Monkey News by Karl Pilkington: Fact Checks

Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant: Probably the most iconic trio in the modern British humor culture.

One of their most popular projects is the podcast that was produced between 2005 and 2009 for radio channel XFM (UK). Every week, the three went together to talk about “everything”.

In that extremely popular show, they had a feature called “Monkey News”, which literally was Karl Pilkington presenting news about chimpanzees and monkeys that were quite spectacular. Those mainly consisted of rubbish stories, most of them were not true.

For example, the story about Oliver the chimpanzee stealing a human wife… You’ll learn more about that later.

First, this is Karl Pilkington:

Karl Pilkington
Photo: Wikipedia

Just wanted you to get a good look at him before you read all the nonsense he said.

Table of Contents

The top five “Monkey News” presented by Karl Pilkington

This is the time for presenting the top five stories that came out of “Monkey news” as well as running a quick fact check on them.

#1: Monkey bank robber

According to Mr. Pilkington, a monkey was once spotted inside an American bank during a robbery. It turned out that the initial robber, which was a human being, had planned his robbery quite well. Everyone down on the floor, the cashier gave him the money, and he was ready to leave the bank with his cash and gun.

Unfortunately for him, a monkey opened the door just when he was about the leave. As he was so surprised that a monkey disturbed his bank job, he lost his gun and his money – which both were picked up by the monkey.

In the end, again: according to this story, the monkey went back to the zoo with the gun and the money where it ended up getting nasty. Apparently it turned into a hostage situation where the monkey(s) now demanded to be released from the zoo in exchange for the money.

Fact check:

Really tried to find any reliable sources that a monkey had been involved in a bank robbery. Could not find anything.

#2 Monkey as a TV presenter in Moscow

Another quite absurd part of the podcast occurred when Pilkington started to talk about the monkey that was featured in a Russian TV show.

According to the story, the CEO of a TV station “went a bit mental and sacked all his employees”. And that, “for some reason, it was a chimp knocking about in the studio”. The production team got the brilliant idea of putting the monkey into a suit and make him the host of a talk show.

Despite the fact that monkeys are unable to talk, it actually became a success. According to the story, people were loving the new TV presenter and he became a full-time employee in the station.

Fact check:

It was very difficult to get this story verified. All Google hits on “Monkey TV presenter” or similar phrases lead to different websites discussing Karl Pilkington’s story. However, we did find a video of a monkey sitting and “hosting” a TV show — and it might very well be from where this story came from.

#3 Oliver the monkey — stealing a wife from a zookeeper

Oliver, or Ollie as he is often referred to in this story, is a chimpanzee that lived in a zoo in the USA. One day, the zookeeper looked at Oliver and saw that he “looked fed up”. For some reason, the zookeeper was allowed to bring him home, which he did.

After living quite a while in this house, Ollie started to show interest to the wife in the house. While the husband was at work taking care of other animals in the zoo, Ollie was hitting on his wife back home.

End of story: zookeeper moved out and Ollie moved in with his wife. According to Pilkington, this is the first time a human being has ever lost towards a monkey in the fight for a woman.

Fact check:

Oliver was a chimpanzee that for a long time was seen as a human-chimp hybrid (a „humanzee“). However, science rejected this statement. Not very much of Karl Pilkington’s story seems to be accurate if we believe that this Wikipedia page contains correct information. Oliver died in 2012. RIP!

Here’s an early media photograph from Oliver:

Photo: unknown

#4 The monkey pilot

Think about it…have you ever seen the co-pilot in one of the airplanes? They are quite hidden, aren’t they? It turns out that it is not always a human being sitting next to the main pilot controlling the aircraft.

This story was allegedly happening in Eastern Europe. An old businessman had made this airplane company that was struggling to recruit pilots. And when it became a national strike among all the pilots, his son was the only one willing to fly an airplane for him. But without a co-pilot, you cannot do much.

The solution was simple: get a monkey in as a co-pilot. According to this story, it all went pretty well until a woman got a bit furious about not getting nuts as a passenger. She claimed that she already saw 10 bags of nuts going into the cockpit, which made her even angrier. She tried to open the cockpit door, which did not work.

However, the pilot opened the door to see what was going on out there, and then she could get a glance in, just to see a monkey co-pilot eating loads of nuts.

Fact check:

It did not happen.

#5 The Monkey that appeared as a jockey

In the late 1960s, a shady businessman (mafia) had bought a horse that he wanted to get some money out of. All he needed was a great jockey to win some races.

Problem was that this mafia guy had a terrible reputation in the area, which meant that no jockey really wanted to work with him. Not only were they afraid of him punishing them unless they won. He was also famous for holding back prize money.

But when the big race started, a small jockey had actually been placed on the back of the mafias’ horse. Pilkington explains that he was covered in clothes from top to bottom. In addition to that, the horse was running so fast that you could barely see it. “All blurry”, he says.

The horse won and in the second that this shady guy wants to collect his money, the whole scam was revealed: he used a monkey as a jockey. Apparently, the monkey was attacking one of the women with fruits in their hats because it believed that it was real fruit.

Fact check:

I could not find any official sources that would be able to confirm that a monkey ever worked as a jockey. Not even for one single race.

Other fact: Trained Capuchin monkeys were used as jockeys in greyhound races in Australia and the US in the first half of the 20th century.

Is there any other source online that can deny or verify these stories?

The only source I could find is called “” — and their Monkey News page consists of a compilation of all the stories. However, there is no information about whether every story is true or not.

In other words: this is the only article online that has fact-checked monkey news presented by Karl Pilkington.

Where can you watch or listen to Monkey News?

Loads of videos are on YouTube. One of them is made into a compilation of nearly all the Monkey News ever recorded.

You can listen to it here:

Will Pilkington and Gervais make more Monkey News?

Unfortunately not. In 2017, Karl Pilkington retired from all media appearances after saying in a radio interview that he “not really wanted to be famous”.

Pilkington started out as the producer of a radio show starring Gervais & Merchant. After finding out that he was actually quite funny, they started to slowly include Karl more and more in the conversations on live radio.

It was never his plan to become a radio star. It just happened, and it turns out that he did not enjoy the life in the spotlight too much.

In other words: no. It will not be made any more monkey news by Karl Pilkington.

Book recommendations from the well-known author Karl Pilkington

These are some warm recommendation from someone who read all the books written by Karl Pilkington. I truly believe that only two of them are worth reading:

The Moaning of Life: The Worldly Wisdom of Karl Pilkington

Review: “The funniest man on the planet.” —Spectator

[amazon-button link=””]

An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington

Review: Not many idiots could make something this funny –Guardian

[amazon-button link=””]

Are Karl Pilkington’s books as funny as his TV appearances?

Most of them are not. What I was afraid of was that he would “try too hard” to be funny when he wrote books.

Obviously, Karl is playing some type of role. He is not an actor. But he is trying to play a bit dumber than he really is. That is something that hurts his literature quite a lot. That being said, I would say that both mentioned books are brilliant and that you should pick them up if you’re a fan of Karl.

These books are both:

  • Funny
  • Decently written (not well-written)
  • Not too long
  • Something that you can easily enjoy during a weekend trip
  • 100% definitely written by Karl Pilkington, the legend himself

What does Karl Pilkington do today?

After Karl was done talking trash on XFM, he went on to become a star in a show called “An Idiot Abroad”. This is, probably, the funniest TV show I will ever see.

Here’s a small compilation of what you can expect if you watch it on Netflix:

Last words

Most of the monkey news are not true. If the news is based on a somewhat true story, Pilkington has tweaked them in a way to almost make the news non-recognizable. Whether Karl really believes that these stories are true is unknown.

Ricky Gervais has spent a lot of time over the years trying to convince people that Pilkington is the same person on TV & radio as he is in private. That is quite hard to believe.

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  1. Karl Pilkington is a legend, but I was not sure whether or not he was “playing a game” with all these stupid ideas.

    However, some of them do seem to be sensible. But what he did with Monkey News was obviously just a “scam”. Or…at least you can’t say that he tried very hard to come up with monkey news that was accurate lol

  2. Hahahaha, great check!

    Karl is a legend. That thing about a pilot being a monkey, he didn’t even believe it himself…you can clearly hear that in the radio clip 😉

    on the other side, I wonder if some of the other stories are actually true. After all, listeners were sending them in every week – and he was only choosing the ones that were relevant. AAaaaah, the good old Ricky Gervais/Karl pilkington/merchant days on podcast. Miss ’em.

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