Given the age of the program, we’d expect some of the jokes featured in Leave It To Beaver to have aged poorly, and, well, they certainly have.
Leave it to Beaver is one of those shows that many adults grew up with. Some parents have shown it to their children through the ages. Mr. Feeny even showed it to Cory and Shawn’s class on Boy Meets World. The Cleaver family is known for their good clean fun, clean house, clean-cut appearance… and that’s a lot of clean. They’re also funny and easy to watch.
Even though the sitcom is pretty great, it is still a product of its time. The show was on from 1957 to 1963, so it is safe to say that some things have changed since then. Leave it to Beaver is good for some laughs, but it also has a few jokes that just aren’t quite right anymore.
The Lost Episode (1960)
The lost episode of Leave it to Beaver is free on Amazon Prime. It is sixteen minutes long and was intended as an educational film promoting savings bonds. Prime’s summary of the episode says it was created “in cooperation with the U.S. Treasury Department.”
In it, Beaver learns a valuable lesson about taking care of his money. When Ward Cleaver gets Beaver a savings bond, Wally shares his economics teacher’s wisdom with Beaver: “Every time you buy a bond, you’re buying a share in America.” Beaver answers, “You mean, I own a hunk of the country I can go sit on?” Beaver’s unintended joke is cute and childlike, but the premise of the story doesn’t resonate with a large portion of modern-day viewers.
Wally’s Practical Joke (Season 6, Episode 35)
Practical jokes aren’t always so practical. When Lumpy Rutherford puts cherry bombs in Eddie Haskell and Wally Cleaver’s cars, Eddie wants revenge. Eddie is often a bad influence on Wally, and this is one of those times where Wally goes along with Eddie’s scheme.
The friends chain Lumpy’s car to a tree, lure him out of his house by having Eddie pretend to be his crush on the phone, and then watch from the bushes as the body of the car falls off. None of these young men should have been joking around with the others’ cars. Such tricks aren’t received well these days. At least the boys have to fix their mess and repair Lumpy’s car—and Lumpy gets caught for his prank, too.
Wally’s New Suit (Season 2, Episode 10)
In a season two episode called “Wally’s New Suit,” the family is having burgers for dinner. In between the talk of Wally’s impending purchase, Beaver is ravenous. Ward says, “Eh, Beaver, don’t eat so fast. Chew your food.” Beaver retorts, “gee, dad, this is hamburger. The butcher already chewed it in the machine.”
Beaver’s little quip is not good dinner table talk, and, with a higher sensitivity to alternative diets and animal rights, this is not a joke for everyone.
Chuckie’s New Shoes (Season 4, Episode 11)
Wally is supposed to take his little neighbor, Chuckie Murdock, out to buy some new shoes. He wants to hang out with Eddie, so he passes his task off to Beaver. Beaver is not fit for this job, and Wally shouldn’t have shirked his responsibility.
After Mrs. Murdock is finished discussing the debacle with the Cleavers, she starts to leave with Chuckie. Mrs. Murdock asks Chuckie why he is still crying. He says, “I’m afraid you’re going to hit me.” Mrs. Murdock asks her son, “now, when did mommy ever hit you for no reason?” “All the time,” answers Chuckie. The Cleavers don’t laugh, but plenty of laughter is still heard in the background. This joke is heinous, and it’s saddening to think that something like this ever got laughs.
Beaver’s Crush (Season 1, Episode 8)
In the first season, Beaver has a crush on his teacher, Miss Canfield. He constantly wants to do nice things for her. The other kids tease Beaver and call him a teacher’s pet. He says he is not a teacher’s pet, but the kids want him to prove it by putting an old “snake in a tube” prank in Miss Canfield’s desk.
Beaver puts the spring snake in the desk, and, as the kids leave, he immediately regrets it, but it’s too late. Miss Canfield is coming back into the room. She doesn’t open her desk drawer at the end of the day, so Beaver agonizes over his prank all night. He and Wally attempt to sneak into school to remove the fake snake, but they’re not successful. Beaver spends the next school day trying to keep Miss Canfield from opening her desk, but she has known about the prank the whole time. Unfortunately, many teachers are disrespected on television in even worse ways today.
The Blind Date Committee (Season 3, Episode 1)
Wally is chairman of the Blind Date Committee and must find dates for girls who don’t have escorts to the school dance. Jill Bartlett is the only girl who needs a date. Beaver pipes up, “Well, I’ll bet she’s a real ugly girl, with warts all over and gray hair.” It’s unbelievable that such a line just flies by. Wally gives Jill a call, and when her mother answers, Wally asks how much Jill weighs! Wally will call back if he “can find somebody that’ll take her.” Ward thinks it’s time to try to “line up a date” now that Wally knows “a little about her.”
Wally has trouble finding another suitor, so he asks Jill to go with him. Eddie Haskell teases Wally about his date. When Wally asks if Eddie has ever seen Jill, Eddie responds, “Sure, I saw her in the hall with a couple of other gophers.” Wally asks, “You mean she’s not good lookin’?” Eddie meanly answers, “Sure, if you happen to like gophers.” Ward tries to console Wally by telling him a story about having to take a “wet blanket” to prom back in his day. There is so much wrong with this episode, and these mean jokes go by left and right.
Mother’s Helper (Season 4, Episode 23)
The cringe-worthy joke in this episode is right at the beginning. Beaver: “Hey, Wally, when you get married, are you gonna have your wife do the dishes?” Wally: “Well, sure. That’s what a girl’s supposed to do, all the housework and the dishes and all that kind of stuff.” Beaver: “Boy, when I grow up, I’m not gonna marry a girl.” Wally: “Oh, you’re not?” Beaver: “Uh-uh, I’m gonna have paper plates instead.” This one speaks for itself.
It’s a Small World (Pilot)
The pilot episode of Leave It To Beaver featured two different actors, as pilots sometimes do. Ward Cleaver was played by Max Showalter (credited as Casey Adams), and Wally was played by Paul Sullivan.
Ward makes a startling remark when reasoning with Mr. Baxter: “Mr. Baxter, you make it sound like those two boys stuck a gun in your stomach and said, your money or your bicycle.” Even if intended sarcastically, gun violence is never something to joke about.
In the Soup (Season 4, Episode 32)
Wally wants to throw a Friday night house party. June Cleaver is fine with the idea, but she wants to discuss it with Ward. This will be a boy-girl party, and when the parents agree on it, June tells Ward, “You know the last time Wally had boys and girls to a party was on his twelfth birthday? Boys all stayed in the kitchen and the girls all stayed in the living room.” Ward quips, “Yeah, that’s when Wally was young and bashful and shy, and smart.” June says in a tone of warning, “Wa-ard.” Still, Ward gets away with another joke relating to gender roles.
Captain Jack (Season 1, Episode 2)
This is one of the most bizarre sitcom episodes ever. Beaver and Wally send away for an actual alligator. When their baby Florida alligator arrives, they must find a place to put it. Beaver says, “I filled the bathtub so it’d be ready for our alligator.” Wally answers, “Beaver, if we keep him in there, we won’t be able to take a bath.” Beaver finishes the joke with, “Yeah, it’s real good having an alligator.” Despite the absurdity of this episode, it was the first to show a toilet on television.