Nine Monkees Episodes Funny Enough To Stand Up Amongst The Best Sitcom and Sketch Shows


MONKEES TV

The . To most people the name means a “manufactured” 60s pop group, formed by producers to sell records via a TV show. But that TV show starring Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones (RIP) and Peter Tork was actually funny and on par with some great silly/slapstick comedy of our time.

The show featured some great guest stars – , , , , , , , and to name a few. Their landlord played by Henry Corden was famous as the voice of Fred Flintstone and a group of series regulars was consistently strong.

“I think you’re the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers. I’ve never missed one of your programs.” — John Lennon

Although they were viewed as a “pre-fab four”, the Beatles themselves were actually fans and even hosted a party when the Monkees visited London. At a recording session for “Day in the Life”, Mike Nesmith asked John Lennon “Do you think we’re a cheap imitation of the Beatles, your movies and your records?” to which Lennon assuredly replied, “I think you’re the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers. I’ve never missed one of your programs.”

Time magazine contributor James Poniewozik praised the television show, saying that “even if the show was never meant to be more than entertainment and a hit-single generator, we shouldn’t sell The Monkees short. It was far better TV than it had to be; during an era of formulaic domestic sitcoms and wacky comedies, it was a stylistically ambitious show, with a distinctive visual style, absurdist sense of humor and unusual story structure.” The main writers of the majority of the episodes, Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso, also wrote for Get Smart which displayed a similar style and wackiness

. . .during an era of formulaic domestic sitcoms and wacky comedies, it was a stylistically ambitious show, with a distinctive visual style, absurdist sense of humor and unusual story structure. — James Poniewozik

The Monkees TV show was funny like the Marx Brothers, sprinkled with the silliness of Monty Python, the madcap comedy of Benny Hill and wackiness of Bugs Bunny all rolled up in one show. The show used a variety of comedy bits – there was the fast motion music soundtrack, the running props and characters like Mr Schneider (the dummy who has his own tumblr), the cigar store Indian, the constant parade of girls for Davy – used every week and figured into the majority of episodes. The Monkees would cut to random scenes of screaming cheering girls at their live show, just like Monty Python would cut to the clapping old ladies Many episodes were more like a series of sketches where they played characters. Here are the top six funniest Monkees episodes, in no particular order both as I loved them as a kid and as I understood them as an adult.

1. “The Frodis Caper” (aka Mijacogeo)”

Season Two: Episode 26. Airdate March 25, 1968. This was the final episode of the series and featured Rip Taylor as the evil wizard Glick who used television to hypnotize people in an attempt to take over the world. He was working with an alien plant creature who used a “sweet smelling smoke” to mellow everyone out. Taylor’s performance is basically improvised and over the top. Like most episodes, this one included the classic “Monkees Romp”, a sped up scene set to Monkees songs which was a precursor to a signature Benny Hill show bit. Rumor has it that there really was a Frodis Room on the Monkees set, where cast and crew would disappear for hours to mellow out. Micky directed the episode and has had a highly successful directing career since. Micky also used the episode to introduce the audience to Tim Buckley, his first national TV appearance, in a video performance at the end. You can watch the full episode below.

2. “Fairy Tale”

Season Two: Episode 16.  Aired January 8, 1968. In The Fairytale, the Monkees play multiple roles, including female roles executed in the silly Monty Python style. This show was different from the typical episode, it was set in a single studio and told a single story. Peter was the hero, which was unusual. This was the only episode without a “romp” or musical performance, although it has a great video at the end for “Daily Nightly”using a Moog Synthesizer, the first one to be used in the US. Watch the full episode below.

3. “The Monkees in Texas”

Season Two: Episode 13.  Aired December 4, 1967.  The boys try to help Mike’s Aunt defend the family ranch from bad guy cowboys headed by Black Bart. Micky and Peter play The Lone Stranger and Pronto, and the local millionaires are Ben Cartwheel and his boys. Lots of slapstick here. Peter at this point had gone full hippie and refused to use a gun in any of the gunfights. Another running series joke here is where the actors talk to us, the audience. This is one of a number of cowboy-themed stories, all filmed on the same backlot used by so many shows in the sixties.  Watch the full episode below.

4. “Monkees Blow Their Minds”.

Season Two: Episode 26.  Aired March 11, 1969. The episode opens with a hilarious piece starring Frank Zappa and Mike Nesmith playing each other. Really fun to see Frank improvising and completely relaxed. The episode itself deals with the boys becoming psychic slaves to a fraud mentalist so he can steal their gig. Once again, lots of slapstick, two romps and the boys playing multiple characters. Micky is in the nightclub scene with a two color Fez mustache! And Burgess Meredith as the Penguin is in the final scene as well, which was amazing since Batman was on a competing network at the same time as the Monkees. Watch the full episodes below.

5. “Monkey’s Paw”.

Season Two: Episode 19.  Aired January 29, 1968. A feature for Micky and the boys showing some great comic acting alongside Hans Conreid. Micky loses his voice after wishing on a magical Monkees paw and does the majority of the episode visual only. The episode has a personal favorite scene with inkblots -“a bunny and a chicken” – and a Marx Brothers tribute. And Davy falls in love again. There is one scene in particular with Davy and the Indian where it would appear he just came out of the Frodis room.

6. “Some Like It Lukewarm”

Season Two: Episode 24.DJ Jerry Blavat hosts a band contest for mixed groups, so Davy has to dress as a girl. Blavat then falls in love with him/her. Meanwhile, Davy falls for a girl from a rival group forced to dress like a boy. Hijinks ensue. The Geator with the Heater, as Jerry is known in Philly, plays his character to the max. He talks too fast, smiles too big, and chews up the scenes he appears in. And Davy is a pretty cute girl.


The Monkees also had some fine acting performances in episodes that were more message than madcap. Three episodes are standouts that truly showcasing their acting.

1. “Monkee vs Machine”

Season One: Episode 3. Aired September 26, 1966. The boys show Stan Freberg that human creativity beats modern machines when it comes to designing toys. The show includes romps, the boys dressing as women, and a feel good ending. It’s very sweet.

2. “Monkees Christmas Show”.

Season Two: Episode 15.  Aired December 25, 1967.  Butch Patrick plays a rich kid left alone at Christmas, so the boys show him what Christmas spirit is. They take him shopping, buy him a Christmas tree, and try to make him happy. But the boy is so angry that he won’t give in. Until he remembers all the fun he had. There’s a good romp in this one, with the gang playing with cool sixties toys. The episode ends with the Christmas video “Ryu Chiyu” a beautiful a capella vocal performance.

3. “The Devil and Peter Tork”.

Season Two: Episode 20.  Peter sells his soul to the devil for the ability to play the harp. Peter is an outstanding musician and really shines when he plays the harp. The devil is put on trial in an effort to get Peter released from his contract, with a jury of some of the worst criminals in history. But Mike, as he usually does, gives an eloquent speech and turns the tables on Satan. He proves to Peter that the ability to play was always there so the contract was invalid. At the time, they could not use the word “hell” and used “down below” instead..

In total 58 episodes were shown over two seasons, most of which are good for some belly laughs in addition to the music. You can catch the Monkees on FamNet and AntennaTV which are carried on most cable systems. Rhino released a box set of the entire series and numerous variations are available to own. The DVDs even have a feature to watch only the romps.

To many, the Monkees will always be Beatles “wanna be”s. But anyone who is a fan of slapstick, preposterous and over the top sketch comedy can appreciate the Monkees TV show for what it was – genuinely funny.

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Sharon grew up in, and continues to live in suburban Philadelphia and has been a music and comedy fan forever, cutting her teeth musically on Bowie. Monty Python and other British comedies were her earliest passion - the Goodies, Young Ones, Fawty Towers, on and on. She was a regular at the Comedy Factory Outlet in Philadelphia and once did 20 minutes onstage with Harry Anderson. Right now she's loving @midnight for a daily TV fix of comedy (and nerds).

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13 Comments

  1. Silverfeesh

    February 28, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    lady di has to be loving this

  2. rexdart936

    February 28, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    When it comes to monkeys, I only trust Black Earl’s opinion.

  3. valerie

    February 28, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    the monkees were the best show on television just great funny as the best

  4. sodaman

    February 28, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Hey hey hes a monkey…

  5. FreddytheGreek

    March 1, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Yess! Been watching all afternoon

  6. MistiePartin

    March 2, 2015 at 11:36 am

    I fell in love with The Monkees back when that new cable network, aka MTV, brought the boys back to television just as they had begun planning a reunion tour. Of the MANY concerts I was lucky enough to see, The Monkees is the one that always stands out. Love the comedy, stay for the music! LOL

  7. MistiePartin

    March 2, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    P.S. ~ I love Peter Tork! 🙂

  8. ktfahel

    March 2, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    MistiePartin Peter has always been my favorite, too.  Some of my earliest memories involve watching & listening to the Monkees in the ’60s.  I still have all of my original vinyl (including some 45s), and “The Devil & Peter Tork” is, was, and always will be my favorite episode.

  9. MistiePartin

    March 2, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    ktfahel
    I’m hoping to start replacing the albums and stuff I lost with our house one of these days! During my time in high school, lots of folks knew me as “the button chick” since all year long I wore this denim jacket almost covered with buttons of The Monkees and a few from other bands! I’m not sure some folks would have recognized me without it! LOL

  10. RandyBurbach

    March 2, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    I have to say I agree with that list. I enjoyed your reasoning as well.  The Frodis Room isn’t a rumor, it’s been confirmed.  There was a box – actually a walk-in freezer – with different colored lights to indicate who was needed on set. Whether it was called the “Frodis Room” is anybody’s guess. Frodis was a code word for pot (probably derived from “Frodo’s pipe weed”

  11. Chris

    March 3, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    You left out one of the best bits in The Devil And Peter Tork: there’s one point where Peter says “Guys, I’m scared, I don’t want to go to…” and then last word is cut off by and thundeclap announcing the “musical romp”, which I was believe set to Mike’s song Salesman, featuring the band members being chased around by women with pitchforks. Then after the song, the band are back in their living room, and each of them makes a comment with the word “hell” in it, but with a “cuckoo” sound dubbed over the word. Finally, Mickey says, “You know what’s REALLY scary?”, then looks directly into the camera and says “You can’t say (cuckoo) on TV!”, with a look on his fact that suggests he’s not acting.

  12. Chris

    March 3, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    BTW, in regards to the Moog synthesizer that was used on Daily Nightly, it wasn’t the first used in the US. The synth was owned by Mickey himself and was one of the first handful of the instruments built, but it was likely used by Robert Moog’s other early customers first (which btw, included Wend Carlos, Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause). But it’s highly likely that The Monkees were the first to use it in the context of rock music (there are those who say The Doors were first, but given how overrated The Doors are, and how little respect The Monkees get to this very day, I give it to The Monkees for that reason alone). And on that song, it really is Mickey playing the synth (on Star Collector, it’s studio musician Paul Beaver)

  13. Chris

    March 3, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Another favorite Monkees bit is Monkee Vs. Machine, I believe, when Peter goes in for the job interview, which is conducted by a computer. Due to a misunderstanding, the computer thinks his name is “Not What” and that he’s a woman. Finally, at the end of the bit, Peter tries correcting the computer, but it again cuts him off, announcing that “Name is not Not What, but Nit Wit!”. Peter says, “Oh, brother!”, and the computer responds with “Brother is also a nitwit!”.