Since time immemorial (long before yore) humans have been driven forward in search of the answer to one question: Are we having fun yet?
It’s a simple question with a simple answer: yes or no. But it only leads to new, harder questions. How much fun am I having? Am I having more fun than that guy? Because if 5000 years of human civilization has taught us anything, it’s that the most important trait a person can possess is having more than that guy. (Click here for an explanation of this.)
But in order to know who’s having more fun, we need to be able to quantify fun. Today, we do that using the barrel of monkeys system.
This was not always the case. In olden times (after yore, before the good old days), fun was measured using the complicated “English” system. The English system was based on the Greek discovery of the antic in 282BC. Each increment of fun was built from this fundamental building block.
3 antics = 1 shenanigan
5 shenanigans = 1 horseplay
6 horseplays = 1 high jink
17 high jinks = 1 spree
8 sprees = 1 palooza
As you can see, this system was confusing and difficult to use. “How many shenanigans in a high jink?” “Which is more fun — a hootenanny or a spree?” And so on.
Then one night during Prohibition, after a particularly lackluster party (less than 3 shenanigans, according to legend), a Bostonian named Thomas Foolery decided that if he couldn’t serve alcohol at his parties (he was tired of the speakeasy scene — everyone there were such phonies), he would have to find some other way to loosen up his guests.
For years, Foolery tried everything he could think of: puppies, checkers, kilts, dentistry, all to no avail. Long after Prohibition had been repealed, he remained obsessed with finding something fun that didn’t give him a headache the next morning. Eventually, this threw him into a great depression.
As luck would have it, in 1929 the rest of the country decided to also have a Great Depression. Everyone was impacted, from bankers to farmers to feline sleepwear manufacturers. Particularly hard hit were the organ grinders, as ground organ was something of a luxury commodity. As a result, tens of thousands of monkeys were laid off, many with nothing more than the fez on his head.
Foolery saw his opportunity. He invited a couple of recently unemployed monkeys to his next party, promising them all the apples and pencils they could eat in exchange for providing a little entertainment.
The party was a huge success. For a few hours, all of Tom’s guests forgot that civilization was collapsing around them and had fun. So Foolery started finding indigent monkeys and hiring them out as entertainers, and the term “party animal” was born.
Once the Boston monkey market was saturated, Foolery moved on to The Big Apple (named for the main dietary staple of New Yorkers). Most of the Rhesus monkeys had moved into the hospitals to do blood research, but there were still many Capuchins frittering their lives away at monkey bars down in the Hell’s Rainforest section of the city.
After one particularly unpleasant experience trying to mail the monkeys back to Boston (the stamps got stuck to the fur), he looked for a way to transport the male Capuchin monkeys (or “cappuccinos”) out of the city. Luckily he found a local cooper to coop him up a bunch of barrels, and the monkeys rode home in oaken style on the back of Foolery’s flatbed truck. The monkeys went forth by the barrelful to entertain at children’s birthday parties, wakes, grand juries, anywhere a little fun was desired.
Nowadays, of course, you see very few mom-and-pop monkey barrelers. Ever since the 1970s the industry has been controlled by an international cartel, the Organization of Primate Entertaining Countries (OPEC).
Appendix: The following table lists the fun associated with various activities, as measured in International Barrels of Monkeys (IBMs):
Root canal – .001 IBMs
Being a Cleveland Browns fan – .3 IBMs
Working at IBM – .8 IBMs
Receiving a barrel of monkeys – 1 IBM
Receiving a barrel of opossums – .1 IBMs
Receiving a barrel of puppies – 1.2 IBMs
Toyotathon – 1.7 IBMs
Watching a summer blockbuster movie – 2 – 2.5 IBMs
Watching an Oscar nominated film – 0.7 IBMs
Wedding (men) – 0.5 IBMs (average)
Wedding (women) – 1.3 IBMs (average)
Going to Las Vegas on vacation – 8.2 IBMs
Electric Daisy Carnival – 17.3 IBMs (estimated)