Monkey Business (1931)


“Life literally abounds in comedy if you just look around you.”—Mel Brooks, director

The other day in the car, flipping through FM stations as I often do, I heard an interview on the radio that talked about how the happenings in our lives that make us angry are the same things that make us laugh when we see them in a sitcom or movie. They suggested that humor is God’s catharsis to us for our unpredictable and often frustrating lives.

I already broke one of my New Year’s resolutions of writing a blog post every week. The movie at hand is Monkey Business starring the Marx Brothers. I watched it twice last week, both times laughing while trying to subdue my jealousy for Groucho‘s razor-sharp wit. But I didn’t know what to say in a blog post besides, “I enjoyed this movie.”

The Marx brothers are stowaways on a cruise liner. After getting into trouble with pretty much everybody on board—especially the captain—the four brothers inadvertently get involved in a conflict between two gangsters. Half of the movie takes place on the ship, and the other half takes place on land at one of the gangster’s parties where a girl gets kidnapped. As it turns out, these goofballs can rise to the occasion when duty calls.

The movie is filled with visual gags that exceed slipping on banana peels. The silent but deadly (deadly hilarious, I mean) Harpo Marx has a horn at the end of his cane that he toots to emphasize jokes. At one point, a photographer is getting ready to take a picture, and the moment he goes to click the shutter we discover that the clicker is actually the tooter horn. The drape on the camera falls off to reveal Harpo standing in place of the camera.

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably saw a status recently that said: “Evidently flat rate parking validation at Los Angeles Public Library does not start until 3pm, so my relaxing trip to the library today cost $26.50. I need to go back and check out a book about dealing with anger.” My response to that incident was tears. I was not a happy camper.

Movies and life are closely intertwined for me. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to separate the two in my mind, so I find myself viewing incidents in my life as scenes from a movie. Why did I struggle to find humor in the heat of the library parking ticket scene? Looking back, it’s because the amount of $26.50 is just enough to remind you of what else you could be spending it on. A nice juicy burger at Hard Rock Café. Half a tank of gas. Four bottles of Old Spice body wash (Fiji, of course).

Flash forward to today. I got out of church this evening to find an envelope tucked under my windshield wiper from the City of Santa Monica. How thoughtful of them. Inside, there was a parking ticket that was much, much bigger than the aforementioned library amount. I could almost hear my subconscious asking, “Oh snap, how’s he going to respond to this?” Shockingly, my first reaction was to smile, because this turn of events was so ridiculous I had to be in a scene from a Marx Brothers comedy.

Sure enough. As I drove away, I could hear Harpo tooting his horn ever so faintly in the distance.