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Focal Plane: Misplaced mascots

This is the sixteenth instalment of the GoobNet Focal Plane, an occasional series wherein we highlight an unimportant social problem, trying to make you care about it. Use the Whine Control, above and right, to view other instalments.

A stack of folded cardboard boxes sits in one corner of the room. In the well lit but sparsely adorned office in Oakland, CA, USA, that is the only clue that its occupant will be moving out.

The statement, which reads in part, "The character may be phased out as the prominent icon of the brand, although no timeline or details have been determined," is the only notice afforded this tall, helpful, large nosed fellow.

"I must say, it does seem a trifle illogical," Reginald Jeeves says. In his typical understated fashion, that would be the equivalent of anyone else saying, "What the fuck could they possibly be thinking?"

This week, search engine Ask Jeeves has decided that Jeeves must go. This, of course, begs the question: If you can't ask Jeeves, whom can you ask?

Big J

The company has decided that Jeeves, originated by comedic writer PG Wodehouse, is no longer to be the face of its brand. The company that led the way in natural language searches appears to be responding to Web users' familiarity with artificial language searches. Foremost amongst what may be a long series of changes is giving Jeeves the boot.

"Big J is the man, man," says Rick Wainscot, an associate director for corporate outreach at Ask Jeeves. "I say hi every morning on my way in, and he's always got something to say about my outfit. There was this one time a couple of years ago when I wore a pink tie to work. I told him I was going to wear it for my date that weekend. He was like, 'What sort of lady is this, Rick?' I told him about her, and he says, 'Well, you see, it is my understanding that young ladies from the Midwest are not generally taken with such bright colours in ties.'

"Well, I wear the tie anyway, and she obviously hates it. Stares at it all night. Never calls again. I go in on Monday and I give the tie to Jeeves and I say, 'You were right, bro.' He just takes it from me and says, 'Very good, Rick. Shall I throw it on the pyre along with Tammy's body stocking?' He's just great."

Such stories about Jeeves abound in the offices, making it even more difficult to understand just why he is being let go.

Upheaval in the mascot world

This follows immediately on the heels of another infamous mascot fiasco. Last year, the Montréal Expos moved to Washington, DC, USA to become the Nationals. The club's mascot, Youppi!, was left behind, though he has recently joined the NHL's Montréal Canadiens.

"Indeed I have met Youppi! at a number of Junior Thalia Club meetings," Jeeves says of the popular redhead. "The Gorilla always brings a trampoline and invites Youppi! to attempt a dunk. Youppi! never accepted the Gorilla's offer, until one time last year when the Expos' move was still in limbo. Hence, the Gorilla affixed a large sticker to the backboard depicting the logo of the Expos. As one might foretell, this succeeded in raising the blood of the French Canadian fellow."

The Gorilla continues the story. "I'd rigged the backboard with a button that I could hit, and that would make it shatter. The idea, of course, was that he would smash the Expos' logo when he dunked. Well, we cleared a little space for Youppi! to make his run. He jumps on the trampoline, but he goes flying completely over the backboard! I guess I wasn't thinking clearly – I hit the button anyway. The poor guy must have been pretty startled to see the backboard shatter beneath him."

"While it is true that the majority of our members are sports mascots," Jeeves says of the Junior Thalia Club, "there are a few like myself who represent companies. The sock puppet who used to work for Pets.com is a good friend, for example."

Unanswered questions

So what is the best question that anyone has ever asked Jeeves?

"Well, a few jokesters every day ask What do you get if you multiply six by nine," he says. "There's Who's got the biggest tits in the world, to which I always think we should reply with a link to Mount Everest. What should you do if your condom breaks is a classic. But the best would be If Brad Sherwood meets a Whose Line groupie in a forest, does she make a sound."

Ultimately, though, the biggest question that has no answer, at least not yet, is: What shall Jeeves do now?

Wainscot says that he is considering quitting his job to join whatever company Jeeves moves to. "Seriously, he is in-fucking-dispensable. I go to Vegas all the time. He knows all of the little hot spots, where to find the luckiest tables, all that."

Another coworker, Tam Vackery, is the aforementioned Tammy. She adds, "I've asked him if he needs a valet. Or a valette, I guess I'd be. I just feel more confident if he's giving me advice. Although if I was his valette, I'd have to give him advice. Hopefully we can go both ways."

Fourteen seconds later, she says, "That didn't come out right."

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