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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What’s your favorite Monty Python bit?

The first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was broadcast 40 years ago this month — though the boys’ official site insists it’s the 400th anniversary. In honor of the occasion, the cable network IFC is this week airing a new six-part documentary, Monty Python: Almost the Truth: The Lawyer’s Cut. (I don’t get IFC and no one offered me a review copy, so I haven’t seen it.)

Seems like a good excuse to ask: What’s your favorite Monty Python bit?

It’s a tough choice for me, but I think my favorite might be the “Working Class Playwright” sketch, which features such wonderful lines as “There’s nowt wrong with gala luncheons!” and “There’s more to life than culture!”

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Althea

    Dead Parrot, hands down.

  • LaSargenta

    The chartered accountant who wants to become a lion tamer.

    (But, for second place, there’s a four-way tie: The cheese shop, the lumberjack song, the tennis match between the blancmange and the scotsman, and The Argument Department. )

  • bitchen frizzy

    So hard to choose…

    The Ministry of Silly Walks.

    The skit with the line, “My brain hurts!”

    All of the bits with the knight wielding a dead chicken.

  • Grinebiter

    The Philosophers’ Football Match.

  • No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  • Brian

    I’ve always liked the Summarize Proust contest . . . not to mention “Scott of the Sahara.”

  • Guido

    Paraphrased from my memory of a TV show pet trick skit:

    “What does your pet do, sir?”

    “My cat, Tibbles, will fly across the room and land in a pail of water.”

    “Your cat flies?”

    “No, I fling her.”

  • oooh tough one! Dead Parrot, of course, but then, I also love:

    the two housewives/charwomen who set off across the channel to settle an argument about the philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre and meet up with Mrs. Sartre who says he’s “all moody” again!

    The proper Englishmen being turned into (horrors!) Scotman with the ultimate tennis match…

    “I want to fly an aeoroplane!”

    pretty much all of them — even some of the ones I don’t understand.

  • Jim Paradis

    The Lumberjack Song — in German!

  • LaSargenta

    “I’ll have YOUR spam, if you like.”

  • Brian


  • Ken

    Coal mining is a wonderful thing, MaryAnn, but it’s something that you’ll never understand!

  • Ken

    I think mine might have to be the Bruces’ Philosopher’s Song. I probably wouldn’t have said that a year ago, but it’s such a perfect song.

  • Hank Graham

    The Red Indian in the Theatre
    (which also has the punchline to Crunchy Frog in it)

  • Grinebiter

    @Ken: Might I ask what changed your mind in the last year?

    IMHO it’s almost a perfect song, but not quite. The way they use Socrates/pissed twice really grates on me. I think they should have ended it with Descartes.

    Hmm, maybe if Herself ever decides to retire, in view of her stated hobbies we could make a Critics’ Song, with a line about how MaryAnn will be missed — a lovely little critic, but…..

    (hides under the bed)

  • MaryAnn

    Hey, I’m a lotta fun when I’m pissed… in the British sense meaning drunk, anyway.

  • Grinebiter

    I offer you a new tagline, then: “A lovely little critic, but a fun girl when I’m pissed”. :-)

  • A good fan… an obsessive, quote-dropping, trout-slapping, tea-splashing, granny-fighting fan… is hard-pressed to choose just one favorite… so I am forced to present a list in no particular order:

    1) Confuse-a-Cat
    2) Epilogue (the existence of God to be determined in a wrestling match)
    U) Bicycle Repairman!
    Lambda) Rogue Cheddar
    9) Haircutter/Lumberjack segue
    Attila) Hamlet “So it’s the sex, is it?” running gag
    12.76733) Court scene/Spanish Inquisition finale
    3) Confuse-a-Cat (see, it’s working!)
    10) Blackmail
    Ulm) Election Night Special (Silly Party wins)

    And there you have it, the existence of God by two falls to a submission.

  • Joanne

    The whole beginning segment of Holy Grail – the coconuts, the swallow, “bring out your dead!”, and of course the Frenchmen in the castle. I once showed the beginning of that film to a class of French teenagers, subtitled, and they failed to laugh once. They didn’t even laugh at the coconuts. I was appalled.

  • Paul

    “Oh, your father’s writers cramp!”

    Actually, my favorite part of Monty Python is listening to my younger brother recite the entire script to “Search for the Holy Grail.”

    I have to admit, most of my knowledge of MP comes from their movies, but I did enjoy the Philosopher’s Soccor, the Dead Parrot, and a skit about British soldiers in Africa pretending not to mind horrible injuries. But my favorite skits are from the movies, such as Life of Brian:

    “What have the Romans done for us?”

    Roads, public sanation, safe to walk the streets at night, aquaduct . . .

    And the part where a Roman soldier finds Brian painting “Romans go home” on a wall and instead of arresting him corrects the grammar and makes him write it a 100 times.

    And the stoning scene in which a bunch of male actors are pretending to be women pretending to be men so they can throw stones at criminals.

    And “Search for the Holy Grail”:

    “Let me face the peril.”
    “No, it’s too perilous.”

    And having to use the Holy Hand Granade against the Killer Rabbit.

    And the heroes being followed by the police for the bloody trial they leave behind.

  • Kathy A

    What, no love for Upper Class Twit of the Year? That’s my favorite! Although “Confuse a Cat” runs a close second.

    And I’d have to really think to come up with a favorite Gilliam bit–maybe the Scotland Yardie and his uniformed minion searching through a person’s insides for the bad guy who’s hiding somewhere in the intestines.

  • John

    Deja Vu.

  • Hmmm…dead parrot for sure. (He’s pining for the fjords!)

    MAJ, you need to move to a FIOS area. It is cruel and unusual punishment for you to be forced to live without IFC and BBC America. Not cool.

  • mortadella

    The Bishop!

  • the rook

    personally, i’d like to see more fairy stories about police.

    and more cannibal sailors.

  • Bill

    “You see, a virus is what we doctors call very, very small.”

    It’s impossible to pick just one. But a tiger…in Africa? Perfection.

  • bobbi A

    Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore – dum dum dum

  • Patti H.

    You picked my absolute favorite, MaryAnn.

    “Poncing down from Barnsley!”

    But my first MP memory was of Hell’s Grannies. Sometime after the debut of the show in Britain, they introduced sketches on Dean Martin’s variety show. It blew my teenage Anglophilic mind away!

    (Philosopher’s Song gets high marks too!)

  • Kim

    Oooh, how to choose? I too love the beginning to Holy Grail – especially John Cleese’s angry frenchman. But, I think my very favourite bit is in Life of Brian when Brian is standing at his window talking to the crowds gathered outside and he says “you are all individuals” and the whole crowd repeats en masse “yes, we are all individuals”, except for that bloke at the front who pipes up “I’m not!”. Love it!

  • “Fish License” which finishes with my favourite Monty Python song: “Eric the Half a Bee”. Can’t be beat. I used to be able to perform it, too, as both John Cleese and Michael Palin.

  • I love the first two MP movies too but I think MaryAnn’s question refers to a sketch on the original show.

    I agree with a lot of the sketches that have been mentioned so far (the Spanish Inquisition, the Scotsmen from Space, The Dead Parrot Sketch) but I can’t believe that no one has yet to pick my personal favorite: The Dull Life of a City Stockbroker. It’s one of the first MP sketches to play on commercial TV–and how they managed that, I’ll never know–plus it’s such an obvious inspiration for Shaun of the Dead. (Well, that and the zombie movies, of course.)

    I’m also partial to the deja vu/it’s in the mind sketch–especially the ending.

    *Cue John Paul Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March” *

    I’m also partial to the deja vu/it’s in the mind sketch–especially the ending.

    *Cue John Paul Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March” *

    I’m also partial to the deja vu/it’s in the mind sketch–especially the ending.

    *Cue John Paul Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March” *

  • Grinebiter

    @Kim: Isn’t it
    “You are all different!”
    “We are all different!”
    “I’m not different!”

    (Nice bit of self-referential paradox you got there, guv, pity if anything wuz to happen to it, know what I mean)

    @Tonio: Never occurred to me before, but I think you’re right about Dull Life and Shaun of the Dead.

  • Toddly Doright

    Intercourse the penguin!

  • Ken


    I certainly never disliked the sketch, but it wasn’t my favorite. I think what made it jump up recently was that I never thought about in depth as much as I had recently (which was prompted by my re-reading of some of my old philosophy books from college)

  • Rosalyn

    Ministry of Silly Walks. Appeals to the evil bureaucrat in me.

  • bats :[

    Is she a goer? Nudge nudge wink wink say no more…

  • bitchen frizzy

    I forgot about Nudge, Nudge. That’s a good one!

  • LaSargenta

    I watched a bunch of the old sketches at lunch. Maaaaan. I still love the chartered accountant who wanted to be a lion tameer (“I’ve got the hat!”); but, seriously, how can any of us really choose an absolute favorite?

    :-D I wouldn’t part with any of them! (And I wish they had done more!)

  • Ah, the Nudge, Nudge sketch.

    I’d say more but I’d probably give away the best part.

    I also like the theme from The Money Programme.

    “You can keep your Marxist ways,
    but it’s only just a phase”

    Indeed. And to think they wrote that one long before Reaganomics and today’s econobabble.*

    * Hey, I coined a new word.

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