“Is Your Ring Tone a Screaming Monkey?” aka What Not to Ask a Comedian Right After His Set


One of the cool things about being a comedian is the crowd interaction onstage and off. As a feature act and a decidedly non-household name, people usually aren’t at the show to see me, so it’s great when someone comes up to me afterwards to tell me they liked my set. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to have someone come up and say they didn’t like my set of course, as I am perfect and have never had a bad one.

These post-show interactions run the gamut: people saying I did good, people offering the condescending rejoinder to “keep at it,” people asking for my contact info or website, people offering “advice” or a line. But one stands out above them all.

I’m at this club a few years ago. Friday night, late show. Those can be notoriously tough on comics. It would not be that night. I had a great set and came off stage feeling good. After the show, I had people walking past me telling me all sorts of good stuff. Then one person came up to me, and I’ll never forget what she said:

Without any prompting or any previous conversation to base this on, she says, “Is your ring tone a screaming monkey?”

That’s right. Not, “Did you go to VCU basketball camp in 2000?” Or, “Are you Amy’s brother?”

Let that sink in and while it does, here’s a couple of clarifications to help you grasp my confusion:

A) This was the very first thing she said to me.
B) My ring tone was not, nor has ever been, a screaming monkey.

What I don’t get is how she mistook me, the comedian who had a few minutes earlier been telling jokes onstage to everyone in the room, for someone who happened to have a ring tone that’s a screaming monkey.

At no point in the evening had she heard my phone ring. There was nothing for her to base this question on. It wasn’t like I’d paused mid-set to answer my phone after the horrified shrieks of an monkey filled the room. “Sorry everyone. No need for alarm, there isn’t a distressed ape on the loose, that’s just my Aunt Bertha calling to remind me to do my taxes.”

Even if it was, what did she expect me to say? “You got me! Funny thing was that sound isn’t available for download anywhere, so I had to break in the primate cage at the zoo and torture each one until I got the perfect sound for a ring tone. Let me tell you, there’s nothing that remind you to pick up the phone like the sound of a waterboarded bonobo.”

Maybe I look like a friend of hers who had that ring tone. But then wouldn’t the correct question be, “Are you George?” Then when I said no, pressing me by saying, “You sure you aren’t the screaming monkey ring tone guy?”

Is she not on a first name basis with this friend? When they met and hit it off, did she ask his name only for him to put a finger to her lip to shush her then pull out his phone and play the sound of a screaming monkey? “You will refer to me not by my name, but by my weird ring tone. Now you play yours, so I know what to identify you as.”

Final question: why would ANYONE have a screaming monkey as their ring tone? What was he, a former zookeeper who had a bad experience a monkey? “Yeah I love all animals, ‘cept primates. That’s why I keep this here ring tone. Sometimes hearing a monkey cry out in agony every time I get an incoming call is the only thing getting me out of bed in the morning.”

I really wish I remembered how the rest of my interaction with this lady went, but the only thing that stuck with me was that opening sentence. And the best part? It inspired me to make my ring tone a screaming monkey. I’ve had it ever since. Never miss a call.

By the way – if your ring tone isn’t a screaming animal of any kind, sign up for my email list.


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