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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #478
Raoul MacDowell
David Gunn

Ronald McDonald, Spokesclown Emeritus for the McDonald's Happy Meal Conglomerate, had an evil twin. His name--well, we'll get to that in a minute. His original name was Donald. In the beginning, Donald and Ronald were the best of friends, as perhaps only twin brothers or sisters can be. They knew each other so well that they frequently finished each other's sentences. And they did everything together. They played on the same whiffleball team, they had the same tastes in fast scooters and even faster schoolgirls, they even dressed identically in yellow jumpsuits over red and white shirts and kneesocks. And when Donald entered the Hummock-on-Smythe Clown School, Ronald was right behind him. Since they both sported naturally crimson hair, they started a step ahead of the other initiates. And all through school, both lads continued to excel. There were no better pie throwers, pratfallers, comedy magicians, animal ballooners or kazoo maestros. Eventually, they fell in with a small group of second-year farceurs who were equally well-suited to the clowning industry. Their names were Hamburglar, Birdie, Grimace, Duke and Rags.

One day, the seven of them decided to play a prank on the school. They all really hated mime class, believing that employing bodily movements and broad facial expressions to portray a man walking against the wind was utterly banal. Hamburglar discovered that the pantomime instructor was borderline flammable, so Donald, Ronald, Birdie, Grimace and Duke distracted him while Rags and Hamburglar focused the sun's rays through a powerful lens onto the unsuspecting teacher's shoes. Unfortunately, Rags--whose name accurately reflected his typical raiment--caught his pants leg in the magnified light. His clothes ignited and, in one horrifying instant, he caught fire, too, and vanished, kicking and screaming, in a great puff of sizzling smoke.

The six remaining chums agreed on a somewhat improbable story about Rags' chronic dermatitis suddenly turning violently combustible. And when the Hummock-on-Smythe dean summoned them for questioning, they stuck to it. All except Hamburglar. Impulsively, he fingered Donald. And, strangely enough, the other five readily corroborated Hamburglar's allegation. Even Ronald!

Donald was summarily booted out of Clown School--each undergraduate had a turn with a pair of special spiked paddle shoes--and he limped out of southwesternmost Lincolnshire bewildered at his friends' calumny. Overnight, he transformed from a docile wanna-be jester into an angry, vengeance-driven young man. But he needed time to plan his retribution, and so he disappeared into the wilds of Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Donald was a driven man. He was driven to a farm on the outskirts of town by a dipsomaniac in a Dodge Dubonnet. There he discovered a woodworker named Edward MacDowell, inventor of the little round wooden pin that bears his name (the "Edward"). MacDowell was also caretaker for a massive ant colony in the farm's giant silo. It was to these ants that Donald gravitated. The complex social structure among the different types--fire ants, army ants, carpenter, leaf-cutter, certified public account ants--fascinated him, and he began to plot a future in which he would be queen and everyone else, slaves.

To stay in MacDowell's good graces, Donald did odd jobs around the farm. Given his schooling, they mostly consisted of tossing pies, making animal balloons and blowing Webern on his kazoo. The more bizarre were his antics, the more MacDowell delighted in them, so Donald gradually redefined his ideas of what made a good clown. He infused into his character traits of maliciousness and provocation, of ruthlessness and immorality, of a queen-versus-slave mindset. MacDowell thought Donald could better hone his avant-garde clown persona in front of focus groups, so he built some cottages and a performance hall and invited selected audiences to his "clown colony." He also encouraged Donald to adopt a new name. His brother had just been tapped by McDonald's Happy Meal Conglomerate to be their spokesclown, so Donald reinvented himself as Raoul MacDowell.

Even for MacDowell, Raoul's first public performance was a bit over the top, as it included two separate acts of cannibalism. Still, the audience--that is, those who weren't personally eaten--were ecstatic in their praise. A reviewer called him "Raoul the Misanthrope--but in a good way."

Word of Raoul's notoriety eventually spread to Oak Brook, Illinois, home of Hamburger University and McDonald's spokesclown. Whatever fraternal bond he'd shared with Donald severed when Ronald saw his brother dressed exactly like him in yellow jumpsuit, red and white shirt and kneesocks, and engaged in a "fleshy snack." Grimace was particularly incensed, and he and Hamburglar drove to Peterborough to confront their former comrade. The two characters might have stood a chance against Donald, but they were no match for Raoul, who took particular pleasure in consuming Hamburglar, all the way down to his flaccid all-beef patty. The crowds loved it!

Ronald knew then that there was room in clowndom for only one red-headed, yellow-jumpsuited jester, so he made his way to MacDowell's farm to have it out with his brother. Raoul was unrepentant, and suggested the two of them repair to the ant colony silo to settle their differences. No audience was permitted inside, and we have only the ravings of a flamboy ant to document what really transpired. The upshot was that only one clown emerged from the silo. He never admitted what happened to his brother, or, indeed, who he was. Thenceforth, he called himself Leonardo, replaced his clownsuit with a dapper dashiki, and soon thereafter disappeared into the New Hampshire hills.

While still embracing the occasional avant-cannibal, MacDowell reinvented his colony to cater to a more artistic crowd, and the Happy Meal Conglomerate ... well, who really cares what happened to it?

On the other hand, we know who cares about Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. It's people like you who've tuned in to this 478th episode to see what sort of music we can cannibalize to make a congruous radio show. For an overview of today's menu, we turn to our hearty trencherman, Kalvos.