No doubt one of the standouts of the entire series, this is the dreaded tale that introduced us susceptible and skittish youngsters to the paralyzing Zeebo. When you’re a hot shot kid who cowers at the thought of entering Zeebo’s domain, you know there’s something not so natural happening in that place. And that’s the general setup for the episode.
Our focal buddies do indeed pass on entering the fun house, but not for long, and not before we get an awesome backstory. Through Zeebo’s backstory we begin to view him as a man, and there’s something about an urban legend adopting new figurative flesh that sounds too creepy for my liking. Zeebo wasn’t always just a truly evil, supernatural menace. When you make the boogeyman humane, and then get the reminder that the humane part of the boogeyman is long gone, you understand that the boogeyman has willingly ditched the desire to be a decent gent.
But, back to our rundown of the episode, Josh our tough kid – who initially wanted no part of the attraction – grabs hold of his stones and decides he’s going to enter the building. I don’t need to tell you who Josh runs into, or how long that terrifying encounter plays out (although it’s actually rather genius). It’s best to experience it for yourself (you can purchase the full first season for about $12 on Amazon), because this is one of the most terrifying episodes featured in a series that enjoyed a damn impressive eight-season run.
Amazing early work from a few devious minds at Nickelodeon and a handful of awesome kids looking to make their mark in the industry. While not everyone in the extensive AYAOTD lineup has gone on to enjoy immense success in the field, plenty have, and some of those people have this cult classic series in particular to thank for that.
The Tale of Laughing in the Dark was one of the many technically strong pieces. Prolific family film director Ron Oliver (who actually made his debut by directing Prom Night III: The Last Kiss) took to the helm, while the editorial crew turn in excellent work. The episode looked great and ran smoothly. The carny concept is absolutely nailed, and the atmosphere couldn’t have possibly mirrored the tone any better. But beyond the technical elements of the episode, and beyond the children’s performances, stands one pants-crapping clown known by Are You Afraid of the Dark? fans around the globe, the menacing and memorable, Zeebo!