Friday, February 27, 2009

That "monkey washing a cat" clip

Fans of "Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" know it well: the brief black and white clip of a monkey washing a cat in a sink. After seeing it for the zillionth time on last night's "TDS," Talk Show News began to wonder: where the heck did that clip come from?

A little research brought us to the NationMaster Encyclopedia, which states the following:

The Monkey washing a cat footage, as it is generally known, is a comic scene of black and white stock footage which has been widely distributed on the internet, as well as played on a number of notable television programs, including Late Night with David Letterman and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The scene actually depicts a chimpanzee, not a monkey, bathing a Siamese cat in a sink with a wash cloth. It is only about 4 seconds long, but is frequently shown repeating in a continual loop. The footage was taken in 1947 at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.
OK, so it must henceforth be known as the chimp washing a cat clip.

Yerkes "has long been the object of agitation and protest for its treatment of animals," according to its Wikipedia entry. So were the chimp and the Siamese well cared for? Why was the chimp washing the cat? Who filmed it, and how did it wind up becoming such a popular piece of stock footage? I'm guessing no one who worked at the center back in 1947 (or the chimp and the cat, for that matter) are still around to tell us, so the world may never know. In any case, if anyone has further insight into the clip, please let us know. Since Wikipedia deleted its page on the clip, we are happy to be your one-stop source for chimp washing a cat information.

Edited to add: the self-explanatory has a longer version of the clip -- fans of the footage really need to check it out! -- but sadly, no more info regarding the clip's history.


  1. Anonymous said...

    That footage has always cracked me up and now I know more about it thanks to your blog. I saw the footage for the first time on Letterman and found it so great.