We kicked off the show with a hot-mix of monkey movies, including clips from The Mighty Gorga, Trog, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, and an actual film called Funky Monkey (starring Matthew Modine as a guy who travels with a super-talented chimp, who becoems a football star.)
Then: a history of King Kong movies, remakes, reboots and cross-overs.
Professor Geoff Klock did a close-reading on a single issue of the Justice League Comic Book that centered around Gorilla Grodd. Klock argued that the adventured celebrated the weirdness of his adventures — the kind of stuff Christopher Nolan would never put in a movie — like Batman taking his space-ship to a distant planet where he kicks a gorilla in the nut-sack. Viva Comics!
This was followed by another video block, celebrating REAL monkeys in film, including Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp, old movies of a monkey wedding and “Chunks” – Tom Stern’s dirty joke/ short film (said to be a favorite of Ethan Coen.)
Carrie McLaren (producer of Brooklyn’s Adult Ed Lecture Series) delivered an eye-opening history of Bob and Mae Noell’s “Gorilla’s Ark”, a mid-century traveling side-show where audience members were invited to win money by boxing chimpanzees. (Not surprisingly, a lot of the volunteers were drunk. Some things never change.)
Meg Sweeney Lawless introduced “The Kindest Cut” a recurring segment at Kevin Geeks Out, where Meg and her husband Jay cut-down a feature-film into an abridged version with the best (or the worst) parts of a movie. This month Meg shared KONGA — a bizarre British Kong-like story that featured flesh-eating plants, dummy-deaths and the guy who played Alfred the Butler in Tim Burton’s Batman. (NOTE: Less than a month later, an audience member hosted her own KONGA screening party in Boston, where people dressed up for the film.)
Noah Tarnow, quizmaster of The Big Quiz Thing, dazzled the crowd with a primate-themed edition of his Quiz Show — three audience members were brought up to compete (including one guy in a gorilla suit!) Noah occasionally stumped his contestants with questions about monkey-music, movies and history. Prizes included passes to the Congo Gorilla Forest at the Bronx Zoo, passes to the Curious George art exhibit at the Jewish Museum, and a signed DVD of the movie KONGA.
Then it was time for a snack break! Our audience was treated to Envirokidz Organic cereal: GORILLA MUNCH.
Michael Kupperman (of Snake n’ Bacon fame) shared a brand-new story about a jungle princess. It will be included in the upcoming issue of his Tales Designed to Thrizzle.
Following Kupperman’s classy comic book art, we continued with the high-brow, showing one of the best TV comedy bits I’ve ever seen. Ernie Kovacs’ gorilla rendition of Swan Lake.
The evening was packed with videos of guys in gorilla suits, cartoon chimps and real-live monkeys. Animal Lawyer (but not an actual animal who is a lawyer) Cori Herbig stepped up and told some true tales of monkeys in movies. I’d noted after the Lancelot Link clips that the male chimps in that series had been castrated before production began, to keep them from humping people and females. Well, that’s just the tip (ahem) of the iceberg. Cori talked about some actions being taken to protect performing animals — or to keep them out of film and TV entirely.
I love to showcase “spoken nerd” poetry whenever possible — and initially Ernie Cline was scheduled to be part of the show. Being a hot-shot screenwriter, he was called to L.A. and could not attend, but he did share a video favorite, titled “Dance, Monkeys, Dance!”
Then it was time for the surprise gift of the evening. Proceeds from Kevin Geeks Out About Monkeys were used to adopt this little darling — Ubwuzu. He’s a two-and-a-half year old male, the only child of Mitimblili and one of the youngest in his group of mountain gorillas being studied and protected by the Dian Fosey Gorilla Fund’s Kaisoke Research Center. I have to admit, I’d wanted to change his name to baby Milo (like the infant chimpanzee in Escape From the Planet of the Apes — but he’s such a Ubwuzu. Right?
Following the adoption announcement, we showed a video of Jane Goodall wishing happy 75th birthday to the chimp who played Cheeta in the Tarzan movies. And then we handed out copies of the adoption notice to audience members — because we are all Ubwuzu’s parents now.
The SECOND edition of KGO: Monkeys revisited some of the above video clips, with new presentations, including:
- Elliott Kalan (writer from “The Daily Show”) observes how the “sexually aroused gorilla” has become a horrifying comedy trope.
- Writer Meg Sweeney Lawless shares a gallery of the best and worst examples of “Apes on Comic Book Covers”.
- A “Deleted Scene” from the 1933 King Kong.
- Filmmaker Bill Scurry recounts the online adventures of his pet chimpanzee, Chester Balonie.
- Monkey-themed cupcakes from Sara Reiss
And a special monkey movie clip from 92Y Tribeca Film Programmer Cristina Cacioppo. (NOTE: This was the final show at the 92Y Tribeca, so Cristina got to show the last-ever clip on the screen. It was the chimpanzee birth scene in BABE 2: PIG IN THE CITY, with the audience singing along to Babe’s chorus. This was a beautiful note to conclude our run at the screening room.)
APES ON COMIC BOOK COVERS
“DELETED SCENE” from the 1933 KING KONG
Excerpt from ORGY ON THE PLANET OF THE APES: