‘The Monkees’: Mike Nesmith’s Embarrassing On-Screen Slip Caused Frank Zappa to Laugh Out Loud

The Monkees‘ comedy series was known for its irreverent brand of humor and groundbreaking episodes of prime-time television. Its’ cast members included Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Micky Dolenz. The foursome not only catered to their teen fans but attempted to connect with viewers their age. One way to do this was to incorporate music, actors, and musicians into the series that these fans would recognize. Frank Zappa’s episode appearance was a particular highlight where he laughed out loud over Nesmith’s embarrassing on-screen slip.

Mike Nesmith and Frank Zappa in two side-by-side photographs.
Mike Nesmith and Frank Zappa | Michael Ochs Archives/Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Frank Zappa and Mike Nesmith appeared to be kindred souls

Zappa was an artist whose music was aggressively anti-commercial. One of his most successful songs was “Don’t Eat Yellow Snow.”

On the other hand, the Monkees were part of the mainstream culture despite their irreverent comedy.

However, Zappa found a kindred soul in Nesmith, who had a similar, sardonic sense of humor.

Zappa appeared in the penultimate episode of the series titled “The Monkees Blow Their Minds.”

The leader of The Mothers of Invention subsequently “played” a car like an instrument by smashing it and lighting it on fire while Nesmith conducted nearby.

The episode’s plot involved a mentalist who gained control of Tork’s mind to use him in his nightclub act.

Zappa also appeared in the episode’s cold open alongside Nesmith.

It was then that Nesmith’s embarrassing moment caused Zappa to laugh out loud.

Mike Nesmith’s Embarrassing on-Screen Slip Caused Frank Zappa to Laugh Out Loud

Mike Nesmith and Frank Zappa on the set of 'The Monkees' television series in 1968.
Mike Nesmith and Frank Zappa | YouTube/NBC

In the cold open of the March 11, 1968 episode, Nesmith and Zappa switched personas.

Zappa donned the iconic eight-button blue shirt The Monkees donned in the first season of the season and Nesmith’s green wool hat with a pompom attached.

Nesmith wore a light blue button-down shirt, a long, curly-haired wig, and a prosthetic nose resembling Zappa’s.

They interviewed each other. However, Nesmith had difficulties keeping the prosthetic nose secured to his face. It kept slipping off throughout the bit.

Zappa managed to keep a straight face through most of the sketch but laughed out loud at the absurdity of Nesmith’s slip at several points in the clip.

Nesmith spoke of how Zappa came to appear on ‘The Monkees’

The website The Monkees Live Almanac shared a passage from Harold Bronson’s book, Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees, where Nesmith spoke of Zappa’s appearance on the show.

“I asked Frank Zappa if he would guest on the show,” Nesmith said.

“He said, ‘I’ll answer you only if I can have your part.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s fine. If you come on the show and be me, then I’ll be you.’ So I dressed him up in a shirt and gave him a wool hat so he’d look like me,” Nesmith continued.

“My relationship with Zappa was never fully formed, so I have a distant love and great respect for the man. He was very kind. When people hated us more than anything, he said kind things about us.

“He offered to teach me to play lead guitar one time. It was an incredibly groovy thing to do. He worked with me for hours, but I never learned,” Nesmith added.

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