Kamp Krusty is a Springfield summer camp Bart and Lisa visit in the first episode of season 4 of The Simpsons, which originally aired on Sept. 24, 1992.
Though the camp is named after Krusty the Clown, Bart, Lisa and the other campers quickly find out that Krusty’s connection was little more than a marketing ploy (director Mr. Black licensed the name) and that the camp resembles a prison more than it does a summer camp. Local bullies are the summer camp counselors, the lake is unswimmable, the cabins are falling apart and activities include death marches and sweatshop labor.
Lisa details the deplorable conditions in a letter she writes home, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”-style that Marge and Homer dismiss as hyperbole:
“Dear Mom, I no longer fear Hell, for I have been to Kamp Krusty. Our nature hikes have become grim death marches. Our arts and crafts hut is, in truth, a Dickensian workhouse. Bart makes it through the day clinging to his hope that Krusty the Klown will come. But I am far more pessimistic. I am not even sure if this letter will reach you, as the normal lines of communication have been cut. So I close by saying, SAVE US! SAVE US NOW! Bart and Lisa.”
When Krusty does arrive, it turns out to be Barney Gumble in costume, which sparks Bart to lead a rebellion (with references to Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now) and rechristen the camp Camp Bart. Channel 6’s Kent Brockman arrives on the scene to reports on the carnage, stating that he has been to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and that “without hyperbole, this is a million times worse than all of them put together.”
When Krusty finally returns – he was at Wimbledon of all places – he apologizes to the campers and takes them to Tijuana, “the happiest place on earth.”
In addition to referencing “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh,” the Kamp Krusty theme song was inspired by another summer camp pop culture artifact, the short-lived ’60s TV show Camp Runamuck. First pitched by screenwriter David Stern, the original script for the episode had producer James L. Brooks thinking it had full-length movie potential, but that never materialized because they needed it for the fourth season premier and the material they had barely filled an entire episode.
Though some non-American viewers were confused by the episode, it was iconic enough to inspire a line of toy figures specific to the episode and other merchandise.
See a list of more fictional summer camps at summercampculture.com/fictional-summer-camps.