Nairobi Trio - Mechanical windup toy gorillas
featured on a recurring skit on the comedy program THE ERNIE KOVACS
The Nairobi Trio were actually three human actors dressed
in bowler hats, overcoats and rubber gorilla masks who played musical
instruments to the beat of the song "Solfeggio." One of them sat at an upright
piano, another at a xylophone and the third carried a conductor's baton. At key
points during the music, the gorilla with the xylophone hammers, would turn from
his xylophone and bang the head/hat of the gorilla conductor like a kettle drum.
Ernie Kovac always played the conductor.
The other two gorilla musicians were played by a number of actors including
Peter Hanley, Edie Adams (Ernie's Wife), Eddie Hatrak, Barbara Loden, puppeteer
Larry Berthelson and occasionally by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.
The routine was inspired by the music from the record "Solfeggio" which singer
Peter Hanley brought into work one day to accompany his Do, Re, Me singing
exercises. After hearing the song just three times, Ernie Kovacs created those
masochistic, mechanical monkeys. The Nairobi Trio made their first appearance on
THE ERNIE KOVACS SHOW on April 21, 1954.
TRIVIA NOTE: Ernic Kovacs' antics inspired
the name of the popular New Zealand Jazz quartet (later quintet) founded in
1989; and the title of a book "Quitting the Nairobi Trio: a Memoir" written by
journalist Jim Knipfel, The book chronicles life in a nuthouse in the 1980s
after Knipfel was committed to a mental hospital for six months for
hallucinations and repeated suicide attempts. A revelation he has about the
Nairobi Trio is a key to Jim’s cure. The book's front cover features one of the
Nairobi Trio gorillas with a cigar in its mouth.
On the sitcom FRIENDS/NBC/1994-2004 Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) stayed up to
watch classic Ernie Kovacs reruns that featured the antics of the Nairobi Trio.
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