Broadway Vocab 101. Why is a flop called a turkey anyway?

Happy Thanksgiving, readers!

It’s ironic, don’t you think?  We spend this one day pounding back slices of turkey, and we spend the rest of the year trying to avoid producing one.

And why do we call a flop a turkey anyway?  Why not an owl?  Or a swallow?

Well, these are the types of questions that keep me up at night, so I decided to do some Gearching (I’ve decided that the word search is now so inextricably connected to Google that we should just combine the two words), and share the results with you, on this fowl-filled day.

So why is a Broadway show that flops called a turkey?

It all comes down to IQ.

Apparently, a turkey is a pretty damn dumb bird.

Don’t believe me?  Well, I found one web post from a dude who used to work at a turkey farm and breeding facility that gave two examples of IQ-challenged turkey behavior:

1 – The pens of the farm had to be equipped with specially designed water bowls which would keep a minimal amount of water in the bowl and shut off while the turkeys were drinking. Why?  Because on occasion, a turkey would “forget” to lift its head while drinking . . . and drown.  And this guy saw it happen.

2 – Large scale turkey farms regularly use artificial insemination to get the turkeys to reproduce.  Why?  Because if they didn’t, the turkeys just might not around to it on their own.

So the birds are stupid.

And in 1927 (coincidentally, the year that Show Boat opened), someone decided that flops were stupid too. (Probably because everything looked stupid compared to Show Boat.)

And thus, a dud became a turkey.

Now that I know the answer . . . I still like owl better.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  • SweetP says:

    One hopes that it is simply a coincidence that that the announced closing of Elling on 11/28 was made on Thanksgiving. However, it does make me wonder what producers would see a few days after opening night that would convince them to pull the plug on a show so quickly.

  • Douglas Gray says:

    Alternate Holiday Explanation:
    Though attractive, it’s hard to deny,
    The turkey’s IQ is not high.
    But everyone knows,
    Like many bad shows.
    Turkeys are fowl and don’t fly.

  • Joe says:

    I had heard there was a time when Broadway shows traditionally opened in late fall in hopes of tapping into a holiday surge and those that weren’t any good never made it past Thanksgiving.
    Though considering the source, that could easily have been apocryphal.

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