Aficionados of flavorful fowl from 15 states flocked on Friday to the Georgia headquarters of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, having won the opportunity to attend a mysterious event being held by the popular chicken restaurant chain.
“The official press releases have been very secretive about the reason we’re here,” said Sam Kitchen, a Popeyes regular with such affinity for fried food that she legally changed her name to that of Popeyes’ founders Louis and Ana Kitchen. “But the rumor is that they’re going to unveil a new Cajun chicken recipe.”
The lucky few who attended were chosen over several weeks in a Willy Wonka-style contest in which customers sought to find one of a limited number of Golden Bones in their Bonafide® chicken wings. Those few true chicken fans who didn’t immediately sell theirs for scrap metal (each was made using over $2,000 worth of 24-karat gold) were invited to the secretive event, hoping to be the first to taste a new menu item or get a picture and autograph from Annie, the iconic Popeyes spokeswoman from all of their commercials.
They weren’t prepared for what they were about to see.
The expectant epicures were led into a large room featuring a makeshift stage, where they were greeted by Daniel Schwartz, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, which acquired Popeyes in March. He congratulated the crowd on being fortunate enough to find themselves at these festivities, and proceeded to explain why they were all there.
“We are very excited to welcome Popeyes to the RBI family,” he said with his best corporate smile. “And to help revitalize the Popeyes brand, we’re launching a new partnership with an A-list celebrity who will tour the country, performing in Popeyes from Savannah to San Francisco and Boston to Baton Rouge.”
Inquisitive whispers could be heard around the room. Who could this new spokesperson be? A prominent country singer? A celebrity chef? Louis and Ana Kitchen themselves? The questions quieted as Schwartz introduced the act.
“Please welcome the world premiere of the next big thing in fast food and in ventriloquism, Cage ‘n’ Chicken!”
A ripple of applause and a tidal wave of confusion washed over the audience, most of whom were excited to hear about what they thought was a new Cajun chicken recipe but who had also definitely heard the word “ventriloquism” and were very unsure about what was going to happen next.
Lo and behold, who should walk out on stage but Academy Award–winning actor Nicolas Cage, with his hand inside what appeared to be a real, taxidermied chicken. Cage looked sweaty and nervous, as if this were his first time in the spotlight.
“How’s everyone doing tonight?” he began, smiling too wide as if to convince himself that everything was going to be fine.
“My name is Cage, and this is my friend Chicken,” he said, gesturing to the fowl as he sat down on the stool at center stage.
The cry sounded like a constipated monkey being muffled by a pillow, and apparently came from Cage as he firmly pressed his lips together, apparently to assure his audience that the aural utterance had not originated from him. The bird’s beak remained motionless.
“Oh brother, you’re such a silly guy,” Cage said, apparently to Chicken, before asking, “So tell me, why is seven afraid of eight?”
Louder this time, as if the audience hadn’t heard the first fake fowl sound.
“Ha ha, you’re right, Chicken! Because eight had a knife!”
This was Cage’s first public appearance since his failed foray last month into the cutthroat culture of Broadway, when he tried out but failed to get the part of the Elephant Man in the play “The Elephant Man,” primarily because that play has not been on Broadway since 2015.
Cicolas Nage, Cage’s soundalike agent who is only ever reachable by phone, sounded excited about this new opportunity for his client.
“After the ‘Elephant Man’ flop, Nic realized he had gotten too far from his roots, and decided he wanted to go back to the people, to go back to his first love, ventriloquism.”
There is no evidence of any history of Cage performing as a ventriloquist.
After the show, confused guests wandered outside, dazed by the sunlight as if they had just awoken from an absurd dream world. As the reality of the past two hours set in, the crowd’s confusion only continued to accrue.
“I think I first lost touch with reality when he started crawling around on the ground,” said Drew Fallstch. “He got out one of those children’s cityscape rugs that you use to drive around fake cars and made the chicken run around on it, yelling ‘Why are you crossing the road, Chicken!?’ He didn’t even have a punchline, he just kept yelling it and looking at us with a crazed look in his eyes!”
One attendee, Yvonne Pants, came out of the door beaming.
“That was the best thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.
Asked whether she thought the act would increase business, she replied, “That Cage guy kind of freaked me out, but Chicken was a visionary! If I were Popeyes, I would get rid of Cage and dedicate their restaurants to Chicken!”