More Fun Than a Barrel of Monkeys

Also:

As much fun as a barrel of monkeys
More fun than a barrel full of monkeys
As funny as a barrel of monkeys

Meaning

More Fun Than a Barrel of Monkeys: very fun or enjoyable; very amusing. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.

As funny as a barrel of monkeys: very funny.


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Usage

“My dad said the circus was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. It would have been better if they actually had a barrel of monkeys.”

“You’ll love Vic, he’s as fun as a barrel of monkeys.”

“The play was as funny as a barrel of monkeys.”

Barrel of Monkeys Children’s game, first developed in 1966.
Image via Pixar Wiki

Origin

The word monkey first entered English in the 1500’s, deriving from the Arabic word maimun. Although the term strictly refers to lower primates, and not the higher apes, it is generally used to refer to all primates except humans and gorillas.

Monkeys, due to their playful antics and mimicry, have long been a source of amusement and a chief attraction at zoos. 3Ammer, Christine. It’s Raining Cats and Dogs and Other Beastly Expressions. BookBaby, 2012. However, the precise origin of barrel of monkeys, first recorded in the late 1800’s, is unknown. We can speculate that it is an allusion to releasing a barrel of monkeys, and the funny antics that would ensue. 4Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

The related expression barrel of laughs did not originate until the late 1900’s, and appears to be a variation of barrel of monkeys.

The idiom inspired the popular children’s toy/game Barrel of Monkeys, developed in 1966 by Lakeside Industries of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and later marketed by Hasbro. The game consisted of twelve plastic monkeys in a plastic barrel. The monkeys could be different colors: yellow, blue, red, and green; or all one color. The barrel was red, yellow, or blue. The object of the game was to see how many monkeys you could pull out of a pile at once, by hooking together their arms. 5Augustyn, Frederick J. Dictionary of Toys and Games in American Popular Culture. Haworth Reference Press, 2004.

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Sources   [ + ]

1, 4. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
3. Ammer, Christine. It’s Raining Cats and Dogs and Other Beastly Expressions. BookBaby, 2012.
5. Augustyn, Frederick J. Dictionary of Toys and Games in American Popular Culture. Haworth Reference Press, 2004.