I never met an act that hasn’t at some point put money and time into a performance piece only to find out it was a total waste of time.  It’s the way things are in the arts I guess. That said, if you want to put money into something, think twice about an animal.  Here’s why.

We write bits together and for each other.  That’s how we roll. My friend and I decided what his act needed is a live monkey playing the organ grinder throughout one of the pieces in his show. A throwback to old show business.  Hard to train the animal to do it but worth the pay off he said. This friend is one of those guys that’ll take chances on something with long odds of paying off just to maybe bump up his show. It’s a quality I’ve always admired.

In  the late 80’s / early 90’s getting a monkey at a pet store here in Toronto was pretty easy.  Exotic animals were everywhere unlike now when they can only be seen at zoo’s and magic shows in Niagara Falls with a two drink minimum.  

Its quite a thing to walk into a store and see not only a monkey for sale, but one marked down from 250 dollars, to 150, to 100, to 75 dollars.  Discount Monkey.  Brilliant.  Even I know bargain basement price slashing does not instill a sense of quality in pet purchases. The fact that the monkey was grabbing the bars, shaking and screaming like it was trying to get out of Shawshank didn’t sit well with me. My guess is that it was angry and someone had given it booze. Still my friend thought this was the perfect monkey not because it was a good trainable pet but because it was priced right. It was 175 dollars cheaper than any other monkey, and who doesn’t love a bargain? Protesting that monkeys are a “get what you pay for” kind of pet and a cursory evaluation of its demeanor suggested that this may not be the most trainable monkey for whom “family audiences would love and adore” it may be useless for our purposes; he didn’t listen. In the end the monkey was bought. Long odds indeed.

The monkey wore a blue jumpsuit, like the one Hannibal wore in Silence of the Lambs.  So we called him Dr. Lecter.  Once in the car Lecter began to live up to his name.  Hannibal was screaming, ripping his wee jump suit and throwing a total fit.  My friend suggested that all he needed was a banana and some love.  Yea, and maybe 300 CC’s of thorozine. Twenty five minutes in the passenger’s seat with a screaming monkey hissing and spitting from a cage on your lap tests the limits of friendship. But he’d helped me steal a camel on an over seas tour, so I owed him.  What’s a guy to do.?

Once home it took all of 5 minutes to destroy Wes’s apartment. It pulled the phone cord out of the wall, shredded curtains, ripped up books and movies and expelled waste in no less than 4 parts of the house. It was literally loosing its shit.

In hind sight we never should have taken its jump suit off. Clearly it was a prison monkey; institutionalized and couldn’t function on “The Outside”.  Left to its own devices it would have written, “Brooks was here” on the wall.

Two hours of chasing the devils spawn around the apartment led to more destruction and its final capture. We cornered it with two juggling clubs and a Morrisey Coin Pail.  Turns out their hand spun metal products really are very tough. I recommend it for “the worker”.

This was not the loveable monkey who would sit on his shoulder and play music while my friend did magic.  At best it might rip his ear off and string it on a chain around its neck, while going up river on a raft to ask Colonel Kurtz why we lost the war in Viet Nam. It finally dawned on us that perhaps Doctor Lecter needed to be sent back to the prison. Senator, ….love your suit.

It was a monster.  We knew it and so did the pet shop. It turns out when a pet shop sells a mentally unstable animal they instantly develop a “no refund policy”.  The spawny bastards.

Getting rid of the monkey was now the priority.  We made up posters and put them around the east end of the city. From the street we could still hear the monkey screaming and rattling its cage.  Luckily it didn’t take more than an hour for the phone to ring.  Some poor unsuspecting soul wanted the monkey and it was agreed he would pay 50 bucks for it.  49.99 too much.  

At the appointed time 50 dollar guy shows up, pays and picks up the beast.  Naturally the monkey was screaming like it has PTSD after several tours of duty with the marines.  To his credit my friend told the buyer that the animal needed to be fed and that explained his disgruntled attitude. Since the purchaser had parked his car in front of the apartment on the street we didn’t even need to help him out to the car.  The ordeal was over. He would take Dr Lecter home and we’d be free to carry on with a trip to the Court Jester bar.

Doors locked and lights turned off we peeked through what was left of the curtains and watched him get the monkey into the car.  Once in, the fool unleashed the monkey and all of hell by opening the cage door. I can’t believe he did that. If you’ve seen Jurrassic Park when Wayne Knight is attacked in his Jeep by the small dinosaur, that’s pretty much what we witnessed.  I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

It took 30 minutes to get Dr. Lecter back in the cage. 30 minutes of us laughing..… then it happened. Out of the car he and the cage started back toward the building.

We had to be quiet. The door was locked but we still didn’t feel safe. The buyer of devil monkey was screaming and kicking the door.  Yelling at us to take “this f#$CKING monkey back”, people on the street began to gawk.  He kicked at the door for about 20 minutes yelling things like “ I know you’re in there” and “ you screwed me over I’ll kick your ass”.  **Pro tip** This has been a theme for my friend and I.  On the road we’ve run into this door kicking scenario 15 times at least.  I think our off stage antics encourage it.  I’m not sure. Be careful when you tour with us* Back to the apartment.  We stayed put, quiet…drinking beer letting all this play out.  The guy screaming combined with, a bit of drunken buzz, we started to giggle which turned into a laugh.  The guy could hear us now.

With one last thunderous bang on the door the guy yells “ I know your in there I can hear you asses laughing.  Take this godless monkey back!!” ( EXACT quote )  “

It might have been the beer or just plain exhaustion but finally my friend, beer in hand yelled back  “there’s no one home!”. This prompted a last scream of “How F**King stupid are you?” for lots of reasons the answer to that is… VERY.

A few more expletives from the monkey buyer and he gave up.  We watched him take the primate back to his car and drive away.  I always wondered what happened to poor little Doctor Lectre. The writer Hunter S Thompson sums its up best in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, unknowingly giving the perfect description of that animal:

“There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

The moral here is this.  Learn a side steal. A double lift.  Write your act.  Work the stage, buy Morrisey,  And if you’re gonna get a monkey, don’t buy discount.