What's funny? What isn't? And why do I never get a laugh when I tell that joke about the moose?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

G as in Gorilla

This is the seventh of 26 columns I will be writing in August. It’s a kind of challenge to myself, to see if I can still meet a daily deadline. It’s been a long time since my CSN days!

Q: Where does a 1200 pound gorilla sit?
A: Anywhere it wants to!


For decades, I have been fascinated by gorillas. (Some folks say that there’s a family resemblance, but I think I’ve got somewhat more hair.) (Except on top.)

Monkeys aren’t all that interesting: they wander around in gangs and throw crap at each other—acting for all the world like a typical bunch of teenage boys.

But gorillas, on the other hand, are a little more sedate. They’re far more likely to sit around, picking fleas off each other and having sex. Unless, of course, something makes them angry, in which case they become a murderous, raging mob.

Rather like the typical viewers of FOX News.
Q: Why do gorillas have such big noses?
A: Because they’ve got such big fingers!

Koko was a gorilla taught to use American Sign Language by scientists. There was a hotly debated question about whether animals could really “use language,” whatever that means. Koko pretty much settled the issue when she learned to curse.

Even the great apes can’t be toilet trained, so many of the gorillas studied in the US wear, well, diapers. The ASL sign for “soiled” or “dirty” is (as modified for Koko in any case) is to tap one’s chin with the back of one’s hand. (Rather like an Italian American salute, only rotate 90 degrees).

One day, a visitor came into Koko’s lab, only to accidentally stand on the gorilla’s doll. Koko was infuriated, especially when the visitor didn’t move. She finally signed (as translated by one of her trainers): “Get off of dolly, you dirty man.”

(There’s also film of Koko, one evening after everyone had gone home, swinging in a bored manner from her favorite tire swing, and idly tapping her chin. She was spending a lonely evening at home cursing to herself: “Dirty. Dirty. Dirty. Dirty. Dirty….”)
I don’t think much of this joke myself, but it seems to be the most popular gorilla joke on the Internet:

One day, a man comes home from work to find a gorilla perched in the tree outside his house. Naturally, he calls animal control.

Within the hour, an animal trainer arrives in a big, white-panel truck. He unloads his equipment, including a long stick, a pit bull, a net, and a shotgun.

“What’s all that stuff for?” demands the man.

“It’s simple,” the trainer explains. “I climb the tree and poke the gorilla with the stick. This will tickle the gorilla until it laughs and loses its grip. When it falls to the ground, the pit bull will grab the gorilla where it counts. While the gorilla is thus immobilized, I jump down from the tree, throw the net over the great ape and the problem is solved.”

“That makes sense,” says the man. “But what’s the gun for?”

“That’s for you,” says the trainer. “If I should fall out of the tree first—SHOOT THE DOG!”


  1. I expect this posting will have the highest readership of anything on the blog.

    Word verification - "olvenai": the gorge where scientists need to look to find gorilla bones.

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  3. And I think you need the cover of this comic framed in your office.

    "Jimmy Olsen, Gorilla Reporter"

    Word verification- "Chyman": my great uncle.

  4. Not to be confused with Guerrilla, as in "39 guerillas, and their things were out" (Tuscaloosa's Calling Me....)

    My favorite gorilla joke can't really be told in writing, and not just because this is a "family" blog (though that's another reason). You really need the gestures (speaking of gorillas and sign language). It's also interesting in that it has a subsidiary "punch line" in the middle, after which the teller often has to say "That's not the end of the joke."

    Word verification: "scushecu" -- what the gorilla will do if you use the gesture in the above joke.

  5. The second worst pun in science fiction is in David Brin's "The Uplift War": three hundred pages of plot about intelligent apes and colonial oppression leading up to the line "gorilla war".

    The fit really hit the shan on that one.

  6. Surely Spider has perpetrated worse (i.e. better) puns than either of those. As has the late Reginald Bretnor, creator of Ferdinand Feghoot. Even Asimov had his moments, though I can't offhand think of any that good.

    Word verification: "notown" -- what's left of Detroit.

  7. If you can tell me of a Spider Robinson pun that needed at least a chapter for a buildup, I'll add it.

    Word verification: "cation": the positive charge one gets from stroking a cat's fur.

  8. There probably is one, but none comes to mind offhand. Actually the ones of Spider's I like best are the offhand ones, like (as I believe we've mentioned here before) the Native American electrician named Many Hands.

    There's certainly at least one Bretnor novel with a huge buildup to a pun -- a subplot or setting involving Hopi dolls, leading to "Meus ex kachina." But I don't consider that a "good" pun -- I think "meus" in that context isn't even proper Latin.

  9. Q: Why is the gorilla laughing?
    A: It was just told an elephant joke.

    Q: Why is the gorilla frowning?
    A: It was just told a bad elephant joke.

    Q: What do you get when you cross an elephant joke with a gorilla joke?
    A: An elephant-gorilla-cross joke.

  10. And, where does a 7000 pound elephant sit?

    On the gorilla.