“Last Laugh” (season 3, episode 7; originally aired 04/01/1996)
Everyone loves a good heist story. None of us want to get our money stolen, or in this case, blasted with a fire hose full of cream corn, but that’s okay, because we’re the little guys. We do the robbing. We’re protected by the FDIC. We laugh at a corn-soaked Adam West. Up with people, right?
“Last Laugh” is a damn near perfect episode of The Adventures Of Pete And Pete. It twists and turns. It has pratfalls and pranks, uneasy alliances, and 55-gallon drums of hated school lunch fare. Most of all, it has adults getting taken down a notch and being reminded that they’re not smarter than kids after all—at least when it comes to pranks.
Revolving around April Fool’s Day, “Last Laugh” is an episode where Little Pete can shine. He owns April Fool’s. While every other day of the year is prank-laden for him, April Fool’s is his shining day out. It’s the one day that people are expecting it from him, and thus the one day he really pushes himself to go all out.
Principal Ken Schwinger, played by a marvelous Adam West, is ready for the little laugh terrorist, of course, and enlists Pit Stain, Hairnet, and Nightbrace as deputy hall monitors to figure out the plot and thwart it. Pit Stain turns Nona after Pete slips her some Krebstar atomic hot sauce in a forkful of Tuna Surprise. The little marabou-trimmed diva is a traitor. She’s pranked Pete back using the administration. For Pete, that’s the ultimate burn. For him, like for the German anti-capitalist philosopher Herbert Marcuse, the worst types of domination come in the form of bureaucracy.
Schwinger imprisons Pete in the boiler room and goes forward with his favorite event of the year, the Up With Personal Hygiene assembly featuring Johnny Earwax. Little does he know that the cogs are in motion for the greatest prank Wellsville has ever seen. Nona frees Pete and Wayne, the patsy. Krebscout Monica meets them with drums of lunch sludge and just when it looks like they’ve been caught by Pitstain’s gang, it becomes clear that, in fact, Pitstain was in on the prank. The forces of good and evil have joined just this once to hose down the man with something like 150 gallons of slick, yellow gunk.
And hose they do. Adam West must have been a hell of a sport to put up with getting absolutely lathered in whatever that was shooting out of Up With Personal Hygiene’s giant human ear prop. His credibility destroyed in front of his hero, the young Johnny Earwax, Schwinger will presumably leave Wellsville a shell of a man. The entire school might be laughing at him, but he’ll probably end up hanging from a creamed corn colored noose somewhere. Oh well! It’s Nickelodeon!
Weirdness aside, this episode is the ultimate triumph of good over pointless bureaucracy, of what’s right over what just doesn’t make any sense. In a way, it’s kind of similar to the lasting cult success of The Adventures Of Pete And Pete itself. A little show doing what it knew to be true, it might not have been the coolest thing at the time (and this being season three, we know it didn’t make it much farther), but ultimately, what’s right will win out. There are probably scores of Pete fans out there now who would be more than happy to get a bucket of creamed corn to the mug just because, and that’s justice. The cream(ed corn) rises to the top.
- There’s not really a good Pete insult this week. He does call someone a “heiner,” which I don’t understand.
- Pit Stain’s real name is Fran.
- Wayne external version of his internal monologue is hilarious. “The super genius, super spy has done it again.”
- Setting Pete’s capture to the music that played “during the beheading of King Louis XIII” is a perfect choice. It’s a magical, cinematic moment in a Nickelodeon show that aired at noon on Sundays.
- Pete freeze-dried Cuba once as a prank.