Super Chicken is a segment that ran on the animated television series George of the Jungle. It was produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott, who earlier had created the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. It debuted September 9, 1967 on ABC.
Usually, Super Chicken (voiced by Bill Scott in a Boston Brahmin accent) with his lion sidekick Fred (whose inside-out sweatshirt left the F on his chest showing backwards, voiced by Paul Frees (impersonating Ed Wynn), began their adventures with Super Chicken's battlecry: "To the Super Coop, Fred!" (a play on the word coupe). The Super Coop was an egg-shaped air vehicle flown by Super Chicken and Fred to the rescue of innocent victims of crime.
Super Chicken's secret identity was well-to-do Henry Cabot Henhouse III (whose name was a play on Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.); Fred acted as his butler/servant, etc. When danger reared its ugly head, he would take his "Super Sauce" (often from a martini glass) and don his "Super Suit," which consisted of a plumed cavalier's hat, cape, Wellington boots, mask and sword. He was a parody of the well-off WASP of the 1950’s, horn-rimmed glasses wearing, martini drinking, and a sense of social obligation (fulfilled in this case by suiting up and fighting bizarre menaces to society). A similar, contemporary fictional character was Bruce Wayne, a millionaire who fought crime as Batman. Earlier precursors included Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel.
The cartoon had several running gags, including:
- To turn into Super Chicken, Henry would take a drink of "Super Sauce". However, the effect of the sauce was never the same each time. One time Fred added too much corn starch and the sauce had to be eaten with a spoon. Another time, it was 'instant super sauce,' which just needed added water. While never explicitly punchlined as a running gag, it is apparent that the "Super Sauce" does not give Super Chicken any actual superpowers and this is demonstrated many times.
- Henry would have a violent reaction moments after drinking the "Super Sauce", nearly always stopping in mid-sentence to cluck loudly as the reaction hit him.
- To dash out to the scene of the action, Super Chicken would exclaim, "To the Super Coop, Fred!", whereupon Fred would reply, "Roger Wilcox" (a malapropism of Roger Wilco).
- Fred would often ask Super Chicken why he did not use his "super vision", to which Super Chicken would respond with something to the effect of "If I had any super vision, do you think I'd be running around dressed like this?"
- In attempting hazardous or risky stunts as part of the plan, Super Chicken would accidentally injure Fred (such as dropping an anvil on him). Fred would complain, to which Super Chicken responded "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred!"
- Quite often Super Chicken and Fred would get blown up. Fred, standing at the exact center of the explosion would not be hurt, while Super Chicken always was.
- Many of the villains had a voice that was a mock-off of Phil Silvers.
- Super Chicken would often cluck the melody of the "Charge" bugle call. Enemy Salvador Rag Dolly introduced a wind-up toy version of Super Chicken in one episode, but his toy chicken clucked the "Assembly" bugle call.
The original concept for Super Chicken in the pilot differed from the subsequent 17 episodes. Super Chicken's mild-mannered identity was Hunt Strongbird, Jr. The Super Coupe was a wooden chicken coop with a glass canopy, airplane wings and a jet engine. Also absent was the need for Super Sauce to institute the change into Super Chicken. Super Chicken's sidekick Fred was fundamentally the same, except that instead of sneakers, he wore black boots.
Super Chicken episode titles and dates
|2||"One of Our States Is Missing"||1967-09-16|
|3||"Wild Ralph Hiccup"||1967-09-23|
|5||"The Easter Bunny"||1967-10-07|
|6||"The Elephant Spreader"||1967-10-14|
|9||"The Laundry Man"||1967-11-04|
|11||"The Fat Man"||1967-11-18|
|13||"Salvador Rag Dolly"||1967-12-02|
|14||"Briggs Bad Wolf"||1967-12-09|
|17||"The Wild Hair"||1967-12-30|
Appearances in other media
In 1969, Gold Key Comics published two issues of a George of the Jungle comic book. Each issue contained a story featuring Super Chicken. The artist and writer of the stories, Paul Fung, Jr.  was not credited in the comic.
In an episode of Darkwing Duck, Darkwing references a line from the Super Chicken series. When approaching a dangerous target, Darkwing tells his sidekick, "It's like the chicken said, Launchpad--I knew the job was dangerous when I took it."
During the January 27, 2003 episode of Loveline, host Drew Pinsky revealed that as a child he had participated in the test marketing of the show. This followed a rendition of the theme song by guest Emma Caulfield and cohost Adam Carolla. He said "it looked retarded to me", and "I was like eight years old and they marketed that and [...] George of the Jungle and another – it seemed to me more bizarre – "It's About Time" kind of thing: a guy gets frozen and comes back to life".
The late historian Kenneth Cmiel opens his Democratic Eloquence: The Fight over Popular Speech in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990) with the famous quote, "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it," which is found on the dedication page.
In the Jerry Pournelle and Roland Green science fiction novel Clan and Crown, part of the Janissaries series, the mercenary Ben Murphy is in a tight situation and says to himself, "But what the hell, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred...", a clear reference to the Super Chicken theme song. No character named Fred occurs elsewhere in the novel.
In Hip-Hop artist Ice Cube's Ghetto Bird (from the Lethal Injection album), he makes a derisive reference to police helicopters "up there lookin' like Super Chicken".
In one of the Tom Clancy's Op-Center series of novels, titled Dark Zone, by Jeff Rovin and George Galdorisi, Op-Center's JSOC detachment commander, Major Mike Volner recollects a quote from a cartoon his grandfather had enjoyed watching and that the young Volner had adopted as a motto to accompany new challenges: "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it!"