• Michael Palin and John Cleese in the 'Dead Parrot' sketch. (SBS)Source: SBS
A definitive list.
By
SBS Guide

26 Feb 2019 - 9:10 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2019 - 9:16 AM

The iconic sketch show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, aired from 1969 to 1974, spawning a whole host of classic Python bits that are still quoted (sometimes irritatingly) today. But which ones are the absolute best?

Well, we'll tell you...

 

‘Hell’s Grannies’

The handbags are full to the brim, heavily ready to attack “fit, defenceless young men”. The gangs of old ladies pose a real and terrifying threat. Why do these “senile delinquents” do it? As they boast, they love “the prestige, mainly”. Check your calendar before you go out. Pension days are the worst!      

 

‘Self-defence against Fresh Fruit’

We contend this is the only time in the history of comedy that the phrase “bunch of loganberries” has been uttered in a sketch. Come to think of it, so too “when your assailant lunges at you with a passionfruit…” and “banana fiend”.

 

‘Ministry of Silly Walks’

Michael Palin’s inability to walk sillily only enhances John Cleese’s uncanny ability to manipulate his extra-long limbs in the most joint-defying movements forward, sideways, upward and around. This sketch cannot not be funny. 

 

‘Nudge Nudge’

There’s no doubt Monty Python inspired generations of comics. Was Ricky Gervais one of them? In this sketch, when Eric Idle says in the third person, “He asked him knowingly” to an increasingly disgruntled Terry Jones, it puts one in mind of the way the UK’s The Office boss, David Brent commandeers the conversation with the Inside Paper journalist (Olivia Colman, The Favourite) who’s come to interview him. “Brent mused…” and “David quipped…” are just the beginning.

 

‘Dead Parrot’

Question: how many different ways are there to describe a parrot as dead? Deceased, demised, passed on, no more, ceased to be, expired, gone to see its maker, bereft of life? There are many more besides, as insistently listed by Cleese as the disgruntled consumer. 

 

‘The Lumberjack song’

While here, Palin’s barber tears off his bloodied coat to break into The Lumberjack song, in their first film, And Now For Something Completely Different (1971), the song emerges from the Dead Parrot sketch. In both versions, the wannabe lumberjack yearns to “leap from tree to tree” and for the “smell of fresh-cut timber” and “buttered scones for tea”. Diehard fans will know that the Flying Circus lyrics of the song changed from “I wish I’d been a girlie, just like my dear Mama” to “Papa” for the film version and “rugged” became “butch”.

 

‘Spam’

The glut of Spam in Britain after the Second World War apparently inspired this sketch in which a café patron wants to order anything but. For relevance to the modern day, some reckon that the word “spam”, as the unsolicited email-related noun and verb we know it today, may have been inspired by Monty Python.

 

‘Merchant Banker’

The inclusion of this sketch on the list may surprise some fans, but its timeliness was too good to resist. “Mr Victim” says it all, really. And this sketch segues nicely to… 

 

‘Upper Class Twit of the Year’

Cleese as commentator is genius, and generous when he praises a contestant’s “absolutely expert coordination between mind and body”. Save your lung power for major guffaws at the removal of the bras scene.

 

If your favourite sketch is not here and you’re utterly outraged by all or any of the above, check out full episodes of Flying Circus at SBS On Demand - or watch it on Fridays at 7:20 pm on SBS VICELAND...

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