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You Smell Like a Monkey
Notes about a birthday gift to Sasha Shulgin, "Limericks and Dirty Pictures"
Compiled by Jon Hanna, with contributions from 32 friends
Apr 30, 2009
Citation:   Hanna J (ed.). "You Smell Like a Monkey: Notes about a birthday gift to Sasha Shulgin, 'Limericks and Dirty Pictures'". Apr 30, 2009.
In June of 2006, I impatiently watched a copy-jerk re-outputting the guts of Limericks and Dirty Pictures for the third time. His first two attempts had printed every other page-spread upside down. Once dude had finished with the guts, I sincerely hoped that he would not fuck up the beautiful cover that I was now gazing at. The front depicted an illustration by Sister Sara Tonin (of Trick tract fame), featuring a hot superhero-like Shamanatrix with a San Pedro strap-on.

While standing at the counter, I contemplated how many hours the moments of my life spent waiting for incompetent Kinko's employees might add up to. It was a thought that had crossed my mind more than once. Glancing down, I noticed the small hands of a child grabbing the counter next to me. A boy, perhaps six years old, was entranced by the colorful cover. With a curious look on his face, his eyes met mine and he asked, "Pickle Girl!?" "Yes", I responded, "Pickle Girl", quickly turning over the cover before his mother took notice of the conversation or the art. (And if some might consider the front cover a bit risqué, wait until you see the back cover.)

In any case, Sasha enjoyed his birthday present. -- Jon Hanna


Strangers and friends alike are (sometimes painfully) aware of Sasha Shulgin's penchant for wordplay and puns. When discussing a particular putative psychoactive cactus, Sasha still refers to it by the old genus name Lobivia. Never mind that taxonomists renamed it as an Echinopsis some 20 or 30 years ago. The cactus, Sasha will tell you, is native to Bolivia--an anagram for Lobivia. He may later try to persuade you that the Native American Church has adopted a new song as their official anthem: Huichol Overcome.

While we were in Germany a couple of years ago, Sasha amused the locals with his unorthodox way of asking where the pinkeln Platz was. He then proceeded to explain that when the German version of the libretto Madame Butterfly was produced, they renamed the Lieutenant Pinkerton character, calling him "Linkerton" instead. Sasha insisted that the original name sounded too similar to the vulgar slang term for urine.

On our flight to Switzerland earlier this year, my traveling companion alerted me to a joke Sasha had recently been telling, giving me time to formulate a response. After arriving in Basel, Sasha inevitably asked me:

"How do you circumcise a whale?"

"I don't know," I lied.

"You get foreskin divers."


"Yes, but why don't you want to hire men from the Navy to do that job?" I inquired.

"I don't know," Sasha responded.

"With a task of that nature, you need to be careful of semen."


There may be a genetic component to the creation of puns. My father was as punny as they come, serving up improvisations on the fly as situations and quick wit demanded. My brother and I frequently reflect our dad's sense of humor, particularly when we get together and riff off of each other. And I do the same with my six-year-old daughter. (When she told me today that, "Four straight lines can draw out a square", I replied, "Yes, and four gay lines can draw out Y-M-C-A.") The Erowids recently remarked that they could envision me as a white-haired old man, spitting out jokes in a manner they characterized as "the Sasha of our generation". Which I decided to take as a compliment.

On the other side of the coin, humor undoubtedly has an environmental component. William Burroughs quipped that "language is a virus". Through her championing of memetic theory, Susan Blackmore has explained the mechanism behind linguistic infections. And the format that most beautifully lends itself to spreading from mouth to ear is "the joke". The feedback system is quick: a laugh, smile, or groan encourages future retellings from both parties. The fact that so many contributors to this compilation ponied up with the same jokes is good evidence for the memetic quality of humor.

You'll find no answer for the "nature vs. nurture" debate of humor's origins within the pages of this book. And yet there is one thing that we can all be absolutely certain of...

Ann is happy that Sasha has some new material.

-- Jon Hanna, 6/6/06