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A rubber chicken is used as a prop in comedy. The phrase is also used as a description for food served at speeches, conventions, and other large meetings, and as a metaphor for speechmaking.

Comedy

A rubber chicken is a replica of a completely plucked but otherwise complete barnyard fowl made from a latex injection mold. A popular sight gag and slapstick comedy prop, rubber chickens are sometimes used by comics as a mock weapon. They are also sometimes used by jugglers in place of clubs. The origin of the rubber chicken is obscure, but is likely a natural evolution of the use of pig bladders. In the days before the invention of plastic and latex, bladders were inflated and attached to a stick. They were used as props by jesters and minstrels for the same comic effects as the modern rubber chicken.

One account attributes the use of a prop chicken to Joseph Grimaldi, the legendary white-faced clown of the early 1800s. At that time, gluttony was fashionable and considered a sign of affluence, and Grimaldi would perform with his pockets full of fake food in order to make fun of the upper classes.

Another likely apocryphal account, which is printed on the tag of rubber chickens manufactured by Archie McPhee, claims that the use of the rubber chicken originated during the French Revolution with soldiers hanging a rubber chicken from their muskets for luck. Monty Python's Flying Circus featured a recurring bit having a rubber chicken-carrying knight who hits people when they begin to ramble. Andrés Bustamante also featured rubber chickens during his shows in the 1990s.

A rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle is a gag object found in LucasArts' Monkey Island franchise games.

Food and speechmaking

The term "rubber chicken" is used disparagingly to describe the food served at political or corporate events, weddings, and other gatherings where there are a large number of guests who require serving in a short timeframe. Chicken, pre-cooked, is held at serving temperature for some time and then dressed with a sauce as it is served. Consequently the chicken meat is tough or “rubbery.”

Someone who "travels the rubber chicken circuit" is said to do so by attending or making speeches at many such gatherings, often as part of political campaigning.

Rubber chickens in the news

  • At the staging of Ionesco's The Killing Game, theatre critic Gerhard Stadelmaier was sworn at and had a rubber chicken thrown at him by actor Thomas Lawinky, who later offered his resignation.


  • During the fifth end break (curling's version of halftime and/or a seventh inning stretch) at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turinmarker, Italymarker, a man ran across the ice wearing nothing but an online gambling ad and a strategically placed rubber chicken. Chief referee Keith Wendorf tackled the man, and an umpire covered him with a coat before he was led out of the arena by the Italian police.


References


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