SNL: Jason Bateman Introduced Us to Mikey—Here’s the Chimpanzee’s Real Story

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

“Something kinda weird happened last time I hosted,” said Jason Bateman during his December 5 Saturday Night Live (SNL) opening monologue. The actor was referring to his first time hosting SNL, in 2005, when a chimpanzee named Mikey was used in a sketch as well as the show’s closing credits. For Mikey, though, it was more horrible than weird.

Bateman got one thing right two nights ago: If SNL filmed its “monkeys throwing poop” sketch today, exploiting Mikey or any other chimpanzee wouldn’t be an option.

“If the show did that sketch today, they would use a puppet or a kid in a fuzzy suit,” Bateman said.

And it’s true: Thanks to campaigns like PETA’s to get live great apes out of entertainment and to the dedication of animal rights activists, exploiting chimpanzees in film and television productions is now recognized as unacceptable.

Curtain Closed: There Are No More Chimpanzees in Hollywood

But the accuracy of Bateman’s reminiscence essentially begins and ends there.

“[B]ack then they used a real male adult chimpanzee—this was 2005,” Bateman claimed in his monologue.

But Mikey wasn’t an adult in 2005; he was 3 years old—a baby.

Bateman did remark on how dangerous chimpanzees can be when they feel threatened: “The monkey tried to kill me. … The chimp unhinges his jaw, he flashes the teeth, and he tries to bite my entire nose off,” he said of Mikey, who was exhibiting severe signs of distress.

In the throwback clip, Mikey screams and backs away from Bateman and exhibits a fear grimace, which is a sign that a chimpanzee is deeply afraid.

Also, Mikey is an ape, not a “monkey,” a common misconception. (Great apes are part of the same taxonomic family that humans belong to, and unlike other primates, apes don’t have tails.)

Mikey was purchased for $45,000 from notorious former breeders Mike and Connie Casey when he was only a few months old to be used as a “pet.” He was ripped from his mother’s arms, like all other chimpanzees who are sold as “pets” and were used for film and television productions. Mikey was exploited and leased out when he was just a baby. Years later, when he was too big to continue being exploited for money, his owners got rid of him—a common fate for most great apes, as they inevitably become too strong and dangerous to control.

The good news: A decade ago, there were at least a dozen chimpanzees like Mikey exploited in Hollywood. Now there are none. 

The bad news: Other animals are still dragged to and from frightening sound stages and forced to perform confusing tricks under bright lights.

Talk shows, music videos, and TV shows exploit bear cubs, tigers, monkeys, and other animals for cheap laughs. Although kind viewers are resistant to watching these exploitative productions and our efforts to stop this cruelty have repeatedly caught up with wildlife exhibitors, certain talk show hosts, musicians, filmmakers, and TV producers have yet to commit to ditching wild-animal use for good.

No wild animal belongs under the spotlight in noisy studios! Tweet if you agree.

See Something? Say Something

If you witness animals being used for a film or a TV show, get in touch with PETA right away. Call our whistleblower hotline at 323-210-2233 or click on the link below to fill out a form online.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind