More men have walked on the moon than have been Ronald McDonald.
Willard Scott, the affable weatherman from The Today Show, was the first Ronald McDonald. Based on his experience as Bozo the Clown, Willard thought that clowns bearing hamburgers would be an irresistible draw for children. He was right and in 1963 appeared as Ronald McDonald, the Hamburger-Happy Clown in local television spots in Washington D.C., but he wasn't selected as spokesclown for the company's first national advertising campaign. The agency thought Scott was too fat for the role of an "extremely active" Ronald McDonald.
It was the first time I was really screwed by the mass media. (Willard Scott)
In 1992 Willard Scott appeared in a commercial for Burger King, proving that clowns have long memories.
Rooted in the archetype of the trickster, clowns span human history and cultures. Pygmy clowns made the pharaohs laugh, Ancient Rome had the mimic Stupidus and court jesters entertained European royalty. In the early 1800s, Joe Grimaldi--the Homo erectus of clown evolution--performed to great acclaim on the London comic stage, lampooning society and harpooning himself in the process. When Grimaldi died, penniless and alcoholic, the coroner wrote...
He died by the visitation of God. 
It's no surprise that clowns and priests have occasionally been the same person. The clown creates a magical world where hits and pratfalls don't hurt. Like the priest, the clown holds the promise of supersized invulnerability. Folly and fools, religion and magic--clowns and priests fulfill a deep human need. On tarot cards, the clown is depicted with one foot on the ground and the other poised above an abyss...
Both human and divine, the clown bridges two worlds, trusting his step into the unknown and turning the everyday into the extraordinary.
And you thought Ronald McDonald was just a corporate shill.
Everybody loves a clown except the people who hate clowns. With their manic space-invading behaviour, gaudy apparel and faces painted to obscure their expressions, clowns are unsettling. And yet clowns also represent freedom to indulge the appetites for food, drink, sex and mischief.
McDonald's, perhaps sensing the anarchy deep within Ronald's double-quarter-pounder heart, has had a love-hate relationship with its mascot, alternately embracing and distancing itself from its clown. In 2005 Tony-award-winning Beauty and the Beast designer Ann Hould-Ward lovingly gave Ronald a two-year makeover replacing his jumpsuit with cargo pants and a funky red jacket that wouldn't look out of place on the runway at Men's Fashion Week...
Since he acquired his new outfit, he's feeling trendier and more confident... (Steve Easterbrook, CEO McDonald's)
"Ronald's here to stay" said a trendy and confident Steve Easterbrook, but the company shuns the heritage that Ronald embodies, promoting a "modern progressive hamburger company" that in recent months has progressively resembled a circus. After a brief disastrous appearance on Twitter where he was pilloried like a childrens' birthday party clown performing at a bachelor party, Ronald is in mascot limbo, minding Ronald McDonald House where he's sheltered from childhood obesity activists.   
Last week, the Guardian released a brilliant mini-documentary on Joe Maggard, the longest-serving (1995-2007) of the national Ronald McDonalds.
Take a look at six minutes of Modern Times for the 21st century... 
On my first viewing of I was Ronald McDonald, the Breaking McBad vibe totally freaked me out. By the third viewing I was on the verge of tears. The "boring as shit" preparation, the psychological contortions that turn a clown into a superhero of healthy choices, the phallic footwear. It was all too allegorical for me. The clown is right in there. The clown is ready to go…  
Joe Maggard's favourite saying is Essa Quam Videri (to be rather than to seem). Wow. How interesting is that? Don't bother to send in the clowns, Joe. They're already here...
About the Author: Lynne Everatt is a former Globe and Mail Careers columnist, author of two books, Drink Wine and Giggle and Emails from the Edge (nominated for the Stephen Leacock award for humour). She will never forget Joe Maggard or eat a double-quarter-pounder again.