Feghoot (bork, bork, bork)

This was sent to Brian by Wesley E. Munsil. It is modern, to be sure, but has the authentic flavor of an original Feghoot. Thanks, Wesley.

By the final years of the twenty-first century, a retro-fascination with mid-twentieth-century pop culture icons had catapulted the one-time game show host, newsman, and all-around general-purpose celebrity Hugh Downs into international, if decidedly posthumous, superstardom. Hardly any teenagers in America — to say nothing of Europe, the Middle East, and the developing countries in Africa — were without their own personal copies of the disk containing a triumph of the artificial intelligence practitioner’s art, a fully functional software simulation of Hugh Downs, transmitted by holographic projection, and capable of interacting extensively with the user in witty repartee reminiscent of vintage episodes of Concentration, or pithy observations straight from the glory days of 20/20.

Ferdinand Feghoot, like many brilliant molecular geneticists and theoretical nanobiologists before him, believed this application of software simulation technology to be the cheapest kind of sham — a sort of high-tech celebrity impersonation, if you will. He felt that true entertainment value could only be offered by attaining that Philosopher’s Stone of genetics, dimly perceived by the producers of classic films like Jurassic Park: an actual, living, clone of Hugh Downs. In this view he was joined by the entire staff of the Portland Institute of Genetics (PIG), his employer at that time.

PIG was committed to the project of cloning Mr. Downs. They placed Ferdinand in charge of the project, and entrusted him with the vital, if minuscule, amount of actual Hugh Downs DNA, acquired, corporate principles to the contrary notwithstanding, from the thriving black market in biological materials. They had even retained Dr. Borgnine from Geneva, the world’s acknowledged expert in cloning dead white twentieth-century males. Dr. Borgnine relocated to Portland, and for many months worked in close collaboration with Ferdinand on the Downs project.

Unhappily, fortune did not smile on the Feghoot team. Experiment after experiment proved unsuccessful for one reason or another, and, in the end, the precious quantity of Downs DNA was exhausted, and Ferdinand was forced to report to his department head the dismal news that PIG would be unable to supplant the cheap software simulations of Hugh Downs with the genuine article.

“This is terrible!” cried the department head, upon hearing Ferdinand’s final report. “You mean, even with the assistance of Dr. Borgnine, the cloning experiments have failed, and society will have to continue using software tricks to experience the Downs persona?”

“I’m afraid so,” replied Ferdinand.

A look of shocked realization slowly spread across the department head’s face. “Then that means …”

“Yes.” Ferdinand nodded sadly. “Assistance is futile. Hugh will be re-simulated.”

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