Monty Python at 40
As the Flying Circus celebrates its anniversary, The Daily Beast recalls their funniest routines. WATCH VIDEO of the Dead Parrot sketch, The Ministry of Silly Walks, and more.
The Dead Parrot Sketch
This classic sketch from 1969 features John Cleese and Michael Palin arguing over whether a recently purchased pet parrot is, in fact, deceased, or merely “pining for the fjords.”
This skit tweaks the British Trade Descriptions Act of 1968, which requiresd manufacturers to describe the contents of their products to prevent misleading customers. Because what could possibly be misleading about a candy called Crunchy Frog?
The Ministry of Silly Walks
By 1970, John Cleese had perfected his physical shtick, which is on fine display in his turn as a civil servant with a very special skill set.
The Lumberjack Song
It is nearly impossible to get this song, from the 1982 Live at the Hollywood Bowl concert special, out of your head after hearing it.
Upper Class Twit of the Year
This hilarious Flying Circus sketch features John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Graham Chapman in a series of competitions only the Pythons could devise.
The Spanish Inquisition
Before he was making films like Brazil, The Fisher King, and the upcoming Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Terry Gilliam was the lone American Python, best remembered for his role as Cardinal Fang, one of the hapless inquisitors no one expects in this recurring sketch.
Ever wonder how a processed meat product became synonymous with unwanted email clogging up your inbox? You can thank this sketch, from 1970, which features a group of Vikings enthusiastically singing the praises of the canned meat, much to the chagrin of their fellow diners.
Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink
Yet another sketch to influence the English language, you can thank this sketch the next time you say “nudge nudge, wink wink” to mean, well, you know.
The Argument Clinic
It’s hard to say what’s funnier about this segment from 1972, the sketch itself or the ending, which is typically surreal. (No it isn’t.)
The Funniest Joke in the World
When it comes to Monty Python, it’s very easy to imagine a joke so funny it could kill, as is the premise in this sketch from their 1971 movie And Now For Something Completely Different.
The Idiot in the Rural Society
What makes John Cleese such a vibrant comedian is his ability to transition from upper class, genteel man to, well, the gibbering rube he plays in this sketch.
The Piranha Brothers
In May, The Daily Beast asked Craig Ferguson to name his 10 favorite comedy moments. His Python pick was The Piranha Brothers sketch. “When Spiny Norman, the giant hedgehog, goes looking for the Dimsdale brothers in Monty Python. Spiny Norman was an oversize cartoon hedgehog who was looking for the notorious Dimsdale brothers (a parody of the Kray brothers in the East End in the ’60s). It was the first time I remember peeing myself laughing. I was a kid; I was kind of allowed to watch Monty Python, but I kind of wasn’t allowed to watch it. The rules were fairly lax, and we watched Spiny Norman shouting “Dimsdale!” all over the place. You kind of have to see it. It’s an exercise in surrealism, I suppose.”
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