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Chimp J. Fred Muggs Joins the Today Show in this Day in 1953

General Photographic Agency, Getty Images

Seems strange these days but on this day, February 3, 1953, a chimpanzee named J. Fred Muggs joined the Today Show and host Dave Garroway as his sidekick.  The chimp was the mascot of the show from 1953 to 1957. It was the brainchild of NBC network president Pat Weaver.

The Today Show premiered in 1952 and ratings were in a slump so Weaver came up with the idea of having a chimp on the show after seeing him on the Perry Como Show. J. Fred Muggs was an immediate hit! People could not wait to tune in to see what the chimp would do next. Muggs even sat in on guest interviews, not asking questions but sitting there as if he understood what was going on.

He was dressed in human clothes including suspenders and tie. At one point during the shows run they introduced his girlfriend. In 1957, anchor Dave Garroway tired of the chimp and his antics and gave NBC a ‘pick me or the monkey’ threat. That was the end of J. Fred Muggs and he was retired from the Today Show.

J. Fred Muggs is still alive and living in Florida with his longtime girlfriend, Phoebe, the same one that was introduced on the show. He is 61 years old.

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