Laughing at yourself

There’s a scene in Disney’s Jungle Book where the ape sings:

I wanna be a man, mancub
And stroll right into town
And be just like the other men
I'm tired of monkeyin' around!

Well I was watching this at the safari camp when I noticed some guests glancing at me nervously, fearing I would take offence. I put them at ease by hooting with laughter and slapping my thighs.

Yes, we gorillas can take a joke. There’s only one animal in Africa that enjoys a chuckle as much as we do. Not hyenas, you fools! Their hysterical yelping is the product of frenzied bloodlust and chronic sexual tension. Come to think of it, none of the top predators has much of a sense of humour. Tell a lion a joke and he’ll most probably give you a snarl and lick his private parts. A high-protein diet disables the funny bone and leads to an unhealthy fixation with the dicky bone. Look at bodybuilders, for example.

No, it’s giraffes who are the funny men of the savannah. When a giraffe wants to have a drink it lowers its neck a bit, widens its legs a little, lowers its neck a bit more… until five minutes later its lips are finally touching water. After it’s had a few gulps, another giraffe will sneak up from behind and nuzzle its back passage, causing it to snort water like a seal. It’s a sight which causes watching herbivores to stomp their hooves in glee – even the normally snooty zebras start haw-hawing when they see it. And the best thing of all is that the brown-nosed giraffe never takes it badly. It just lifts its neck and gives the perpetrator a wink, as if to say: “I may have water coming out of my nose, mate, but you’ve got shit on yours!”

Now humans like to think they can laugh at themselves, but what they actually enjoy, in my experience, is the sight of another human behaving like a ninny. One thing I’ve never seen is a human who could see the funny side of being humbugged by an animal. It happens at the safari camp whenever Bonzo, the resident chimpanzee, plays a practical joke on the guests.

I remember seeing him sneak under the table when a couple were having a romantic alfresco supper in the fading light of tropical sun. As they gazed longingly into each other’s eyes, Bonzo tenderly caressed the woman’s ankles, prompting her to kick off her shoes and rub her toes into the calves of her beau. The man responded by putting his hand under the table and pulling her dainty foot onto his lap. Not to be denied a piece of the action, Bonzo opened his mouth and gave the woman’s knee a good lick.

For a few delicious seconds the woman giggled with pleasure as if her paramour had been equipped with the tongue of an anteater. When the penny dropped that she must be involved in a ménage à trois, she withdrew her foot in horror and squatted below the table to find herself face-to-face with a pouting chimpanzee. I’m glad to report that Bonzo emerged from the ensuing pandemonium unscathed, while the couple were too embarrassed to make an official complaint. The sad part of the story is that they never managed to rekindle the amorous fire on that beautiful moonlit evening. Being made a monkey of by a chimp can have a devastating effect on the human libido.

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