Friday, August 16, 2013

Danny's Monkey Tale

Danny Kaye tries to make nice with his simian co-star from Merry Andrew.

Although he was brilliant at playing off of children, Danny Kaye supposedly never worked well with animals, no matter how well he and his primate co-star seemed to click on screen in Merry Andrew (1958).

Consequently, a few years later, when his weekly variety series began, the writers were discouraged from including bits for animals on The Danny Kaye Show. Nonetheless, one crew member who owned a dog threw a party for co-workers and friends at his home. Dozens upon dozens upon dozens of guests arrived. The party went on for hours. Danny was the last one to show up. He stayed the shortest amount of time. Yet he was the one who got bit by the dog.

Inevitably, came an episode containing a sketch that featured a trained monkey. As the series' script secretary, Maggie Warren Scott, shared in her unpublished memoirs, When It Was Fun:

Danny loved George Bye, our prop man. He loved all the small potatoes, but hated the big brass. One week we were doing a spy sketch and it had been a very difficult week for poor old George. We taped on Saturday nights and Friday was camera blocking all day and music rehearsal in the evening. 

Henderson was the name given to this monkey that was in the spy sketch and his report day was on Friday. George was standing near his prop box in one of the corners of the stage, mumbling to himself, "That monkey comes in for two days and probably makes more money than I do and I've been here all week killing myself!" 

Danny overheard this and said, "Well, George, that monkey's smarter than you!" 

There was a lot of laughter from the crew. We started rehearsing the sketch. Henderson was a spy and he was in a cage dressed in a little skirt with a little hat on. The cage was like a big birdcage hanging on a pole with a curtain draped over it. Danny was supposed to go over to the cage, lift the curtain, and give Henderson a message, which Henderson was then supposed to relay to another spy. 

The next day, show day, the audience was in and we started the sketch. George was over by his prop box. In the middle of the sketch, Danny crossed over to Henderson's cage and lifted the curtain. Henderson turned, gave Danny a look, lifted his skirt, and with this big smile on his face, blew the loudest fart you ever heard right in Danny's face. 

 Way off in the corner you heard, "That monkey IS smarter than I am!" You could not control the crew; you could not control the audience. That one went down in history.


  1. It was SO funny ! Thanks for sharing... :)

    How do we get to read more of Maggie Warren Scott's stories
    about The Danny Kaye Show? Please, David, bring us more..
    thanks !

  2. Thanks for writing, DKFF.
    More to come...