The Simpsons Nailed IT: Chapter 2’s Worst Problem

Warning: Spoilers for The Simpsons season 34, episode 5.

While The Simpsons devoted a whole episode to parodying Stephen King’s IT, one of the outing’s funniest moments came from spoofing the movie’s 2019 sequel IT: Chapter 2. The blockbuster adaptations of Stephen King’s 1986 doorstopper IT were massive financial successes, but both movies had their faults. In particular, IT: Chapter 2’s tone was inconsistent, something that The Simpsons touched on when the show’s Treehouse of Horror Halloween special series spoofed the sequel.

In The Simpsons’ “Not IT,” (season 34, episode 5), the long-running cartoon comedy devoted an entire episode to spoofing Stephen King’s IT and IT: Chapter 2. The second Simpsons season 34 episode to focus on Krusty, “Not IT” saw the character play Krusto the Clown, a malevolent entity based on IT’s Pennywise. Krusto appeared to Moe, Marge, Carl, Homer, and Comic Book Guy, taking on a different creepy guise each time. However, The Simpsons didn’t depict the gross form that Krusto took when Comic Book Guy encountered the monster in a tongue-in-cheek parody of IT: Chapter 2’s most misjudged excesses.

Horror legend Stephen King is an incredibly successful author, but he admitted in his non-fiction book Danse Macabre that he is not above throwing in gross-out gags when he can’t find a way to scare or legitimately terrify a reader. The Simpsons’ weirdest season 34 gags have also been known to rely on gross-out imagery for shock value, but this did not stop the series from mocking King’s over-reliance on gross imagery in “Not IT.” In particular, IT: Chapter 2 received criticism for this tendency, since the sequel featured some scenes that were gross enough to be funny but not remotely scary.

Silly, over-the-top gross-out scenes like Eddie encountering a pus-oozing, vomiting zombie to the sound of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” made the tone of IT: Chapter 2 feel messy and inconsistent, particularly when the sequel opened with a far more realistic (and authentically upsetting) depiction of a hate crime. Fortunately, the creators of The Simpsons noticed this issue, as evidenced by one of the episode’s strongest gags. The Simpsons parody of Pennywise spoofed this tonal problem when Comic Book Guy attempted to tell the kids about his encounter with the killer clown Krusto, only for Moe to veto his flashback thanks to its gruesome content.

After Carl, Marge, and Moe told their stories via flashback about Krusto the Clown taking on various forms to terrorize them, Comic Book Guy began his. However, no sooner had he mentioned that Krusto appeared as his grandmother’s rotting corpse in a hot tub full of maggots, an understandably overwhelmed Moe cut in with aggrieved “we get it, we get it, no need for a flashback!” This fourth-wall-breaking joke proved The Simpsons season 34’s Stephen King spoof could affectionately mock the excesses of IT: Chapter 2, which made the fatal mistake of depicting plenty of disgusting images but failing to ground them in a compelling, scary story like that of its predecessor, Stephen King’s IT.

New episodes of The Simpsons air on Fox on Sundays.