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Ask Chicagoist: What Happened to Bozo?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Apr 21, 2006 4:08PM

What exactly happened to the Bozo Show? I remember getting WGN in the southwest over 20 years ago and Bozo was a staple of my young TV diet. (Mostly because his show was around Transformers and GI Joe...)

2006_04_askbozo.jpgWe're sorry. We know how important Bozo was to millions of children in Chicago and all across the country. He was a childhood icon, bringing laughter and happiness into many homes. But. It's just. He's a clown. And no matter how cliché it may sound, we can't help it. Clowns are just plain creepy and we don't want anything to do with them.

Personal confessions aside, the final Bozo show aired on July 14, 2001, and was titled "Bozo: 40 Years of Fun!" The show (meaning all of the different variations of the Bozo show) was cancelled by WGN after 9,500 episodes. The station cited low ratings (that were just getting lower) as the reason for the cancellation, and Bozo himself (er, Joey D'Auria, Bozo since 1980) was even quoted as saying "Bozo these days is kind of a dinosaur." So really, your comment about only watching Bozo because it aired around the same time as the shows you really wanted to watch is a good indicator of the problems Bozo had probably been facing for years. Who wants to watch to watch a creepy old clown when there are alien robots to fight?

While Bozo's been around since the 1940s, when Alan Livingston created the character for some children's albums for Capitol Records, the Bozo we know and love in Chicago started in 1959. Bob Bell (the real Bozo, according to many) began his career as Bozo by hosting a cartoon show for WGN. But it was in 1961 that "Bozo's Circus" premiered as a variety show with a live audience, featuring Oliver O. Oliver, Sandy the Tramp, and Ringmaster Ned. The show grew so popular, there was a decade-long wait for tickets to be in the audience.

By 1980 the show no longer was filmed live, and the name was changed to "The Bozo Show." Ringmaster Ned had since retired, and in 1984 Bob Bell retired and Joey D'Auria stepped in as the final Bozo (Chicagoist got all excited when we found out D'Auria was once a "Gong Show" contestant -- now there's a program we can get behind!). In 1994 the show changed its name one last time to "The Bozo Super Sunday Show" and added an FCC-mandated educational element to the show which had in previous years been all about the entertainment.

Different Bozos existed in different parts of the country, but WGN's Bozo was by far the most popular, and the longest running. No clowning around.

Think the clown's gonna get you? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.