Ronald's exit interview

June 10, 2011

McDonald’s Corp. is standing by its clown. The 48-year-old, red-haired mascot has come under fire from health-care professionals and consumer groups who, in recent days, have asked the fast-food chain to retire Ronald McDonald.

HUMAN RESOURCES Good morning, and thank you for participating in this fully confidential exit interview. Just to begin, how many years have you been with the company?

RONALD MCDONALD (stares blankly at the wall, not seeming to hear)

H.R. Er ... Mr. McDonald?

RONALD ( singing the Big Mac song softly, like a hymn) ... two all-beef patties ... special sauce, lettuce, cheese ... (Distraught, he retrieves three single-serving packets of ketchup from his jumpsuit and squeezes them directly into his mouth.)

H.R. I realize this must be difficult for you. It’s quite normal for employees in your position to experience a period of grief.

RONALD Forty-eight years ... forty-eight years... (kneading his forehead) How could I have been so stupid! Why didn’t I put away more? Or even a little! I don’t even have a résumé! (suddenly engaged) Hey, maybe there’s something else I could do! Maybe in payroll or Web-development — even something on the political side? I know politicians! I once went on a golf trip with Steny Hoyer. (pulls out cellphone) Hold on, I think he’s still in my contacts —

H.R. Mr. McDonald, once again, I want to stress that this has nothing to do with your performance. Management simply feels that, amid skyrocketing rates of diabetes and childhood obesity, it is no longer appropriate to retain a children’s character within the corporate structure.

RONALD Good point. So maybe we can “age me up” a little bit? Lose the wig, hire a trainer, maybe engineer one of those sham P.R. relationships — how about Ke$ha? And then I could be Rona£d! You know, with a pound sign.

H.R. I don’t know if we want to go there.

RONALD (backtracking) Right, you’re right. Forget it. That’s just the ketchup talking. (introspective sigh) I guess I should have seen this coming. I heard they’re test marketing a Filet-o-Kale. Is that true?

H.R. I wouldn’t —

RONALD Aw, forget it, you wouldn’t give me a straight answer anyway. “Chinese wall,” right? (dark chuckle) You wanna know the hardest part? They’re right. (slaps his knee) They’re totally right! Maybe it didn’t seem so bad in the ’60s, but today? With everything we know about sodium intake and LDL levels? And let’s not even talk about factory farming! Who are we kidding? They’re not “Happy Meals,” they’re “Gateway Meals!” (shaken) I’m a monster.

H.R. You’re not a monster.

RONALD Statistically, I am. H.R. (protective) But how could you have known?

RONALD Oh, don’t be naïve. We all knew! Grimace knew! And he has a brain the size of a pearl onion. To be honest, I’m amazed that guy can even stand up.

H.R. (suddenly indignant) Mr. McDonald, you’re an ambassador of joy and optimism and generosity — everything that makes America great! You’re not just a clown. You’re an icon.

Long, awkward pause.

RONALD O.K. Well, thanks. That’s nice to hear.

Longer, more awkward pause. Suddenly, Ronald’s cellphone rings.

RONALD (He glances at the caller I.D.) Well, will you look at that? If it isn’t my good friend, Steny Hoyer!

H.R. (skeptical) Really?

RONALD (Guilty pause. He lowers his eyes.) No.

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