originally published January 31, 2012
I am the Subservient Chicken.
I was born in Boston to a group of polite louts called the Barbarian Group. They had created something called the ‘Beer Cannon’ for a strange malodorous sludge called Milwaukee’s Best, and then they created me. I was bred to do a job. I do this job honorably. I am the Subservient Chicken.
The featherless goons at the Barbarian Group told me I would go viral. They said this as though I’d understand. I am subservient, not omniscient. I assumed they were telling me how I would die, that it would be at the hands of some virus and not an ax or one of those nugget machines. I paid them no mind.
Within days I was shipped off to a place called Crispin, Porter & Bogusky. They told me it was an add agency. I understood this to mean I would be a math chicken. I was mistaken.
The following few weeks were a blur. The word ‘Tendercrisp’ was uttered often in hushed tones, though no one explained it to me. I was plucked and groomed, my beak dowsed in make-up, my feathers arranged just so, while lights beat down on me, filling the air with the disgusting stench of roastiness. It was vile and exhausting, but I did not complain. I am the Subservient Chicken.
A man named Jeff Benjamin pulled me aside one day. He handed me a business card which I promptly ate. He held a second one just beyond my reach, and I observed that Jeff Benjamin was an Executive Creative Director. I felt sorry for Jeff Benjamin. Executive Creative Director doesn’t sound nearly as fulfilling as Subservient Chicken. I vowed to listen to Jeff Benjamin, partly because I felt he deserved the pity of my attention, partly because of who I am.
Jeff Benjamin told me about the commercial. The commercial, he said, was for someone who calls himself the King of Burgers. The King, I was made to understand, was my employer, my boss, my emperor. I was to be subservient to all, but there was no mistaking that I was the King’s Subservient Chicken.
On the day we made the commercial, I was introduced to Herman, the actor. Herman had a scruffy face, which I liked. For whatever reason, the day consisted of Herman sitting on a couch, telling me to do the same things over and over again. I followed orders – such is my life’s lot. A voice repeated the phrase “Chicken the way you like it.” I never saw the face that said it.
The whole thing seemed a little silly to me. The feed was good though, even if the hours were awful. It took a few days, and we made several of these ‘commercials’. On the last day, Jeff Benjamin came up to me and told me I was going to be a star. I wasn’t sure what he meant… would I still be a chicken? Was there some sort of me-changing procedure happening? I was frightened, but I did not complain.
This is when things began to get really strange. I was flown around the country to all these tiny restaurants. Each one looked almost identical, and sometimes I was taken to more than a dozen in each city. I kept hearing that word… “Tendercrisp.” No one would tell me what it meant. I was asked to cut ribbons with giant novelty scissors. I posed for pictures with ugly little human children. I danced in those little restaurants, oh how I danced.
I remained subservient.
I returned to the studio and continued to follow orders. We made another commercial with this strange dark-skinned cowboy-looking fellow that everyone kept calling Hootie. He was a nice enough fellow, and he didn’t order me to do anything. He seemed rather enamoured with the ladies in the sparkly blue outfits though. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing there.
Oh right, the parties. I should mention the parties. Herman, the grizzly-faced actor from the first commercial, he like to throw some strange parties. I was invited, and because of my natural subservience, I always came. People would mix these vile concoctions they called ‘margaritas’ inside my beak, then stick straws in there and suck the liquid out. People kept forcing me to inhale this white powdery stuff. It gave me a lot of energy and kept me clucking all night. That was when Herman threw a toaster at me. It was a dark time.
The following month I was told that I would be boxing another chicken on live television. I’d never boxed before, but this was a special commercial, I was told. I followed my instructions. This time I was billed as ‘Tendercrisp’ – that must have been their name for me all along! I had to fight another chicken named ‘Spicy’.
The fight lasted about twelve minutes, and I remember being in a lot of pain. Of course I did not complain. Many others did, however. Letters were written that the event was distasteful, and that the King should be ashamed. I was confused, but remained ever loyal.
My last commercial was another embarrassment. Another cowboy, not the dark-skinned ‘Hootie’ cowboy, rode me like a horse. I did as I was told, but felt that Jeff Benjamin and his team were running out of viable applications for a chicken such as myself. I decided to speak to him about it. He was not pleased at my talking back.
This brings me to my current fate. I am now, and will probably always be, right here.
This is my webpage. I am forced to spend all day in Jeff Benjamin’s cousin’s basement, awaiting instructions that show up on a little screen. I’ve been told that people all over the world send commands to me. I have been trained to do something called the ‘moonwalk’, to Riverdance, to try to do a headstand, to fart, to pick my nose and eat it, to do the Robot… in total I will respond to more than 300 commands. It’s true, please come and visit.
There are things I will not do – things I have been instructed by the King to wag my finger at some of the more obscene suggestions. The way some of you people talk, it’s disgusting!
Still, I will try my best to comply with your demands. I will likely spend the rest of eternity in this basement, but this is my destiny for now.
I am the Subservient Chicken.