The 1965 Joke That Got A Comedian Canceled (For Two Weeks)
It was New Year’s Day 1965, and Soupy Sales was doing his daytime kids’ show, just like always. Maybe he didn’t really want to be there. Maybe he was hungover. If you don’t have any frame of reference for children’s variety programming, picture Krusty the Clown delivering this joke that Soup said to the camera that day.
“Hey, kids!” said Soupy. (We’re just quoting his later recollection here because no recording remains of the actual show.) “I want you to tiptoe into your parents’ bedrooms, look in their pockets for all the green pieces of paper with the pictures of the guys in beards, and send them to Soupy Sales at channel 5 in New York.”
Some parents took great offense at this joke. Soupy was teaching their children to steal from them! Or, he was banking on their ignorance and using them as unwitting accomplices in his scheme to rob parents. Indeed, Soupy would later say that the scheme resulted in $80,000 arriving at the news station, divided among a large number of envelopes with childishly handwritten addresses.
In reality, he’d just be joking about getting a $80,000 windfall. No kids guilelessly robbed their parents and sent him the proceeds. If any kids in the audience didn’t understand that taking those strange slips of paper meant stealing money, they also lacked the skills necessary to send these pieces of paper through the post. The original ad lib had just been Soupy funnily pretending that he was telling kids to steal, and the kids understood this. Some kids did mail him actual green pieces of paper, or Monopoly money, possibly assisted by their equally amused parents.
But, again: Some parents took offense at the joke. They sent in complaints to the network, and at least one parent even contacted the FCC. And so the syndicator behind The Soupy Sales Show took the program off the air ... for two weeks, which was long enough to hopefully make everyone get over their outrage.
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