June 27, 1999
THE COURT FILES / ANN W. O’NEILL
Chimp Man Canned and Feeling a Bit Cheetahed...
Life is not just a bowl of bananas at TBS’ new all-chimp sitcom, “The Chimp Channel,” thanks to
one unhappy co-creator. Tom Stern says the producers tricked him into signing away his rights to the
show by promising writing and directing opportunities. But, Stern alleges, the producers never
intended to keep up their end of the bargain.
Stern’s is not the usual Hollywood story of a neophyte burned by the big boys. His 12-year career
began when he co-wrote “American Werewolf in Paris.” He also has directed videos for Marilyn
Manson, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice Cube and other artists who scare the parents of teenagers.
The “Chimp Channel” dispute came to a head in March. Stern says he was not happy with the special
effects that make the chimps appear to talk. His effects worked; the show’s looked fake, his suit says.
After he got in trouble for showing up late for work one day, Stern registered his protests in a rather
unique fashion: He videotaped himself on the closed set stripping off his clothes and breaking beer
and wine bottles.
Stern considered this to be performance art, and his suit points out that he promptly cleaned up
afterward. But to the producers it was a firing offense. They accused Stern of breaching his contract
and canned him, according to his lawyer, David Wall.
The suit seeks unspecified financial damages and the return of tapes of music videos Stern had
previously directed, so he can land a new job.
© 1999 Los Angeles Times. All rights reserved.