1 MC & 1 DJ: An exclusive series of discussions between the AD and GM of Monkeyman Productions… two men of letters. This edition’s topic: Geeks Going Ape – Exploring the Monkey/Geek Connection
Thursday July 21st, 2011 – 8:41 PM
MC: As a company, we actively bring pop culture into our productions… and based on the fact that there’ve been a fair number of high profile “private tweets” going public in the last little while, I thought we might have a not-so-private chat today. I like that we’re starting, in little ways, since re-launching the company website, to let our audience into our thought processes and this seemed like a natural first topic to tackle.
DJ: Sounds fair to me. We’ve tied ourselves to this particular monkey-tail, I’m happy to ride it to the end.
MC: …re-reading that, it seems really cardboard, but I wanted to start that way before we gradually (d)evolve to our more natural banter.
But you’ve mentioned a monkey-tail – let’s grab that monkey by said tail!
DJ: That’s also very Monkeyman. We start out with agendas and speeches, and soon it’s all just flinging poo.
MC: …in the nicest way possible, of course. Usually. I’m going to fight my urge to digress.
So… our friend and Toronto theatre maven Chloë Whitehorn tweeted at us recently, asking about the connection between monkeys and geeks.
DJ: Indeed. And we’ve been asked on the odd occasion why we chose the company name we did, which is another facet of the same question: “Why monkeys?”
And though I’m of the opinion that there never has to be a reason for monkeys, it makes sense to talk about that a little.
MC: In the interest of full disclosure and historical record, here, I’m going to point out that the company had a name when it was founded. It wasn’t something that the four founding members debated or came to together.
DJ: I was just going to mention that I don’t actually recall any of you asking me why I chose that name, back in the day.
MC: I think it was just accepted… I mean, this is neither the time nor place to get into a detailed story of the founding of the company(that’d be much more fun with Tim and Brad involved), but you were the founding playwright. A pseudo-Mosaic law-giver. We weren’t questioning your words that actively… yet. ;)
DJ: Fair enough. I just thought the actual reason might have a bit of relevance, being as it was a fairly geeky reference to make.
MC: Those were days of hustling, though. We just took up the banner of the company and ran with it. But the time has come to reveal what you would’ve answered if we had asked.
DJ: I mean, part of it was just because monkeys are the geek’s totem spirit, and we’ll be continuing on to discuss that, I suppose – but it was a very deliberate homage to Hitchhiker’s Guide. Arthur Dent, the token human, is referred to several times as ‘Monkeyman’ – and it struck me as a way to not only make the reference – and we’re all about the references – but also to make a lighthearted allusion to the humanity of the stories we wanted to tell.
I mean, Arthur Dent is in the middle of this wild, wacky, completely geeky universe – but he’s always completely down to earth. Even when Earth no longer exists.
MC: THAT’s the spring from which our name was drawn? Good gravy! Our name’s origins are even geekier than I thought.
DJ: I’d ask you why you thought it was, but I’m a little bit afraid.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, a furry.
MC: Honestly, I had no idea… and when all of the business-y paperwork was done, I mean – you ARE the sole proprietor of this business – it was the pre-existing name.
And I think, by the time people were actually asking me about the company, I had the company’s original mandate to reference.
DJ: Fair enough. Though maybe it should be a monkeydate, not a mandate.
MC: Or a Monkeymandate.
DJ: But to bring it back to the Monkeyman thing, and maybe this will be a good transition – the whole idea of someone being called ‘monkeyman’ – part of the reason we love monkeys, I think, and also part of the reason we geek out about them, is because they’re our closest cousins, right? They’re the jungle version of us.
MC: See… I think it’s really interesting that I tie a different identity to the same company name. I don’t really go jungle with it.
DJ: You put a chimpanzee in a suitcoat and strap on roller skates, well, I’ve had roommates who were less human than that.
Well, it can be taken in so many ways. But my point is that monkeys (and I’m going to colloquially include apes when I say the word) are geeky in part because we can ascribe so many of our own qualities to them – and of course, looking at the human species as an outsider, vice versa.
MC: Okay… so, are you kinda saying that, as a dramatist, you’re observing humanity in a fashion not unlike that of a different species?
DJ: I don’t know … that sounds like I’m the scientist and you’re all my test subjects, doesn’t it?
Which, of course, is another reason for monkeys being so geeky – lab monkeys.
But I don’t think of it as much as a laboratory view of humanity as I do that we’re focusing on commonalities between the ‘geeky’ and the everyday, just like I think people like monkeys because of their commonalities to us. Wait, that sounds kind of elitist too; I don’t mean that non-geeky people are the monkeys. We’re the monkeys, if anyone is.
So maybe I’m Koko, learning to communicate with the outside world.
Though I don’t mean to steamroll over your interpretation of the company name there – I’d very much like to hear it.
MC: No worries. Okay… so when I first thought of tackling this topic, I didn’t foresee it being a… proverbial barrel of monkeys.
hahaha… this is awesome – I can’t prioritize collaboratively creating a blog entry over just having a good chat
I know what I’m about to say ties in to what you’ve said, but it’s coming from a slightly different angle.
My ideas around monkeys are related to yours, but… it’s that difference between “monkeys” and “the idea of monkeys”… which may not really be all that different.
Charles Darwin. There. I said it.
And not like the actual knowledge… but the cultural impact.
DJ: nods like a TV judge I’ll allow it.
MC: Where monkeys enter idiomatic language… the industrial revolution… huge machines that need to be greased by people who can climb up, on, and over them… Individuals dubbed “grease monkeys”.
So, while biology points monkey to man, pop culture points man to monkey.
And of course, those people were the spiritual ancestors of code monkeys. ;)
MC: I mean, it goes way back, of course. Like distractions from mental stillness being referred to in Chinese circles as “monkey mind”.
DJ: Another great one – I should be saving these to pass off as my own some day.
MC: There are so many different connotations from “monkey”.
DJ: But I think all the ones you mention speak very directly to the connection between monkey and geek. Even the monkey mind – it’s easy to make the connection there to the way that pop culture is a certain distraction from stillness.
not an unwelcome one, but still
MC: Maybe that’s why Tim, Brad, and I never asked – we found our own definition that wasn’t excluded.
DJ: There’s monkey enough for everyone.
MC: I have to admit, though, until this chat I would always reference the original mandate, which I referenced earlier. Now, I’m going to have to – wait for it – throw in the towel.
DJ: Goodnight, folks! Don’t forget to tip your waiters!
MC: Aww, come on. You knew what kind of hoopy frood you were talking to.
DJ: Maybe you should actually quote as you were planning to now, since we’ve come around to that original mandate again.
MC: The original mandate, which some of our veteran fans may remember, had, as I saw it, a tone of disappointment in the human race – that we’re not driving flying cars or eating an entire meal in pill form – and it ended with the line: “We have not evolved as far as we’d like to believe. We are still as much Monkey as Man.” That used to be a good enough answer for me.
DJ: I do still like that, and I think it works within the framing we’ve both created for the idea of monkey tonight.
MC: In a way, though, that mandate, especially that line, came across as a bit of a downer. I mean I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who, without serious disclaiming, finds being compared to a monkey particularly flattering.
DJ: Well, there’s me, but I do get your point.
MC: But I did recently come across a quote that might put more people in your camp.
DJ: And I think that is part of the reason why we changed it – if you’ll allow me to be all Johnny Mercer for a moment, we wanted to accentuate the positive.
Do tell …
MC: Stephen Hawking may say a fair number of things that push some people’s buttons, but I like this sentiment that he apparently expressed in 1989, according to my best internet sources:
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
DJ: I think that ties it all up rather well, actually.
MC: …I wonder how many people will actually read this long rambling chat log.
I hope they’ll take advantage of the comment field below. sends a nudge and a wink into cyberspace
Thursday July 21st, 2011 – 9:41 PM