It could be a gorilla going bananas, or a chicken getting groovy, but once Nathaniel Jones puts on the costume, the party animal comes out.
Jones, 34, is the founder and sole performer of Classy Gorilla, a singing telegram delivery service started in 2011.
For a birthday surprise, a special greeting, a holiday, or simply because you need a singing gorilla to brighten your day, Jones will bring the party, complete with live vocals, songs, music, dancing, lights and more. There’s even a singing Strip-a-Gram option.
“It’s a little moment of unexpected joy, especially if it’s at their workplace,” he said. “You could be thinking ‘ugh, it’s Monday,’ and then a gorilla comes in and sings you a rock song. It’s a little moment of joy.”
Jones is the man behind the mask. Or the mustache. Or under the wig.
Jones has a multitude of characters he transforms himself into, ranging from a world-famous posh rock star to a nosy private detective to his signature Classy Gorilla in a tux.
“If I’m the rock star, probably my favorite character, it starts in the parking lot,” he said, momentarily transforming into character and throwing on an authentic British accent for the full effect. “I just flew in from London, it’s time for the big rock concert.”
He fully immerses himself in the scene and personality of each character, a talent he acquired through years of theater training.
Jones graduated from Federal Way High School in 2002, then studied screenwriting and musical theater at the University of Southern California for two years. He then transferred to Western Washington University and earned his bachelor’s degree in theater in 2007.
Growing up, Jones was heavily involved in local community theater productions and was part of the Federal Way Harmony Kings Chorus. He was also a Dickens Caroler and a Silverbells Caroler. After graduating from college, he took up acting full time, performing four to five shows a year.
“I used to do singing valentines and Christmas caroling with quartets, so I was trying to find a way to do that year-round,” Jones said. “Singing telegrams were something I could do on my own. It’s a cross of something I can do well that I enjoy and that people would be willing to pay for.”
He first started offering his singing services to friends and family. Then word got around. Soon, strangers began to reach out for these musical messages, and business took off from there.
Valentine’s Day tends to be his “busy season,” where he could have more than 10 telegrams to deliver on the day, he said. Generally, his work fluctuates between three to five deliveries per week.
His work takes him on many adventures.
“I did a volleyball tournament as the gorilla one time. It was me against a high school girls volleyball team,” Jones said with a laugh. “They won.”
Amazon Headquarters Seattle, the Microsoft campus, Facebook Seattle, the Space Needle, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and the top floor of the Columbia Tower are just a few of the Classy Gorilla’s famous stages.
“I’ve been to a lot of really nice houses, too,” he said. “And I think ‘If I wasn’t in a gorilla suit, there’s no way I’d be here right now.’”
He’s even had a celebrity encounter.
“I didn’t know who it was going in because they gave me his real name, as opposed to his performer name,” Jones said. “So when I saw him, I thought ‘that guy looks like Macklemore.’”
A quick internet search afterward confirmed: The person Jones had just taught the chicken dance to while wearing a chicken suit, was in fact, Seattle hip-hop star Macklemore.
The reasoning behind each delivery varies. It could be for giggles, or for a more heartfelt reason.
“A recent one, kind of a sad one, was a woman in hospice on her last days, and it was her birthday. It was sort of a farewell from her family, sending her off in style. Everyone was crying, everyone was hugging, and it was very touching,” he said. “I got a little teary eyed on that one.”
Singing telegrams are his opportunity to make the world a better place in a small way, Jones said.
“I really didn’t expect it to take off, honestly,” he said. “I am delighted and surprised I still get to do it after seven years. I consider myself very lucky.”
Favorite song to perform:
“You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” by The Righteous Brothers
“That’s one people sing along to every time. The first time I sang that song was in a restaurant and the entire restaurant sang along. That’s probably the best [memory], as far as the most fun I’ve had.”
Favorite birthday sweet treat:
“Pecan or key lime pie, or if I’m going for a cake, probably a German chocolate cake.”
For more information or to book your own Classy Gorilla delivery, visit classygorilla.com.