Friends in the jungle

I have no objection whatever to show business folk coming to Africa to get their picture taken with wild gorillas. Davy Attenborough did so when he was still cutting his teeth as an animal groupie and his career took off as a result. We’re pretty relaxed about humans cosying up to us in the hope that some of our jungle cred will rub off on them.

The latest celebrity to play peek-a-boo with my hairy band was Lisa Kudrow, best known as Phoebe in the comedy series Friends. Things got off to an inauspicious start at the safari camp. I was serving Lisa a drink at the bar when a brash-looking chap invaded her body space and asked a lot of impertinent questions about her financial situation. I later discovered that he was an investment banker. To change the subject, I put my hand on his shoulder until he turned his head in my direction.

“Lisa was the prettiest girl on Friends, wouldn’t you say?” I ventured.

Lisa swished her hand at me in mild reproof, her smile indicating that she was far from displeased with my conjecture. The investment banker glanced at her slyly before answering my question.

“Definitely in the top three!” he said with an unpleasant smirk.

Lisa’s face froze as she emitted a mirthless chuckle, clearly upset by the man’s boorish attempt at wit. She quickly made her excuses and left. My remark was obviously a mistake, in retrospect, but how was I to know the fellow would be such a graceless twit?

Lisa was still sulking when I escorted her to the jungle next day. “Top three! huh!” she muttered angrily, twisting her lips into a snarl. I explained that the man was an investment banker, a breed incapable of moral or aesthetic judgements and intoxicated with the smell of their own farts. I added that anyone could see that she was carrying the show in its last three series – Courtney Cox had lost her looks by then and Jennifer Aniston was as funny as a wet dishcloth. She said nothing, but gave me an appreciative wink.

After taking a few snaps of Lisa cavorting with the youngsters, I suggested that she take part in our weekly tree-dance. This is a great jungle spectacle, comparable to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. What happens is that the females grab a tree trunk and writhe feverishly as if giving birth in an upright position. Lisa was a little self-conscious to begin with, but once she got into the rhythm her butt-cheeks moved like a pair of maracas. When it was over, the females gathered around her and rubbed her buttocks in solemn approval. I assured Lisa that this was a friendly gesture between girls and nothing to be embarrassed about. We gorillas always grope with respect for the gropee.

On our return to the safari camp, Lisa told me that she’d been offered the lead part in an adult comedy which required her to appear nude. It sounded like a bad idea to me. There are very few non-grotesque women who can be funny and naked at the same time. (My friend Jungle Jane, who has exceptionally supple limbs, is the exception that proves the rule.) I wondered how to advise Lisa to turn the part down without appearing to belittle the box office appeal of her naked body.

“I doubt the comedy will work after you’ve taken your clothes off,” I said at length. “Men with erections never laugh.”

“They don’t?” chortled Lisa. “Now that you mention it, I’ve never seen a guy with a boner busting his gut!”

My argument must have convinced her because she did indeed refuse the part. It later occurred to me, however, that men with erections do sometimes laugh. I heard them in my circus days, after bringing tipsy girls into their trailers. But the noises they made resembled the gloating sniggers of the Mexican bandit rather than the hearty guffaws of the reveller. That is certainly not the kind of laughter that Lisa Kudrow – or any other droll lady – would wish to inspire.

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