A primate with a pipe

Yesterday’s Bizarro is yet another Ascent of Man evolution cartoon, but this time a guy intervenes at the ape stage to offer a stupid outfit to wear and a pipe to pretend to smoke:


This is an allusion to the (venerable) meme of monkeys or apes (usually chimpanzees) dressed as people — akin to popular art showing dogs playing cards, or folk museums with stuffed frogs engaged in folksy activities. But with the extra kick that monkeys and apes are uncannily similar to people — in a very common view, especially similar to black Africans and those of black African descent in other parts of the world. The pipe isn’t a necessary component of the dressed-ip primate figure, but it’s a very common one.

For the record, I find these figures deeply creepy and distressing, and have since I was a child.

Two examples, with pipes — one vintage, one recent:



There are a number of Pinterest boards devoted to such images. People think they’re cute.

Then there’s J. Fred Muggs. From Wikipedia:


Today show mascot J. Fred Muggs sets off on his air tour around the world in 1954

J. Fred Muggs (born March 14, 1952) is a chimpanzee that was the mascot for NBC’s Today Show from 1953 to 1957.

Muggs sat in [Dave] Garroway’s lap, mastered more than 500 words [in comprehension], and had a wardrobe of 450 outfits. He “read” the day’s newspapers, imitated Popeye and played the piano with Steve Allen. Merchandise featuring him included books, comics, and games; as a star, he was called on to open supermarkets and commission US Navy ships.

However, he was apparently never shown mock-smoking, whether pipe, cigar, or cigarette.


One Response to “A primate with a pipe”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    If you can get your hands on the Modern Library edition of the librettos of the complete Gilbert & Sullivan, you will find, accompanying Lady Psyche’s song in Act II of Princess Ida (“A lady fair, of lineage high,/ Was loved by an Ape in the days gone by”), an illustration showing the Ape in question, dressed in formal wear, approaching the horrified Lady. The illustrations in this edition (at least, as it was when my parents acquired it, before my memory if not my birth) are by Gilbert himself. Unfortunately I lack the technical savvy to reproduce it here.

    (My copy is special: Most of the illustrations in it, including this one, were filled in with water-colors by my mother’s sister.)

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