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The origin of the rubber chicken is obscure, but is possibly based on the use of pig bladders, which were inflated, attached to a stick and used as props or mock-weapons by jesters in the days before the development of plastic and latex. Chicken corpses were readily available; therefore jesters could employ them as variations of slapsticks.
One account attributes the first use of a prop chicken to John Holmberg, the Swedish black-faced clown of the early 1900s. Holmberg would perform with his pockets full of fake food to mock the gluttony reportedly prevalent among the upper classes at the time. A claim that the symbol originated during the French Revolution with soldiers hanging a chicken from their muskets for luck is printed on the tag of rubber chickens manufactured by Archie McPhee.
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. Often, pre-cooked chicken is held at serving temperature for some time and then dressed with a sauce as it is served. Consequently, the meat may be 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.
- In 2009, a film depicting a sex act on a rubber chicken was posted online by an AFL player.
- In 2012, a team of students at NASA used a helium balloon to launch a rubber chicken (an observatory mascot) equipped with film badge dosimeters into a solar storm to take measurements of the radiation levels.
- "Farm Pop: Why the Rubber Chicken?". Modern Farmer. 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
- Buck Wolf, Flight of the Floppy Fowl, ABCNews.com, 2000.
- BBC News, Fake bird row hits German play, February 23, 2006.
- "Roos pull 'sick' video off net" The Age, April 8, 2009
- "AFL club North Melbourne investigates rubber chicken sex film", April 8, 2009
- "Rubber Chicken Flies into Solar Radiation Storm". science.nasa.gov. NASA Science. Retrieved 2016-07-15.