Sarah Millican: I love a joyous day of monkey business

"BBC1's recent series Monkey Planet felt like going to the zoo, only with fewer vending machines and no gift shop"

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I’m currently a little over two-thirds of the way through my mammoth tour. I’m not touring mammoths, though I leave it so long between leg shaves and dental appointments that at the end of the tour I may meet one in the mirror or the window of Waterstones.

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Tours are busy, but there are gaps. In addition to readying myself for shows, doing shows, travelling back to hotels after shows, there are other fun things we do.

We (my tour manager, tour support and I) eat. We enjoying the eating. It’s only on tour that I have a proper breakfast. At home the kettle goes on and the biscuit jar comes out. Then I’ll have a guilty banana or apple as elevenses to balance things out. But on tour, we have eggs and fruit and they have granola and I generally make a comment about what lies on the floor of a rabbit hutch.

We sometimes shop. We were disappointed recently to discover that a cheapo kitchen shop we fell in love with two and a half years ago on the last tour had closed. But you can’t spend all your spare time in various branches of John Lewis. Most of it, yes, but not all.

After department stores, my next favourite place to kill time is with animals. Zoos, aquariums – we haven’t been to a safari park yet as we’re using a hire car, though some would see that as a better option than using your own car. 

A few weeks ago, we were in the neighbourhood so we ventured to Monkey World in Dorset. What a joyous day. We saw macaques, gibbons, the little ones like the one Ross owned in Friends and, confusingly, a deer. 

We watched a group of chimps argue and fight and calm it down and go off in a huff, all the while doing Johnny Morris-style voices for each of them. It was like a BBC3 documentary on Saturday night in a pub. But with more poo on the floor.

BBC1’s recent series Monkey Planet felt like going back there only with fewer vending machines and no gift shop (I heart tat). But what he lacked in massive pencils, Dr George McGavin gained in actual insight by watching the primates in their natural environment. 

The programme was fun, too. No one can replace David Attenborough, of course, and it was odd to see another man sitting among apes, but Dr George’s show had a sequence where they sped up some baboons picking grass and popped some rhythmic Mumford and Sons over the top. Smashing. If the DVD of the series has among the extras a comedy voiceover where everyone sounds like a Geordie monkey, I’m on board.

In Monkey World, I watched an ape sit like a human, pointed him out to my friend Tom and expressed incredulity that some people still don’t think we’re related. Just then another monkey came over, picked its bum and smushed the results on the glass, at which point a third monkey started kissing it tenderly for ten minutes. Yes, we stayed for ten minutes. I’m not sure any of us will get over what we saw. I feel changed. But yes, they’re totally like us, right? 


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