The Full Melvin


If you've never been on the Internet, the information highway that links computers and allows Americans to date people in China, you have reason to be ashamed. A gorilla has beaten you to it.

Yes, a real, live, hairy gorilla that walks on four limbs and has never been to kindergarten, let alone high school, has managed to send messages over the Internet, messages that are surprisingly clear to at least a few sober people.

So, if you're still intimidated by the Internet, ask yourself this simple, yet important question: Am I as smart as a gorilla?

If the answer is yes, then you should definitely experiment with the Internet, where you'll find all kinds of information on subjects as seemingly unrelated as aliens taking over the country and Ross Perot running for president.

If the answer is no, you probably want to stick with television. But stay away from the remote control, which requires at least the intelligence of a chimpanzee. The gorilla that recently chatted with thousands of people over the Internet is indeed quite smart. Her name is Koko, which in gorilla language means"Bill Gates."

In fact, Koko is one of the richest gorillas on the planet, having lived in America for 25 years, unlike many of her relatives, who live in remote parts of Africa where people have never even heard of Monica Lewinsky.

Here's the daily routine of the typical gorilla:
-- 6 to 8 a.m.: wake-up and beat your chest
-- 8 to 10 a.m.: eat, grunt and watch Jerry Springer
-- 10 to 2 p.m.: eat, play, relax, sleep
-- 2 to 5 p.m.: travel 300 to 6,000 feet, foraging for leaves, fruit and beer

So as you can see, a gorilla's daily routine is not too different from O.J. Simpson's. Except that gorillas generally do not play golf.

They are usually quiet, friendly animals and make only about 25 distinct sounds. But they are really good at hooting and would get along with most construction workers. Koko has special communication skills. She has learned over 1,000 words of American sign language and is more adept at using her fingers than a NewYork City cab driver.

Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson, one of the scientists who trained Koko, used the sign language to allow the gorilla to chat with America Online (AOL) users.

Here are a few actual exchanges from the first interspecies chat on the Internet:
AOL: Is Koko aware that she's chatting with thousands of people now?
KOKO: Good hear.PENNY: Koko is aware.
AOL: I'll start taking questions from the audience now. Our first question is:
KOKO: Pink.
PENNY: Koko was commenting on the color of my shirt...
AOL: Do you like to chat with other people?KOKO: Fine nipple.
PENNY: Nipple rhymes with people. She doesn't sign people per se. She was trying to do a "sounds like."
RADIO EXECUTIVE (to himself): Fine nipple? Hey, this gorilla could be as smart as Howard Stern.

Messages to Koko can be sent to You may want to ask her about the Clinton scandal, India's nuclear testing or her Internet romance with a guy in Wisconsin who's about to leave his wife for a rather hairy female.

Melvin Durai is a humor columnist at the Chambersburg, Pa., Public Opinion. Write to him at 77 N. Third St., Chambersburg, Pa. 17201 or Read previous columns at

Click Here to go to the Tacoma Weekly On-Line homepage.