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Comedian Danny Lobell: Why chickens actually cross the road




Comedian Danny Lobell in his backyard with Peacock, his pet chicken.
Comedian Danny Lobell in his backyard with Peacock, his pet chicken.
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L.A.'s Danny Lobell is a comedian and podcaster - he hosts a monthly comedy show at the Hollywood Improv called Bookshelf, as well as the podcast "Modern Day Philosophers," where comedians talk philosophy. But above all that, Danny Lobell loves chickens.

I’m sitting in my house in Mid City when an email pops up on my phone:

“Nottingham University is studying the relationships between chickens and humans. Are you interested in being flown to London to give a talk about chickens?”

The university said they'd pay my expenses to and from the United Kingdom. I emailed back, “You’d have to bring my wife along as well, and pay her expenses.” They replied immediately: “Done deal.”

Three months later, I stood on stage at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in London, telling my story about raising a rooster and chicken with my Ecuadorian gangster neighbor to a group of archaeologists and anthropologists.

I had originally told the story on "This American Life," and then in a TEDx Talk in Phoenix. The Nottingham chicken project had a budget of almost $3 million.

Three. Million. Dollars.

Whenever I get involved with chickens, crazy things happen.

Two years ago, I needed to see a doctor, and the closest one my insurance would cover was in East L.A.. After a long trip there, I started heading home, when I saw a pet shop with graffiti animals all over it.

Inside, it was cramped. There was a snake in a cage on top of a rabbit on top of a canary. That’s when I saw Sonya, a little brown chicken. I got her for $20.

On the ride home, she was perched on my shoulder like a parrot, and I felt like a captain on a voyage, sailing the seas of the 10 West. Well, sailing is generous — traffic was slower than a conga line in a nursing home.

Since then, Sonya's been joined by four more chickens I got at the Malibu Feed Bin. I like to think of these chickens as fancy rich ladies. Unlike Sonya, who came from a gang bangin’ part of East L.A., these four gals grew up with an ocean view of the Pacific.

I got my latest chicken in a way that can only be described as God trying to make me laugh. Recently, my parents and brother came to visit. We went to the L.A. County Arboretum and if you've been there before, you know there are dozens of peacocks living there.

While driving back with my family, I wondered if I could raise peacocks in my backyard. Why not?

But then, just one block away from my house, I found myself hitting the brakes and coming to a stop.

I'd almost run over a chicken crossing the road.

Oh, the irony of a comedian who raises chickens, who buys chickens on a whim and talks about chickens but has never addressed the age-old question:

Why did the chicken cross the road? I finally had the answer: Probably to escape people who were going to eat her.

My brother and I got out of the van, leaving my parents to discuss what the hell I’m doing with my life, as we chased a chicken around a car and came at her from either side to catch her. It only made sense to name her Peacock — an homage to the birds I saw that afternoon.

Only a few minutes after deciding I wanted a peacock, the universe had given me one. The only difference was that my Peacock was yet another chicken.

Watching chickens walk around my backyard gives me the same relaxing feeling I get from observing beautiful tropical fish swim around a fish tank. There’s something very soothing and serene about it.

Plus, chickens are the only pets that leave you a packaged breakfast in the morning. You don’t even have to milk a chicken for an egg. It’s just there waiting for you. It’s their way of saying, “Thanks for having us at your place.”​