh out loud, which I don't do often.
His drafts always made me laugh out loud and with such unexpected,
Said Brooks: "From the moment he came out until now, he was the very
best. I mean, I was saying the other day he was a one-man writing
staff. The work was always that good and that witty. And it was
extraordinary that it was that fast.
"He was a perfect writer and a great guy and was a major part of every
show he was connected to."
Lloyd's most famous piece of writing is his Emmy Award-winning 1975
script “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” in which the WJM-TV news staff deals
with the death of a Minneapolis TV station colleague: kiddie-show host
Chuckles the Clown, who died while serving as grand marshal for a
As Ed Asner's Lou Grant informs the newsroom staff: "It was a freak
accident. He went to the parade dressed as Peter Peanut . . . and a
rogue elephant tried to shell him."
Chuckles' clown credo was "A little song, a little dance, a little
seltzer down your pants," and the reaction to his being crushed to
death by an elephant quickly generates newsroom quips.
Although Mary thinks there is nothing funny about Chuckles' death,
even she gets a case of uncontrollable giggles at the funeral for the
man whose characters included Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo, Billy Banana and -- the
preacher's particular favorite -- Aunt Yoo-Hoo.
"I think it was David's sort of mordant take on what is funny and what
isn't," Burns said of the episode, "and that you can make death a
subject and wring a lot of humor out of it. I mean, a lot. As people
say, it's the funniest episode we ever did."
Said Brooks: "I think what made it memorable: We were laughing as hard
on the stage as we ever did. It was a joy to do."
Burns said he feels the irony that Lloyd’s most famous TV episode
dealt with death "and here we are mourning his death. And I wonder how
funny a funeral it's going to be. I have an idea it's going to be
funny, because that's what he'd want."
Born July 7, 1934, in Bronxville, N.Y., Lloyd majored in English at
Yale. After graduating in 1956, he served in the Navy and began
teaching English at Rutgers Preparatory School in New Jersey.
Lloyd had been writing plays in his spare time while writing jokes for
Paar and then Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" and later for "The
Dick Cavett Show" when he wrote a sample script for "The Mary Tyler
"The producer [on the series] was Ed. Weinberger, who said, 'I've got
a guy in New York who could really help us,' " Burns recalled. "And he
handed me a script that David had written for our show, and it was
just spot-on. It was a shootable script, and I couldn't believe it. I
said, 'Boy, do we need him.' "
In addition to his son Christopher, Lloyd is survived by his wife,
Arline; and his other children, Julie, Stephen (also a writer and
producer), Amy and Douglas; his sister, Sally Lloyd; and two
A funeral for Lloyd will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Holy Cross
Cemetery, 5835 W. Slauson Ave., Culver City.
Born: 7/7/1934, Bronxville, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 11/11/2009, Beverly Hills, California, U.S.A.
David Lloyd's western - producer, screenwriter:
Best of the West (TV) - 1982