Author: ADAM BUCKMAN
Date: Jun 11, 1999
Start Page: 120
Text Word Count: 497
TV MAN GOES APE: CHIMP TV CREATOR IS FIRED
THE co-creator of TBS’ new all-chimp sitcom was fired after staging a bizarre, naked protest against
the show’s producers.
And now he’s airing his grievances in a lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles.
The co-creator is Tom Stern, a self-described performance artist and film-and-TV “artisan” who has
directed videos for Marilyn Manson, Ice Cube and others. In the lawsuit, he’s charging that the
producers of “The Chimp Channel” reneged on their promise to allow him to direct and write a number
of episodes of the show. He says they owe him money and some personal property - namely,
videocassettes of music videos he’s directed that he needs to help him land new jobs. He also says their
reasons for firing him don’t add up.
The offbeat simian series, featuring a cast of chimpanzees and a couple of orangutans, premiered last
night on TBS. Stern thinks the show fails to complete the illusion that the chimp performers are actually
saying the dialogue.
“I’ve been perfecting this chimp-directing technique for five years,” Stern said, “and these guys have the
gall to remove me just at the point where we stood the chance to make a great show. Instead, it’s a
piece of monkey doo-doo!”
Stern was apparently outspoken in his complaints even before production got underway. With his
background in the farout world of performance art, Stern devised a plan to make his complaints known
through that alternative medium. So last March, he and a cameraman videotaped a “performance” of
Stern’s on the “Chimp Channel” set in which Stern broke a beer bottle and a wine bottle and stripped
naked to demonstrate his dismay with what was happening with the “Chimp Channel” concept.
He says Telescopic Pictures, co-producer of “The Chimp Channel,” used his performance as an excuse
for firing him, although he claims the company was well-aware of his performance-art background and
also knew he would be using their facilities. No chimps were on the set to witness Stern’s performance.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Stern is seeking punitive damages totaling
in the “multimillions of dollars,” according to his lawyer, David Wall.
Named in the suit are Telescopic and its chief executive, Tony Shiff; Palomar Pictures, a partner in
producing the show; TBS and its parent company, Warner Bros.
None of the defendants in the suit would comment yesterday.
In court papers, Stern charges that he was illegally terminated at the onset of production on “The Chimp
Channel,” even though he’d played a big role in the “Monkey-ed Movies” short films that inspired the
spinoff series. (Stern does get a “created by” credit on “The Chimp Channel,” along with Tim Burns,
his creative partner who still works on the show.)
A court date has not yet been set.
The co-creator of the new Turner show “Chimp Channel” staged a naked, bottle-smashing protest when
the series went to the dogs. The show is a spoof of popular TV shows using an all-monkey cast.
© 1999 New York Post. All rights reserved.