Krusty was created by cartoonist Matt Groening and partially inspired by Rusty Nails, a television clown from Groening's hometown of Portland, Oregon. He was designed to look like Homer Simpson with clown make-up, with the original idea being that Bart worships a television clown who looks like his own father. His voice is based on Bob Bell, who portrayed WGN-TV's Bozo the Clown. Krusty made his television debut on January 15, 1989 in the Tracey Ullman Show short The Krusty the Clown Show.
Krusty the Clown, born Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofski, is the son of Rabbi Hyman Krustofski. Hyman strongly opposed Krusty's wish to become a clown and make people laugh, wanting the boy to go to yeshiva instead. However, Krusty performed slapstick comedy behind his father's back. One day, he was performing at a rabbi's convention when one joking rabbi squirted seltzer on him, washing off his clown makeup. When Rabbi Krustofski found out, he disowned his son, and did not speak to him for 25 years. Krusty later reconciled with his father with the assistance of Bart and Lisa. It was later revealed that Krusty did not have a Bar Mitzvah service, because Hyman feared he would violate the sanctity of the rites by "acting up." Krusty had two adult Bar Mitzvah ceremonies: a Hollywood gala, then a simple ceremony intended to reconnect with his father. After leaving the Lower East Side of Springfield, Krusty started his show biz career as a street mime in Tupelo, Mississippi. Krusty later discovered that he has a daughter named Sophie. He had met Sophie's mother when she served as a soldier in the Gulf War and he was entertaining the troops. After spending the night together, he prevented her from assassinating Saddam Hussein to protect his career and after that she started hating clowns, and kept their daughter a secret from Krusty.
Krusty has his own show: The Krusty the Clown Show, which is aimed towards a children's audience and has many followers, including Bart Simpson. Some of the early details of Krusty's career have been revealed in clips, but many have been contradictory. For example, Krusty once revealed that he was banned from television for consecutive 10- and 22-year periods taking him from 1957 to 89. Another episode shows a rerun of Krusty's show from 1961 in which he interviews AFL-CIO president George Meany. Krusty's show has gone through various phases: a clip from 1963 shows Krusty interviewing Robert Frost then dumping a load of snow on the poet. The show later took a different turn, featuring Ravi Shankar as a guest and having Krusty howl a drugged-out version of The Doors' "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" in 1973. By the 1980s, the show had devolved into a children's entertainment show. During the series, The Krusty the Clown Show is shown to be aimed almost entirely at children and features many characters, including Sideshow Mel, Mr. Teeny, Tina Ballerina and Corporal Punishment. Sideshow Bob used to be Krusty's main sidekick, but years of constant abuse led to Bob framing Krusty for armed robbery, although Bob was eventually foiled by Bart. Bob has since been replaced by Sideshow Mel, who has remained loyal to Krusty. He seems to retire from and then get back into show business repeatedly throughout his career. His most recent retirement was almost permanent because of recently paroled Sideshow Bob's latest scheme – wiring plastic explosives to a hypnotized Bart and sending him up on stage. When Krusty makes a tribute to Bob at the last minute, however, Bob has a change of heart and stops Bart from fulfilling his mission. Bob and Krusty later reconciled, with Krusty exclaiming that Bob's attempts at Krusty's life make his ratings shoot through the roof. Krusty finishes his show with a song.
Bart Simpson is one of Krusty's biggest fans. In the episode titled Krusty Gets Busted, he declared "I've based my life on Krusty's teachings" and sleeps in his room which appears to be filled up with Krusty merchandise. He exposed Sideshow Bob's attempted framing, helped Krusty return to the air with a comeback special and reignite his career and reunited Krusty with his estranged father. For his part, Krusty has remained largely ignorant of Bart's help and has treated Bart with disinterest. One summer, Bart enthusiastically attended Kamp Krusty, largely because of the promise that he would get to spend his summer with Krusty. The camp turned out to be a disaster, with Krusty nowhere to be seen. Bart kept his hopes up by believing that Krusty would show up, but one day the camp director brought in Barney Gumble with Clown make-up. This pushed Bart over the edge and he finally decided that he was sick of Krusty's shoddy merchandise and took over the camp. Krusty immediately visited the camp in hopes of ending the conflict and managed to appease Bart.
Krusty is a multi-millionaire who amassed his fortune mostly by licensing his name and image to a variety of sub-standard products and services, from Krusty alarm clocks to Krusty crowd control barriers. Many of these products are potentially dangerous, such as Krusty's brand of cereal, which in one episode boasted a jagged metal Krusty-O in each box. One of many lawsuits regarding these products was launched by Bart, who ate a jagged metal Krusty-O and had to have his appendix removed. The Krusty Korporation, the company responsible for Krusty's licensing, has also launched a series of disastrous promotions and business ventures such as sponsoring the 1984 Summer Olympics with a rigged promotion that backfired when the Soviet Union boycotted the games, causing Krusty to lose $44 million. In the TV series and comic books Krusty is also the mascot and owner of the restaurant Krusty Burger. He has been shut down by the health board many times for everything from overworking employees to stapling together half-eaten burgers to make new ones. Krusty wastes money almost as fast as he earns it: lighting his cigarettes with hundred-dollar bills; eating condor-egg omelets; spending huge sums on pornographic magazines; and losing a fortune gambling on everything from horse races to operas to betting against the Harlem Globetrotters.
Krusty is a hard-living entertainment veteran, sometimes depicted as a jaded, burned out has-been, who has been down and out several times and remains addicted to gambling, cigarettes, alcohol, Percodan, Pepto-Bismol, and Xanax. He instantly becomes depressed as soon as the cameras stop rolling; Marge states in "The Sweetest Apu", that, "off camera, he's a desperately unhappy man". In his book Planet Simpson, author Chris Turner describes Krusty as "the wizened veteran, the total pro" who lives the celebrity life but is miserable and needs his celebrity status. In "Bart the Fink", Bart inadvertently reported Krusty as a tax fraud to the Internal Revenue Service and as a result Krusty lost most of his money. Bart soon discovered that Krusty had faked his death and was living as Rory B. Bellows on a boat. Krusty declared that he was finished with the life of a celebrity and was unconvinced when Bart reminded him of his fans and his entourage. Finally, Bart told Krusty that leaving show business would mean losing his celebrity status, which convinced Krusty to return. Krusty has been described as "the consummate showman who can't bear the possibility of not being on the air and not entertaining people."
In the fourteenth season, Bart convinced Krusty to run for Congress so that Krusty could introduce an airline re-routing bill and stop planes from flying over the Simpsons' house. Krusty agreed and ran on the Republican ticket. Although his campaign started off badly, Lisa suggested that he try connecting with regular families, which Krusty did, resulting in a landslide victory. Krusty's term started off badly, as he was completely ignored by his new, more politically savvy colleagues. With the help of the Simpsons and an influential doorman, however, Krusty succeeded in passing his bill.
Krusty in his first appearance in The Simpsons short The Krusty the Clown Show. Krusty first appeared in The Krusty the Clown Show, one of The Simpsons shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show that first aired on January 15, 1989. The character was partially inspired by TV clown "Rusty Nails" whom both The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and director Brad Bird watched as children while growing up in Portland, Oregon. Groening describes Rusty Nails as being a sweet clown whose show sometimes had a Christian message, but whose name scared Groening. Dan Castellaneta based his voice characterization on Chicago television's Bob Bell who had a very raspy voice and portrayed WGN-TV's Bozo the Clown from 1960 to 1984.
Krusty's appearance and design is basically just that of Homer Simpson with clown make-up. Groening said that "The satirical conceit that I was going for at the time was that The Simpsons was about a kid who had no respect for his father, but worshiped a clown who looked exactly like his father", a theme which became less important as the show developed. One concept initially saw Krusty being revealed as Homer's secret identity but the idea was dropped for being too complex and because the writers were too busy developing the series. Krusty was originally just a normal man wearing clown makeup, but David Silverman noted that "at some point, we decided he looked like a clown all the time." The producers had long discussions about whether or not Krusty would always remain in his clown make-up but eventually decided that it did not matter. The writers had tried showing Krusty's real face a few times in early episodes, but decided that it did not look right, although his real face was seen in "Krusty Gets Busted". Later episodes made jokes about Krusty's face. In "Homer's Triple Bypass", Krusty reveals that his "grotesque appearance" is the result of multiple heart attacks.
Dan Castellaneta based his voice characterization on Chicago television's Bob Bell.
The third season episode Like Father, Like Clown is the first to establish that Krusty is Jewish. Krusty's religion had not been part of the original concept, and the idea came from Jay Kogen. The episode is a parody of The Jazz Singer, which is about a son with a strict religious upbringing who defies his father to become an entertainer. In order to make Like Father, Like Clown a full parody of The Jazz Singer, the decision was made to make Krusty Jewish and have his father be a Rabbi. Krusty's real last name, Krustofski, was pitched by Al Jean. Krusty's father, Rabbi Hyman Krustofski was played by Jackie Mason, who won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for the episode. It was established in "Krusty Gets Busted" that Krusty is illiterate. This was shown in subsequent episodes like "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" but the trait was dropped after the first few seasons because it was hard for the writers to write for an illiterate character.
Krusty's design has undergone several subtle changes since the early years. For the episode "Homie the Clown", Krusty's design was permanently enhanced and he was given a different shaped mouth muzzle and permanent bags under his eyes in order to distinguish him from Homer. In the episode "Lisa's Wedding", which is set fifteen years in the future, Krusty's design was significantly altered to make him look considerably older and was based on Groucho Marx.
Krusty is a favorite character of several of the original writers, many of whom related themselves to him and wanted to write the Krusty focused episodes. Krusty was used as a chance for showbusiness jokes and thus many of Krusty's experiences and anecdotes are based on real experiences and stories heard by the writers. He was a particular favorite of Brad Bird, who directed the first two Krusty episodes and always tried to animate a scene in every Krusty episode.
In 1994, Matt Groening pitched a live-action spin-off from The Simpsons that revolved around Krusty and would star Dan Castellaneta. He and Michael Weithorn wrote a pilot script where Krusty moved to Los Angeles and got his own talk show. A recurring joke throughout the script was that Krusty lived in a house on wooden stilts which were continuously being gnawed by beavers. Eventually, the contract negotiations fell apart and Groening decided to stop work on the project.
In 2004, Dan Castellaneta won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in Today I Am a Clown, an episode that heavily features Krusty. Several episodes featuring Krusty have been very well received. In 2007, Vanity Fair named Krusty Gets Kancelled as the ninth best episode of The Simpsons. John Ortved felt, "This is Krusty's best episode — better than the reunion with his father, or the Bar Mitzvah episode, which won an Emmy much later on. The incorporation of guest stars as themselves is top-notch, and we get to see the really dark side of Krusty's flailing showbiz career. Hollywood, television, celebrities, and fans are all beautifully skewered here." Matt Groening cites "Krusty Gets Busted" as his ninth favorite episode and has said that he particularly loves Castellaneta's voice work. Groening claims that he has to leave the room every time Castellaneta records as Krusty for fear of ruining the take. Star News Online named "Krusty the Clown's hatred of children", Kamp Krusty, and Krusty's line "All these rules, I feel like I'm in a strip club" as some of the four hundred reasons why they loved The Simpsons. The Observer listed two Krusty products, "Krusty's Non-Toxic Kologne" and "Krusty's home pregnancy kit", as part of their list of the three hundred reasons why they loved the show.
In 2003, Krusty was included in a special history of Jewish entertainers exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York City
Krusty's has been included in many Simpsons publications, toys and other merchandise. Krusty-themed merchandise includes dolls, posters, figurines, Jack-in-the-boxes, Pint glasses, bobblehead dolls, costumes, and clothing such as T-shirts. Playmates Toys has made a talking evil Krusty doll, based on the one that appeared in Treehouse of Horror III. Krusty was made into an action figure, and several different versions were included as part of the World of Springfield toy line. The first shows Krusty in his normal clown attire with several Krusty products and was released in 2000 as part of "wave one". The second, released in 2002 as part of "wave nine", is called "busted Krusty" and shows him in a prison and without his clown make-up, as he was seen in "Krusty Gets Busted". The third was released in 2003 as part of "wave thirteen" and was called "Tuxedo Krusty". Several Krusty themed playsets were also released, including a Krusty-Lu Studios and Krusty Burger playset, both released in 2001.
In The Simpsons Ride, a simulator ride opened at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood in May 2008, Krusty builds and opens a cartoon theme park called Krustyland. Sideshow Bob makes an appearance and tries to murder the Simpson family. In July 2007, convenience store chain 7-Eleven converted eleven of its stores in the United States and one in Canada into Kwik-E-Marts to celebrate the release of The Simpsons Movie. Amongst the products sold were "Krusty-O's", which were made by Malt-O-Meal. The Simpsons Ride has also been open at Halloween Horror Nights, starting in 2008, which the event was called Halloween Horror Nights: Reflections of Fear, whose icon was none other than the urban legend of Bloody Mary.