The History of Monkey Tennis

Monkey tennis. I think it’s safe to assume that nearly everybody reading those words will immediately have roughly the same image in their minds spurred by those synaptic volcano eruptions that allow us to see things that aren’t actually there. Monkey tennis sounds like something you’d see on America’s Funniest Videos, or a video game, or in the backyard at a certain family compound in Kennebunkport. In fact, monkey tennis rose to become a fascinating bit of British slang in recent years that should actually be applied more in America. Monkey tennis is shorthand for the absolute lowest, bottom of the barrel idea for a TV show. When you hear the term monkey tennis you should automatically think of such shows as, well, pretty much every original program that airs on A&E, the overwhelming majority of reality shows and Two and a Half Men.

Monkey tennis was coined, as it should be, by Alan Partridge. Alan Partridge is, if you aren’t aware, the single funniest TV character of all time, brilliantly portrayed over the course of several different programs by Steve Coogan, the funniest man alive. Alan Partridge is a failed TV personality who at one point in I’m Alan Partridge is trying desperately to salvage his career by pitching a number of exceedingly Fox-like programming ideas including “Cooking in Prison” which I believe is actually scheduled on Bravo next season. I could be wrong. Finally, showing that he truly understands the limited attention span of TV execs, Alan manages to boil down his last pitch into a simple two word description that says everything that needs to be said.

And thus entered into the contemporary British lexicon a two-word phrase that seems to have continually popped up everywhere from the opening ceremonies of an Olympics-type sporting event that, according to at least one commentator, contained every single wet dream of cheesy entertainment in the world but for monkey tennis, to nearly 100,000 web sites featuring the phrase monkey tennis in a Google search. The weird thing is, of course, that it has been nearly a decade since Alan Partridge first pitched the idea of a monkey tennis TV show and today it really doesn’t seem at all inconceivable that such a show could actually get on the tube. After all, does the idea of putting a show on revolving around simian athletes really sound any crazier than a reality show that follows the boring adventures of the idiot daughter of a psychotic Mafia don? Is monkey tennis really any more of an insult to one’s intelligence than American Dad? And hey, let’s not refrain from admitting the obvious: monkey tennis would be far more entertaining than post-McEnroe tennis has been.

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