Monkey Knife Fight

Illegal practice of pitting monkey against monkey, both armed with a knife or blade of some description.

Portrayed on a Simpsons episode where Homer is house-sitting the Burns Mansion. He takes Mr. Burns' yacht out into international waters in order to escape the rules and ethics imposed by American society.

Quote: "Smithers, this monkey is going to need most of your skin" - Burns, referring to the survivor of a Monkey Knife Fight

Several weeks ago, I went to E2 search and entered "monkey knife fight". I wasn't really sure why; I just felt it was something I had heard or read somewhere. Once I got the above result, I was totally unsatisfied by the Simpsons explanation. I don't own a television, so it's definitely not something I saw on the Simpsons. However, it wasn't long before I realized where I had seen it.

In San Francisco, "Monkey Knife Fight" graffiti is everywhere. In the Mission district, you can't go more than a block or two without seeing "Monkey Knife Fight" stamped in black on the sidewalk, or postered all along a wall in a scrawly script, or elsewhere. As far as Outer Sunset, I have seen "Monkey Knife Fight" on a printed nametag, stuck in a coffee shop. It has been seen in Noe Valley, SOMA, and Western Addition. It even has parodies: I've seen "Junky Wife Bite" stamped in white on Valencia near the pirate store.

Nobody knows what it means. Even Google can give no definitive answer.

I had several theories for a while now, about what it is:

  • A phenomenology experiment where a meaningless motto or logo is repeated so frequently, people start to think it must mean something. So, everyone starts asking what it means. If this is true, then I say Andre the giant has a posse already accomplished that artistic goal, and did it better. One Tree was better, original urban art.
  • Attempting to get a meaningless phrase into people's subconscious, that they'll forget about but will strangely remember when asked. If this is true, then they have succeeded with me, (see first paragraph) and also succeeded in pissing me off. That's at least 18 bytes of mind space that I can never reclaim. OK, I admit I hope this is it; it's kinda cool. However, this effect has probably now been killed by SF Weekly. (see below)
  • Some sort of guerrilla marketing campaign for a band. There seem to be a number of bands named Monkey Knife Fight, but none of them are based in San Francisco.
Maybe I would be less annoyed if I knew what it meant. But today, Monkey Knife Fight is on the cover of SF Weekly, along with a cute drawing of Curious George holding a knife. So it will probably die, or be explained, soon. The SF Weekly reporter (Dan Siegler) had these other theories:
  • There's a beer called Monkey Knife Fight produced in Philadelphia.
  • Maybe it was done by an artist looking for something to do, without a specific goal in mind. Personally, I think guerilla sidewalk art works better when the text is meaningful. (see: no more prisons)
  • The scary, scary theory: Monkey Knife Fight starring Tom Cruise, sponsored by Starbucks and opening this November in your local strip mall megaplex. *shiver*
  • Three girls who hang out at the 500 club were bored and did it for laughs.
That "3 girls" theory is so specific, it seems most likely to me. But, who really knows? Obviously somebody does, but they're not telling.

From me walking around the Mission, and

Update: Well, I saw "Junky Wife Bite" in Culver City, CA... I'm stumped.

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