About the Snooki from New Jersey, I am proud to say I know next to nothing. Of Snooky the Humanzee however I am proud to say I owe the sum total of my knowledge to Steve Massa (whose book Lame Brains and Lunatics treats of the worthy subject) and the Silent Clowns Film Series (where I have seen many of these fine films.)
Because I am also posting about Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp today, I thought it might be fun to look at some of that show’s historical antecedents. Surely you didn’t think the Lancelot Link cast of characters were the first anthropomorphicized chimps in show business? Surely you didn’t think THAT?!? Starting in the 1890s, vaudeville had the legendary Consul the Great, for example. Napoleon was another chimpanzee stage star who later made the transition to films, co-starring with a chimp partner named Sally in a series of one reel silent comedies from 1914 through 1916.
A competing series at Universal Studio called Mr. and Mrs. Martin starred a chimp and an orangutan; and a baby chimp named Snookums as their daughter. This same Snook (rebranded as Snooky the Humanzee) went on to star in a number of her own comedy shorts for Education and Federated Studios in the early 1920s.
Snooky’s character is a male in the films, and that’s not all that’s confusing. For WHAT in tarnation, one wonders, is a HUMANZEE? Neither ape, nor man, this humanized humanoid chimp-man in human clothes is entrusted by humans to babysit their infant. He seems sentient, I guess-? As with so many things in this world, best not to think too hard about it.
Here’s one from 1925. Don’t worry; Snooky shows up after awhile:
For more on silent and slapstick film comedy don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To learn more about vaudeville, please consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.