Fans of The Simpsons may have recited the mourners kaddish during the season premiere two weeks ago in memory of Rabbi Hyman Krustofski, the father of Herschel Krustofski, better known to viewers as Krusty the Clown. Krustofski’s death came after extensive speculation over which character would be killed in the first episode of the show’s 26th season.
Krustofski was voiced by Jackie Mason, who won an Emmy in 1992 for the role and whose own life story bears a striking similarity to that of Krusty. Krustofski the elder lived on the Lower East Side of Springfield and, like his father, and his father before him, served as a rabbi with hopes that his son would follow in his footstep. But when Krusty decided to go into comedy, the two grew apart.
Even though Krusty didn’t go into the rabbinate, he was no failure. As a successful performer in Springfield, he should make any father proud. But it wasn’t simply Krusty’s chosen profession that angered his father, it was his rejection of the family’s traditions. Nowhere is this dichotomy better represented than the sandwich named after Krusty at Izzy’s Deli: ham, sausage, and bacon with a dash of mayo—on white bread.
Although Krusty is the most prominent Jewish character on the show, his Jewishness is addressed in but a handful of episodes, most notably the Season 3 episode, “Like Father, Like Clown,” in which Bart and Lisa helped reunite Krusty and his father, and the Season 15 episode “Today I am a Clown,” in which Krusty had a bar mitzvah. Although Krusty first tried to commercialize the event, much to the disappointment of his rabbi father, he later embraced the seriousness of the moment.
With the death of his father, Krusty’s Jewish identity has even less of a reason to be explored going forward. Still, Rabbi Krustofski may well return to Springfield in future episodes. The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean said that even though the rabbi may be gone, “he certainly could come back as a memory of Krusty.”
Zack Schrieber is an intern at Tablet Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @zschrieber.