Monkeys Loose in the Newsroom
A crowning achievement in journalism
SOME KNUCKLEHEAD of a city editor once suggested I write a column for The Monterey County Herald. I suspect he thought a column might get me to shut up.
I admit to being a disruptive office presence, the sort of problem employee who pissed and moaned incessantly about the sons-a-bitches who ran the joint. In my view, the publisher was a moron and the managing editor was a weak-kneed milquetoast who had no business calling himself a journalist. In that regard I was not unlike any other reporter who ever worked in any newsroom anywhere.
The knucklehead city editor apparently tired of my withering interoffice memos about the moron publisher. So he suggested the column as a way to burn off the snark. He told me he didn’t care what I wrote about. “Just make it funny,” he said.
I didn’t know how to write funny. I was never trained to write funny. I was trained to write in Inverted Pyramids, which really doesn’t lend itself to funniness.
But then I remembered that monkeys and apes and primates are always funny. I can never see a monkey without laughing, especially if the monkey is wearing a top hat or riding a racehorse like a professional jockey. So it was my mission to include at least one monkey reference into every column. The weekly columns weren’t about monkeys, per se, but my mission was to sneak monkeys in wherever possible. Monkeys were my Easter eggs. I even once managed to sneak in a Micky Dolenz reference; it was my crowning achievement as a journalist.
Try throwing a monkey into an Inverted Pyramid without laughing. If you can’t, I don’t want to know you.
Eventually the milquetoast managing editor, who was really someone I didn’t want to know, learned what I was doing and called me in to his office. As far as he was concerned, a serious newspaper like The Herald should never lower itself to monkey humor. "Lose the f'ing monkeys," he demanded, in what must have been his crowning achievement as a journalist.
A couple of months later my favorite monkey columns won second place in a national column contest. It wasn’t even first place. Second place. But it was good enough to feel like I’d proven something important.
Better yet, I shamed the managing editor into sending me to Louisville, Kentucky, to pick up my f'ing monkey prize.
— Joe Livernois
— The now-retired city editor mentioned above is definitely a proven knucklehead; not only did he once suggest I write a weekly column but he also plays the bass guitar in local blues and rock bands.
— In retrospect, monkeys aren’t all that funny.
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