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Monkeying around with the holidays

Illustration/courtesy Casey Sorrow
Artwork/courtesy Carl Oxley III
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Published 12/10/2003

In just a few days, humans around the globe will unite by donning goofy costumes, spreading joy and tidings of good will, and honoring one of the most celebrated figures of popular culture.

No, not Santa, you simple-minded fool. The monkey!

And, actually, it won’t be many humans and they won’t be spread very far around the globe. In fact, it might just be a couple of wacky art students in Lansing partying in someone’s basement. But the fact remains: This Sunday, Dec. 14, is Monkey Day. The third annual Monkey Day, to be precise.

What is Monkey Day?

Why, a day to celebrate monkeys (duh).

Who the fuck would make up a holiday to celebrate monkeys?

Good question. Here’s a brief lesson on the evolution (har, har) of Monkey Day:

Late 2000: Lansing resident and Michigan State University art student Casey Sorrow (who is actually quite a happy fellow) plays a practical joke on a friend, and scribbles “Monkey Day” on said friend’s calendar — under December 14. When that fateful day came, Sorrow and his friends were overcome with a compulsion to don simian costumes, mimic baboon cries, and hop around like a bunch of monkeys.

And thus, a tradition was born.

“Everybody loves monkeys,” pontificates Sorrow. “Monkeys are great — they make people smile. There are no bad monkeys.”

Never mind that many scientists believe the origins of HIV can be traced back to chimpanzees.

But those pesky virus transmission issues aside, Sorrow has a point; humans have long been fascinated with simians. King Kong, Curious George, Donkey Kong, Grape Ape and Magilla Gorilla, Koko the sign-language gorilla, that whole Darwin thing, Marcel from Friends, Planet of the Apes, the Monkees, that new highly irritating song by the Barenaked Ladies … the list goes on and on. (For more examples, peruse Famous Monkeys Through History, at www.ape-o-naut.org/famous or just type “famous monkeys” in Google.)

Why are we so drawn to the simian species?

“Probably because we come from monkeys,” says monkey artist and Monkey Day celebrant Carl Oxley III. “Plus, they’re funny as hell.”

Furthermore, its creators believe Monkey Day is a bit of a nose-thumbing toward our holiday-saturated calendar — especially toward the end of the year.

“I’m not an atheist myself,” says Sorrow, “but sometimes it gets a little nauseating around Christmas. This is something you can just have fun with. It’s kind of hard to dress up as Jesus and get a few laughs.”

“There’s all kinds of crap holidays,” adds Oxley. “We might as well have one that’s fun, and funny.”

Monkey Day, he says, “is sort of a backlash against things like Sweetest Day, these holidays that were invented by a company specifically to sell a product.”

Sorrow is now attempting to make Monkey Day an “official” holiday — he has an online petition (addressed to all the people of the world, Senate, Congress, and the president) at www.monkeyday.com. The Web site also offers suggestions of ways to celebrate Monkey Day (dress in simian attire, speak like an ape all day, throw a monkey-themed bash) and offers an extensive line of official Monkey Day merchandise, from T-shirts to Christmas ornaments. The designs include a snarling chimp hovering under the phrase “El Dia De Mono.”

Sorrow claims Monkey Day has been popular with the MSU students and the local bar crowd (gee, big shocker there). Although the holiday is still in its infant stages, Sorrow says he’s received hits on his Web site from all over the nation, Saudi Arabia and the UK. He hopes Monkey Day will one day be as popular as International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Yep, Sept. 19, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, which was allegedly celebrated — or, at least noted — by millions of people around the globe (and I’m not kidding this time; www.talklikeapirate.com Web masters say the site garnered a million hits on Sept. 19 alone). This one started back in 1995, when Oregonians Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers and John “Ol’ Chumbucket” Baur began talking like pirates during their weekly racquetball game, for reasons unknown.

They decided to make it an official “day” and thus Talk Like A Pirate Day came into being. The duo, along with friends and co-workers, celebrated the day off and on in a low-key manner until they decided to contact humor columnist Dave Barry last year. Barry mentioned the holiday in his column, and arrrrr! Suddenly all ye landlubbers across the globe wanted to talk like a scurvy-ridden one-eyed seaman with a peg leg. The holiday received coverage in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the BBC, CNN and NPR, and was a huge phenomenon on the Web, via e-mail and blogs.

“It was just a dumb guy thing, and I think Cap’n Slappy will agree with me when I say we are two dumb guys,” says Baur. It grew, “bigger than we’d ever imagined. We can’t say we thought we’d get millions of people around the world taking part, but they honest-to-God did this year.”

Summers is quite charmed by the idea of Monkey Day.

“I could get wholeheartedly behind the concept and may even be counted on to fling my (or someone else’s) feces at innocent passers-by,” he enthuses.

What advice can they offer to Sorrow & company?

“Persevere, stick to your guns, keep it up, even if people look at you funny, your boss gets pissed off and your friends and family start leaving the room when you enter,” says Baur. “And they will, trust us.”

“What you really need is a Dave Barry figure to lead the way,” says Summers. (Well, surely Metro Times is nearly as influential.) “Monkey Day will catch on … perhaps … because monkeys are funny. People like funny. I wonder if monkeys find people funny as well?”

Perhaps you should pay a visit to your friendly local monkeys at the zoo and ask the critters yourself on Dec. 14.

 

Disclaimer: Due to health concerns, Metro Times cannot condone the throwing of fecal matter, and accepts no responsibility for any person who may do so after reading this article (or any of our other articles, for that matter).

Sarah Klein is a Metro Times staff writer. Ooh ooh ooh aah aah aah! E-mail sklein@metrotimes.com.

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