Bad Humor Truck
"SUCK my POPSICLE!"
—Decal on Skids's/Mudflap's ice-cream truck mode in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Ah, the ice cream truck. An all-American staple of childhood. But what's this? The truck's driver is a Child-Hater who's doing this as a front to sell drugs? Or maybe he's a pedophile who can't keep his Mr. Softie in his pants? Or, worse yet, he's an uncaptured serial killer who's keeping the bodies between the fudge pops and the Creamsicles? And his truck is either an Alleged Car (either played straight or exaggerated), redesigned from a paddy wagon or a discarded military vehicle, or looks as if it was featured on an episode of Pimp My Ride.
For some reason, ice cream truck drivers in fiction are hardly ever as wholesome as one might expect. The trope is named after the Good Humor ice cream company. May overlap with Monster Clown.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, the "Funny Bear" ice cream truck shows up in Central to hand out ammunition, mortars, and other materials. The enemy forces radio each other to watch out for the ice cream truck, so Mustang's team repaints it as the "Funny Bear" hot dog truck.
- Junji Ito's short story "Ice Cream Bus". The bus looks normal and the driver is a typical handsome bishounen, but it lures children away and slowly transforms them into ice cream, which/who they eat as they transform into ice cream.
Comic Books[edit | hide]
- Billy Kincaid, an early Spawn villain, uses an ice cream truck to get closer to children, whom he then kidnaps and murders.
- In the Batman comics, Mr. Freeze has hijacked an ice cream truck on at least one occasion. Though he stole it mainly to survive, as he can only live in cold temperatures.
- It's also used sometimes by The Joker.
- In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #178, the Blue Ninjas launch an assault on Broca Beach. The head Blue Ninja masterminds the operation from a heavily armed ice cream truck that he uses to move down Cobra forces.
- The Sesame Street movie, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, features the Bad Humor Man (Steve Whitmire), who is the Trope Namer.
- Ice Cream Man, a horror film starring Clint Howard as a killer ice cream man.
- And there's also Mr. Ice Cream Man.
- The original version of Assault on Precinct 13 has a scene in which a violent street gang drives menacingly back and forth past a parked ice cream truck. After they've (seemingly) moved on, a little girl comes up and buys a cone while her father uses a phone booth up the street. After she leaves, the gang ambushes the driver and knocks him unconscious; meanwhile, the little girl, unaware of all this and discovering she's been given the wrong flavor, returns to the truck and gets shot and killed point-blank. Perhaps more significantly, it then turns out that the ice-cream vendor keeps a sizable revolver stashed in his cab.
- Max Keeble's Big Move featured one of the antagonists as a rather maniacal ice cream driver who would love to torture the protagonist while on his newspaper route. He even modified his truck to have an ice cream cannon (at least in the opening dream sequence).
- The Stephen King-directed Maximum Overdrive includes an ice cream truck among the killer machines that menace its human characters.
- In Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams, they have an ice cream truck named "Happy Herb's Nice Dreams". Take the words, "Ice Creams" and add a "N" in front and make "Creams" into "Dreams". Naturally, they sell marijuana from the truck, along with ice cream. How "wholesome" this is depends on your views.
- The heroes of Killer Klowns From Outer Space are "helped" by two idiots who "work" by driving an ice-cream truck.
- In Bill Forsyth's Comfort And Joy, a radio personality is shaken from his post-breakup funk when he gets in the middle of a mob-grade territory war between rival ice-cream vendors.
- Help! - the Eastern death cult tails Ringo in a "Yippee! It's Mister Whippy!" ice-cream van. As thugs exit from the truck, one is eating a cone.
- A Mister Whippy van also appears in 28 Weeks Later. The trope is teasingly hinted at and then averted.
- Skids and Mudflap of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen take this trope one step further, as they actually are the ice cream truck (both of them). This doesn't stop them from being decidedly child-unfriendly, from yelling profanity-laced death threats through their bullhorn to posting offensive decals on their sides. It is, however, played for laughs.
- There's one in Legion. The truck's completely normal. The driver however...
- Dr. Claw's henchmen Brick and McKible drive an ice-cream delivery truck in Inspector Gadget 2. Oddly enough, its trunk is large enough to accommodate Claw's escape jet.
- In Friday, Smokey owes money to the drug dealer Big Worm which he uses an ice cream truck as a cover up. Big Worm takes the boy's money without giving his order by saying it's closed.
- In Borat, Borat and Azamat acquire an ice cream truck for transportation, and after some thought they also acquire an animal to guard the truck. So naturally there is a scene where a bunch of kids run up expecting ice cream, and instead find a black bear.
- An ice cream truck is home to an illegal gun dealer in Southland Tales. The Agony Booth called this out, pointing out that an ice cream truck would bring attention that an illegal gun dealer would not want.
- Psychotic clown Javier in The Last Circus drives one.
- The detective's informant in Hellraiser Inferno is a sleazy ex-con ice cream man who has covered the inside of his truck with pornographic images.
- In Killjoy the titular Monster Clown uses an ice cream truck that acts as a gateway to an Abandoned Warehouse.
- The third Prom Night has Mary Lou Maloney appear as an ice cream vendor to a teacher, who she kills with a pair of cones and an electric mixer.
- The beginning of Act of Valor has the Chechen terrorist Abu Shabal driving what looks like an ice cream truck in the Phillipines to a school. Said Ice Cream Truck turns out to be a suicide car bomb, which kills the US Ambassador, his son, and several Phillipino schoolchildren.
Literature[edit | hide]
- There's a Wallace Stevens poem called The Emperor of Ice Cream that's sort of hard to interpret, but the first stanza is definitely talking about an ice cream man, and the second is definitely talking about a dead body. Whether the first is the cause of the second can't be determined, but it's all rather creepy. Critics seem to favor the theory that it's about the wake of the old lady who's lying dead in the second stanza. In that case, the partying in the first stanza might be seen as life-affirming or callous.
- In the novel The Clairvoyant Countess by Dorothy Gilman there is a significant ice cream truck company run by a very scary bad guy.
- Gahan Wilson wrote a short story called "Mr. Ice Cold". The ice cream truck and its driver look innocent enough at first. But then, a boy notices that there's one door on the truck that is never opened. One day he decides to take a quick peek inside the door and gets a nasty shock. Let's just say that Mr. Ice Cold prefers a different kind of treat besides ice cream.
- Not exactly ice cream truck, but a couple of Stephen King's short stories deal with a psychopathic milkman who plants poisonous spiders in his milk box, hands out all-purpose cream laced with highly corrosive acid and cartons of poisoned drinks, and was implied to have planted a bomb in one of his packages, which went off some time prior to the events of the story. All the stuff he needs is in his milk truck.
- Subverted in an Encyclopedia Brown story, where a clown who drove an ice cream truck disappeared along with a young boy and was accused of kidnapping him. Turned out they'd both been kidnapped.
- The M.I. High episode "Animal Spies" had a SKUL agent basing himself out of an ice cream truck.
- A Tales from the Crypt episode ("People Who Live In Brass Hearses") featured an ex-con trying to get revenge on an ice cream truck driver who, unbeknownst to the ex-con and his brother, was actually Siamese twins joined at the back. By the end, one twin has been murdered and the other continues to drive around in the truck with his dead, decaying twin still attached.
- One episode of Malcolm in the Middle featured a cranky, sadistic ice cream man who refused to sell any ice cream to the kids despite all of them being stuck for hours on a blocked road in the desert... yet let the kids watch him eat an ice cream bar inside the refrigerated truck.
- Subverted in Charmed: The ice truck driver was a good guy, while the children were demons.
- Shameless: the Maguires use an ice cream van as a front for dealing drugs and give Frank a job on it. ("If someone asks for a smartie...give them a pill. If someone asks for a polo...give them a pill.") Backfires somewhat when Frank takes some himself and ends up giving pills to an old woman who wanted some actual smarties.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Ice-cream truck driver is just one of a series of loser jobs for Xander.
- Law and Order:
- In the original show, the pedophile celebrity in "Smoke" has an assistant drive an ice cream truck to playgrounds; he hides inside to scout out potential "playmates".
- In an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent the victim of the week is living in an ice cream truck, and using it as a base to sell bootleg DVDs.
- The short-lived '80s sitcom Jennifer Slept Here starred Ann Jillian as the title character, an old movie actress who had been run over by an ice cream truck and haunts her former home as a ghost.
- In Van-Pires, an innocent looking ice cream truck is actually an evil vampire vehicle. Er, It Makes Sense in Context.
- One of the specials for The Adventures of Pete and Pete revolved around Mr. Tastee, an otherwise-amiable ice-cream man who always wore a mask in the shape of a grinning soft-serve cone and was hinted to have a shady past. In fact, the episode implies that the entire ice cream man profession, with its wandering routes and bright, happy masks, is actually an informal brotherhood for those seeking to escape and/or forget.
- The Showtime series Masters of Horror has an episode titled "We All Scream for Ice Cream". It's about a demonic, undead clown who works in an ice cream truck. His method is to sell ice cream to children, who then cause their parents to melt into a colored mess not unlike that of melted ice cream as soon as they bite into it.
- An episode of The King of Queens has Doug buy an ice cream truck only to be stalked by another truck driven by an unseen driver with snakeskin boots who tries to kill him at every opportunity. Eventually Doug sells the truck back to the original owner at a loss. We then see the owner talking to another prospective buyer while the camera zooms in on his boots...
- The Drew Carey Show has an old ice-cream truck being used to distribute Buzz Beer. Disappointing when kids find out they don't have any ice cream, and rude when they keep getting asked, but not actively evil.
- In the second episode of the original Life On Mars, Sam Tyler drives a witness incognito in an ice cream truck, hoping to spot a suspect. Unfortunately for the kids, Gene Hunt tags along too.
- Freddy Krueger in Freddy's Nightmares had one for luring in kids stored in his power plant base.
- In an episode of Happy Days, Fonzie quits his vehicle-repair job and must find a new way to make a living. He tries driving an ice cream truck, but he hates it because "Whenever I got it up to speed, some kid started chasin' after me wavin' a dime!"
- A Get Smart episode has a KAOS agent driving an ice-cream truck - he abducts Hymie the robot by asking him to reach way inside for a fudgesicle, then shoving him in. Hymie's first words when he's released - "Here's your fudgesicle."
- The Hub series The Haunting Hour the Series has a story called "Catching Cold," about a fat boy who pursues an ice cream truck and how the ice cream truck seems to favor him. Turns out the ice cream truck is haunted and traps those who are so obsessed with ice cream that they are willing to actively chase down the truck. It was also behind the disappearance of a boy in the late 1970s/early 1980s who did the same thing as the fat boy now and is now a fat, insane man who is more than willing to let the boy of 2011 trade places with him so the ice cream truck can feed off his soul.
- The Rutles' song "Doubleback Alley" has a line about the funny man in the ice cream van who talked so queer...
- Strapping Young Lad's secret song from their album Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, "Satan's Ice Cream Truck" about Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- The song was actualized into a real demonic ice cream truck by a fan of the band from Minnesota. The truck is referred to as Hell General. General because it is made from an AM General postal truck and Hell because of where it supposedly comes from.
- Steve Taylor's "I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good" is about an ice cream truck driver who bombs an abortion clinic.
- In the 1940's, the Kay Kaiser Orchestra recorded a song called "The Bad Humor Man".
- Professor Elemental's "Animal Ice Cream", about selling your favorite ice cream mixed with bits of your favorite animal, from the back of a stolen ice cream truck.
- The Far Side plays with this several times.
- I cuss, you cuss, we all cuss for asparagus!
- There's another strip with the self-explanatory Liver-And-Onions Truck. And kids are hiding from the truck, implying they'll get the treats whether they like it or not.
- There's also the Vaccination Truck.
- A Pearls Before Swine comic has Pig getting hit by an ice cream truck.
- Gahan Wilson has an ice cream man opening the compartment to reveal a truckful of frozen child corpses. "Wrong door!"
- Tim Minchin did a routine on the jingles of ice cream vans, referring to them as "the mating call of the kiddy fiddler".
Tim Minchin: Sorry, sorry, that's totally inappropriate. It's awful what I just did there when you think about it; I just made the assumption that having an ice cream van makes you a pedophile. It's awful... It's probably the other way around.
- The Topps trading card series Weird Wheels had a card titled Bad Humor Truck.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- Needles Kane from the Twisted Metal series drives Sweet Tooth, perhaps the most famous video game example of this...except his truck serves up missiles and other assorted armaments. He still hands out tasty kid's treats from it, just be prepared for the explosives and napalm is packs in the cones and ice cream sandwiches.
- Grand Theft Auto Vice City has a campaign where it turns out the ice cream factory is owned by a nasty old woman who hates children, who only uses ice cream as a front for her cocaine trafficking operations, and the ice cream trucks sell drugs instead. When you actually get the factory and ice cream truck, both of them are horribly glitched and unusable (saving at the factory corrupts your save file), so really it's the factory and truck that are at fault. Taking one of the ice cream trucks to another business you own, a car dealership/chop shop, helps complete the main storyline. "We need you to steal...um....take...we need an ice cream truck, okay?" It's also impossible to sell ice cream to kids, even if you wanted to, considering there are no kids in the game.
- It's entirely possible to run people over with the truck...but that's possible with all vehicles.
- Bonus: A secondary mission ends with the player murdering about a dozen mysterious people on the rooftop of the ice cream business based on an intercepted call.
- In the flash game Cream Wolf, the Ice Cream Truck driver is actually a Werewolf who's fattening kids up so that he can bait them back to his place when full moon arrives and proceed to "Make new flavors" out of them. It's even complete with a creepy jingle during midnight.
- One of the enemies in Toejam and Earl is a phantom ice cream truck that randomly appears and disappears and tries to run down our alien heroes.
- In World of Warcraft, the Refreshment Vendors in The MOTHERLODE! dungeon instance, their ice cream chests come with Freeze Rays. Silly as this sounds, they may be the most dangerous mobs before the first Boss of the instance.
Web Original[edit | hide]
- In an episode of Dexters Laboratory, the ice cream truck driver has a grudge against Dexter because he once paid him with a heavy jar of pennies which caused him to trip and break his tooth which in turn made him lose his apartment, his car, his girlfriend and forced him to live under a bridge, effectively causing his entire life to be ruined; and thus refuses to stop for him.
Ice Cream Man: I can't even eat ice cream anymore, because of the pain! All because of you and your stupid pennies!!!
- Moral Orel has Mr. Creepler, a pedophile and serial rapist. Fortunately by the third season he's been put through the Electric Chair, though he's left some lasting trauma on one of his victims. Sadly, he's only one of the several Complete Monsters of the series.
- Hey Arnold! had an ice cream man named "The Jolly Olly Man" (voiced by Dan Castellaneta, using a voice that sounds like a mix between his normal voice and a bitter, insane take on Arnie Pie [the helicopter news reporter who hates Kent Brockman]) who hated kids and in one episode was on the verge of getting fired because his attitude was hurting sales. In another episode, he tried charging kids $20 for ice cream during a heat wave.
- Codename: Kids Next Door had an entire organization of ice cream men that were keeping all the ice cream for the adults.
- Ice cream men are often used as Mooks for various villains.
- There's one in the first episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot.
- The Tom and Jerry movie has one of the villains steal an ice cream cart and use it as his vehicle in the finale. There's even a shot from the cart's point of view of him stalking towards it with an evil grin on his face.
- In an episode of The Mighty B!, there's one of these: the driver gets pissed off at Bessie because she reports him to his manager (just because he accidentally ran ONE stop sign in ten years of driving the truck).
- In Bessie's defense, she thought she was calling the actual driver; she didn't know it was the phone number of his manager's office.
- An episode of Justice League features a man in an ice cream truck prominently, and he does have a dark secret, although this example is more like the Charmed subversion listed above. By the end, we learn he's been driving that truck for 40 years, give or take a few days and is glad to finally escape!
- The Simpsons episode "Bart of Darkness" opens with Springfield suffering a blistering heat wave. An ice-cream truck comes down the street with the driver shouting, "Ice cream! Ice cream!" ...but, when the children run up to it, they hear his entire sentence: "I'm all outta ice cream!" And then, right after that comes another, similar truck:
Truck driver: Chili! Red-hot Texas-style chili! And we got ginger ale; boiling hot Texas-style ginger ale!
- An early episode of Invader Zim featured an ice cream truck that blared ominous-sounding propaganda from its speakers.
YOU LIKE ICE CWEAM. YOU LOVE ICE CWEAM. YOU LOVE IT. YOU NEED IT. YOU MUST HAVE ICE CWEAM. YOU CANNOT RESIST ZE ICE CWEAM. TO RESIST IS HOPELESS. YOUR EXISTENCE IS MEANINGLESS WITHOUT ICE CWEAM.
- Fairly Oddparents has Crocker's van, which is often disguised as an ice cream truck.
- In the Looney Tunes episode "Yankee Doodle Bugs", an ice cream truck shows up during the Continental Army's winter encampment at Valley Forge, it's loudspeaker merrily playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy". The irked soldiers promptly shoot it full of holes.
- Cars: The first opponent Tormentor (Mater's monster truck wrestler alter ego) had to face in Monster Truck Mater is a modified ice cream monster truck named Ice Screamer.
- When Boog is behind the wheel of the Frosty Bus, there's no chance for Fanboy and Chum Chum to get their Frosty Freezy Freeze.
- A common gag in most of the Tex Avery cartoons would show the bad guy apparently holding up an armored car/stagecoach (or whatever was period-appropriate) only for the camera to pull back and show he's actually robbing an ice cream truck.
- One episode of Kim Possible set in Florida had Drakken staking out in an ice-cream truck with the intent of tapping into the MP3 players of all the teenagers on Spring Break, making them his mind-controlled slaves. (He got the frequency wrong and ended up tapping into the hearing aids of all the retirees living there.)
- Hinted at on Family Guy; local pedophile Herbert wanted an ice cream truck.
- In one episode of Generator Rex, the villain Gatlocke has a fleet of vehicles, including an ice cream truck that's been given the Mad Max treatment.
The conflicts, in which vendors raided one another's vans and fired shotguns into one another's windscreens, were more violent than might typically be expected between ice-cream salesmen.
- Mafia hitman Robert Pronge drove a Mister Softee truck to appear inconspicuous.
- Richard "Iceman" Kuklinski froze his victims' bodies in an ice cream truck to skew the estimated time of their death.
- Kenneth Bianchi, one of the Hillside Stranglers, worked as an ice cream man. A suspected victim of his disappeared when she went out one day to buy a cone.
- Fred West, another serial killer, also worked as an ice cream man. While one, he accidentally ran over a kid.
- i.e. SUCK MY POPSICLE