One of the most iconic symbols of my childhood is Monty Python, which is ironic given that most of their stuff was released either before I was born or when I was far too young to either understand or remember.However, Dad was a Python fan, so I grew up watching films like Life of Brian and The Search for the Holy Grail and, in fact, some of my favourite sketches are taken from these movies. Having married a man who can quote large passages from various sketches, I have also developed a taste for those aspects of Monty Python that my father either didn’t enjoy or chose not to show me.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, Monty Python were a British comedy group who produced some pretty surreal and out-there movies and sketches. The group, consisting of members Graham Chapman, John Cleese (voted number 2 the top 50 greatest comedians ever), Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle (voted number 21 the top 50 greatest comedians ever), Terry Jones, and Michael Palin (voted number 30 the top 50 greatest comedians ever), produced the sketch comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, followed by live tours, books and several movies. Monty Python’s humour proved to be so unique and popular that it has engendered a cult following that endures to this day. It even spawned a new word — pythonesque, meaning farcically surreal or absurd.
I have already posted my Top Ten Monty Python Songs so today I would like to concentrate on my ten favourite Monty Python sketches.
Now that has been said, here is my top ten list of Monty Python Sketches, from ten to one:
Argument Clinic is a sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman. The sketch was originally broadcast as part of the television series and has subsequently been performed live by the group. It relies heavily on wordplay and dialogue, and has been used as an example of how language works.
I find the concept of paying for an argument to be amusing and seeing grown men bicker like children is also funny.
How To Irritate People – Cinema
How to Irritate People is a 1968 television broadcast written by John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Marty Feldman and Tim Brooke-Taylor. Cleese, Chapman, and Brooke-Taylor also feature in it, along with future Monty Python collaborators Michael Palin and Connie Booth. As the title suggests, the film consists of various unrelated sketches showing various ways to irritate people.
The sketch shown below is a hilarious scene in which a trio of grannies irritate a gentleman at the cinema.
Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook
Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook is a Monty Python sketch which first aired in 1970 on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It is a funny sketch which highlights just how much we rely on our phrase books to be correct.
Candid Photography, better known as “Nudge”, is a sketch from the third Monty Python’s Flying Circus episode, “How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away” featuring Eric Idle (author of the sketch) and Terry Jones as two strangers who meet in a pub. Originally written by Eric Idle for Ronnie Barker in another comedy show, the sketch was then rejected as a script. Eric Idle openly admits the script is confusing, the joke being mostly in the delivery. It is also one of the few Monty Python sketches to end on a clear punch line.
This is one of the more well-known Flying Circus sketches and I still find it entertaining to watch.
The Black Knight
The Black Knight is a fictional character who appears in a scene of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As his name suggests, he is a black knight who guards a “bridge” (in reality a short plank of wood) over a small stream – which could have been easily stepped over by King Arthur but, for unknown reasons, he does not. Although supremely skilled in swordplay, the Black Knight suffers from unchecked overconfidence and a staunch refusal ever to give up.
This scene has me in stitches every time. There is definitely something to be said for never giving up.
Cheese Shop Sketch
The Cheese Shop is a well-known sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It originally appears in episode 33, “Salad Days”. The script for the sketch is included in the book The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus: All the Words, Volume 2.
It was later reworked for the album The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief and appeared for one last time during Monty Python Live (Mostly), as a surprising coda to the Dead Parrot sketch. Forty-three cheeses are mentioned in the original sketch. In the audio version on The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief (MT&H) album and other live and recorded versions, Cleese also mentions Greek feta.
This sketch is quite humorous as well as a good way to learn the names of various cheeses.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a 1975 film about King Arthur and his knights who embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles, one of which is this taunting French knight.
What Have The Romans Done For Us?
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979, also known as Life of Brian) is a satirical film by the Monty Python comedy troupe about a man who is born at the same time as (and next door to) Jesus, and whose life parallels his. The following scene shows The Peoples Front of Judea questioning what the Romans have actually done for them.
This scene sums up party politics perfectly.
Dead Parrot Sketch
Arguably, the most famous Monty Python sketch, the Dead Parrot Sketch, alternatively and originally known as the Pet Shop Sketch or Parrot Sketch, is a sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It was written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman and initially performed in the show’s first series, in the eighth episode (“Full Frontal Nudity,” which first aired 7 December 1969). The sketch portrays a conflict between disgruntled customer Mr Praline (played by Cleese) and a shopkeeper (Michael Palin), who hold contradictory positions on the vital state of a “Norwegian Blue” parrot. It pokes fun at the many euphemisms for death used in British culture.
This is another sketch that is hilariously funny.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979, also known as Life of Brian) is a satirical film by the Monty Python comedy troupe about a man who is born at the same time as (and next door to) Jesus, and whose life parallels his. In the film, when Michael Palin, as Pontius Pilate, was daring his guards to laugh about Biggus Dickus’ name, he really was daring them. The people playing the soldiers were told not to laugh during the scene but were not told what Palin would be doing or saying.
This is my all-time favourite Monty Python sketch. Who doesn’t love a good dick joke?