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Crystal the Monkey

Crystal (born May 6, 1994) is a female capuchin monkey and animal actress, acquired and trained by Birds & Animals Unlimited, Hollywood's largest supplier of animals.[1] Her acting career began as a baby monkey in Disney's 1997 film George of the Jungle. More recently, she portrayed the irritating monkey Dexter in the Night at the Museum franchise, and a drug-dealing monkey in The Hangover Part II. In 2012, she played Dr. Rizzo on the sitcom Animal Practice.

Crystal the Monkey at SDCC 2012 (cropped).jpg
Crystal the Monkey at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con NBC party
BreedTufted capuchin
Born (1994-05-06) May 6, 1994 (age 25)[citation needed]
Years active1997–present
OwnerTom Gunderson
ResidenceLos Angeles County, California
Height1 ft 7 in (48 cm)

Acting careerEdit

Universal StudiosEdit

In 1996, Birds & Animals Unlimited, the largest furnisher of animals to Hollywood,[1] sent one of its trainers to purchase a capuchin monkey in Florida.[2] Birds & Animals prefers to begin training younger monkeys, optimally those close to one year old. Audacious two-and-half-year-old Crystal, whose canine teeth had begun showing, was offered. The trainer ultimately decided to buy both Crystal and two younger capuchin monkeys. Three employees received the three monkeys. Crystal was given to Tom Gunderson, an employee who had only been with the company for a few years and had been primarily working at Universal Studios Florida's Animal Actors stage show. Gunderson had let the other two employees select their monkeys first and was left with the oldest, Crystal. He named her Crystal, a namesake to a country music singer Crystal Gayle. New York magazine's Benjamin Wallace wrote, "It was like she was born to perform."[2]

Gunderson and Crystal worked together for eight years at the Animal Actors stage show. Because the show was marked by pyrotechnics and noisy, cheering audiences, Gunderson said it was "a boot camp" and "a great way for a monkey to grow up and become habituated for this kind of environment". Unlike the majority of monkeys who were bothered by high volume music and children, Crystal was remarkably mature. Rather than destroy a stuffed animal as any other monkey would do, she preferred to groom herself and work the levers of a child's activity center.[2]

Television and filmEdit

Having appeared in over 20 films by 2011, Crystal first starred in the 1997 film George of the Jungle.[3] Wallace of the magazine New York said her Internet Movie Database page is "more hit-studded than most actors three times her age",[2] and Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times called her "a veteran of movies and TV with an enviable IMDB credit list".[1] USA Today called Crystal "Hollywood's Hottest Monkey" and the Los Angeles Times called her the most powerful pet in Hollywood".[2]

She is known for her roles in the 2006 film Night at the Museum and its sequels, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), playing troublesome monkey Dexter (also playing another character, Able, in the second film). In the 2009 film, her character slapped Ben Stiller's, while her trainer encouraged her with "Get him! Get him! Hit him harder! Hit him harder!" Stiller joked that "I really dislike the monkey. There's no way to feel great about having a monkey slap your face on any level."[4] During filming, Crystal in an "unscripted moment" relieved herself on Robin Williams, who was playing Teddy Roosevelt. Williams said, "It combines the worst aspects of working with children and animals when you have an animal that looks like a child ... Plus, what human can [defecate] on you in the middle of a scene and people would be like 'Awww, great'".[2]

She has done cameos with David Hasselhoff in the 2011 film Hop and with Ken Jeong in the NBC comedy series Community.[3] She made a special appearance on Community's panel at the San Diego Comic-Con in July 2011.[5]

She portrayed a drug dealing monkey in the 2011 film The Hangover Part II.[6] Director Todd Phillips raised concerns after he joked that Crystal had become addicted to cigarettes after learning to smoke them for the film.[7] Philips later explained that Crystal never actually held a lit cigarette on the film's set, the smoke was added digitally in post-production, and the cigarette was ceramic[3]. Still PETA protested Crystal's appearance in the film because the studio used exotic animals for entertainment purposes and because the film does not carry the American Humane Association's disclaimer that "no animals were harmed" since the group was denied set visits.[7] Ken Jeong, Crystal's fellow Hangover, as well as Community, actor, praised her, saying, "She's amazing. She's not a monkey, she's an actor. And quite possibly the best actor I've worked with."[3]

In 2011 she played Donald the Monkey in the Frank Coraci-directed film Zookeeper and was voiced by Adam Sandler.[8] Crystal also played Crystal the Capuchin in the Cameron Crowe-directed film We Bought a Zoo.[9]

After gymnast Gabby Douglas's gold medal-winning performance at 2012 Summer Olympics individual all-around, NBC aired a commercial of Crystal swinging on gymnastic rings. Wallace of the magazine New York called it a "cringe-worthy juxtaposition" that sparked much debate about racism on Twitter.[2] Sportscaster Bob Costas had just said, "There are some African American girls out there who tonight are saying to themselves: 'Hey, I'd like to try that too.'" Crystal's ad had been broadcast three times previously and was a promotion for NBC's upcoming sitcom, Animal Practice.[10]

She played Dr. Rizzo, a crony of misanthropic veterinarian Dr. George Coleman in Animal Practice, a sitcom that debuted on September 26, 2012.[2] Before the show was cancelled due to low ratings,[11] Crystal netted her owner $12,000 per episode; the earnings from nine episodes meant that for the year she made more than twice as much as the average Hollywood actor.[12] New York's Wallace observed the filming of a scene in which Crystal gives Coleman a shoulder massage. Gunderson used gestures to coax Crystal to perform the desired action and let her lick yogurt from his fingers upon finishing. After each scene, Gunderson rewards her with a treat. Wallace noted that her favorite treats included "chocolate, Nutella, grapes, pistachios, peanuts, the odd crafts-services banana, a weekly egg for protein, and, off-set, spiders and flies".[2]

Personal lifeEdit

Crystal lives with her trainer, Tom Gunderson, in Los Angeles County, California. Other animals live in the home, "including dogs, horses, a cat, and another female capuchin, named Squirt." Crystal, who sleeps no less than eight hours every day, shares a mattress with Gunderson, his wife, fellow capuchin Squirt, and a chihuahua.[2]


Year Title Role Notes
1997 George of the Jungle Monkey
1998 Dr. Dolittle Drunk Monkey
1999 American Pie Monkey with garage band
2000 Terror Tract Bobo
2001 Dr. Dolittle 2 Drunk Monkey
2002 Malcolm In the Middle Oliver the Helper Monkey
2004 Garfield: The Movie Pet monkey
2005 Fun with Dick and Jane Test monkey
2006 The Shaggy Dog Capuchin
Night at the Museum Dexter
Failure to Launch Forest Monkey
2007 3:10 to Yuma
2009 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Dexter, Able
2010–13 Community Annie's Boobs
2011 The Hangover Part II Drug Dealing Monkey Credited as Crystal
The Big Bang Theory Ricky the Smoking Monkey
Zookeeper Donald the Monkey
We Bought a Zoo Herself
2012 Animal Practice Dr. Rizzo
2013 The Good Thing Herself
The Hangover Part III Monkey Post credit scene
Super Buddies MONK-E
2014 All Hail the King Bar Monkey
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Dexter
2015 Russell Madness Hunk
2016 Monkey Up Monty
Legends of the Hidden Temple Mikey the Monkey Television film
The 101-Year-Old Man Who Skipped Out on the Bill and Disappeared Erlander Swedish film
Gibby Gibby Lead role
2018 MAX - "Worship" Monkey
2019 Total Dhamaal Prachi's friend Bollywood film


  1. ^ a b c Flint, Joe (2012-09-25). "Monkey business on 'Animal Practice'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2012-11-12.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Wallace, Benjamin (2012-09-23). "Crystal Takes Hollywood". New York (magazine). Archived from the original on 2012-11-12: page 1, page 2, page 3, and page 4. Retrieved 2012-11-12.
  3. ^ a b c d Alexander, Bryan (2011-05-24). "Crystal the 'Hangover' monkey comes out swinging". USA Today. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-05-31.
  4. ^ Weinfeld, Michael (2009-05-20). "More monkey slaps, more humiliation for Stiller". Northwest Herald. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2018-09-30. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  5. ^ Kung, Michelle (2011-07-23). "'Community' Cast Gets Warm Welcome at Comic-Con". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2012-05-11. Retrieved 2012-05-11.
  6. ^ Everett, Cristina (2011-05-20). "'The Hangover 2' premiere: Crystal the monkey steals the show from star-studded cast". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  7. ^ a b Rottenberg, Josh (2011-05-14). "Monkey trouble?: 'The Hangover Part II' raises concerns from animal rights advocates". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
  8. ^ Staskiewicz, Keith (2011-06-24). "Hey, I Know That Critter!". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
  9. ^ Karger, Dave (2011-08-06). "Cameron Crowe goes animal wild with 'We Bought A Zoo'". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
  10. ^ "NBC forced to apologise after ill-timed ad features a monkey doing gymnastics - right after showing Gabby Douglas' gold medal victory". Daily Mail. 2012-08-03. Archived from the original on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2012-11-12.
  11. ^ Hibberd, James (2012-10-18). "'Animal Practice' cancelled". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2012-11-12.
  12. ^ "Hollywood Salaries Revealed, From Movie Stars to Agents (and Even Their Assistants". Hollywood Reporter. October 2, 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-30. Crystal the monkey earned $108,000 in 2012 for appearing in nine episodes of NBC's Animal Practice. That's more than most of the below-the-line talent featured in this story and twice as much as the average actor, who earns $52,000, according to SAG-AFTRA. But most animals work for peanuts: The day rate for a dog or cat in Hollywood is $400, with most earning $5,000 to $10,000 a year.

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