In Nim Chimpsky’s mind, he was never really a lower order primate, but a boy with slightly more hair than the other kids. Like other boys, Nim liked to play, eat pizza, leap around and occasionally, flirt with the ladies. Perhaps Nim believed that as he grew older, he would eventually lose all that hair and live the life of a normal New Yorker.
Nothing, however, was quite “normal” about the life of Nim Chimpsky, the world’s first celebrity Chimpanzee. First, he was kidnapped from his mother at three-months-old and whisked away to the rarefied world of Columbia University. Second, he lived in a huge mansion in New York’s Upper West Side, with maids. Third, he was the subject of a major scientific experiment, setting out to prove that non-human species also had an innate ability for language. This “Language Instinct,” a theory developed by the famous professor of linguistics, Noam Chomsky, was what distinguished humans from all other species. With “Project Nim” it was up to Nim to prove Professor Chomsky and the whole academic world wrong, and in the process unearth the world’s first interspecies communicator. That’s a lot of pressure for one chimp.
In anticipation of Project Nim, the soon-to-be-released documentary about Nim, Unique Creatures brings you an exclusive imaginary interview with the famous communicating chimp, Nim Chimpsky:
UC: So, first things first, is it true that Chimpanzees have a bone for a penis?
NIM: This is absolutely true, a vast improvement on the human species version, which relies on inferior mechanics and doses of Viagra to make it biologically useful.
NIM: As a baby, I was brought up by a loving human family, and then as I got older, I spent time with pot-smoking university students. I had a blast with the humans, but despite the fact that we share 98% of the same DNA, we are fundamentally different.
UC: How are you different, Nim Chimpsky?
NIM: Are you serious? Touch this! (Nim motions to touch his hairy belly, which is soft and extremely hirsute.)
NIM (cont’d): Here’s the thing. Chimpanzees might be tree climbers, but humans are shameless social climbers, stumbling over one another to get to the golden bananas at the top of the status tree. This is at least what I noticed in Project Nim.
UC: Tell us about “Project Nim”.
NIM: Well, I was brought to New York as a scientific experiment. Basically, a Professor named Herb Terrace tried to teach me sign language and prove that non-humans could communicate though language.
UC: So do monkeys have the gift of language?
NIM: I can’t speak for other primates. I can’t even speak, period. This is just an imaginary transcript. In the end, I could do a bunch of hand-signs, but that’s hardly proof that I actually understood what was being said. I was damn cute though.
UC: Yes, in your heydey, you appeared on Late Nite television and even made the cover of New York Magazine.
NIM: Yeah, it got a lot of attention. I had animal magnitismo, for sure.
UC: What happened after the humans realised that Project Nim would fail?
NIM: In this regard, my story is 98% identical to the DNA of other human stories. Once they realised I was no use to them, they cut off my funds and sent me to live in a cage with other, less civilized Chimpanzees. It was very sad… I was rejected by my own species.
UC: But there was one chimp you did eventually make friends with…a certain female chimp.
NIM: Yes, sweet Sally Jones…she escaped the circus, no joke…Sally Jones really cared for me, protected me from the sleazy bad-ass chimps. We fell in love and lived together for years.
UC: Bravo, so you finally felt at home with your own species. Do you miss the human life?
NIM: I miss good pizza.
UC: One last question: Favorite fashion item? NIM: 70’s t-shirts. UC: Music? NIM: Die Antwoord UC: Favorite Philospher? NIM: Noam Chomsky
UC: Favorite Unique Creature?
NIM: Well that’s a tough one. This is just an imaginary interview and besides, I died in March, 2000.
Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures