• The taunting French guard from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. (EMI FIlms)Source: EMI FIlms
Fans love sharing the joy of Monty Python by incessantly quoting classic lines, but telling someone you “fart in their general direction” isn’t always appreciated.
Rob Hunter

20 Dec 2017 - 12:28 PM  UPDATED 25 Mar 2021 - 2:34 PM

Put these tips to good use when SBS gets extremely silly on Saturday 11 January and celebrates Monty Python in a silly double bill.

Among fellow enthusiasts, quoting beloved movie and TV lines is a great way to bond and make new friends by acknowledging shared interests. Unfortunately, it is also a great way to infuriate people who do not enjoy the source material or have no idea what you are talking about. For example, repeatedly saying “Ni!” makes total sense to a Python fan, but to those unfamiliar with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it definitely seems like an odd thing to say and is likely to create apprehension during a conversation, date or job interview.

Obscurity is of particular concern when quoting Monty Python, whose films are unquestionably popular, but remain somewhat niche in comparison to movies and TV shows that have become embedded in wider pop culture. Tell someone that “life is like a box of chocolates” and they will more than likely have some idea what you are referring to. In contrast, refer to people as a “cheesy lot of second-hand electric donkey-bottom biters”, and you are likely to be greeted with blank stares and potentially some annoyed individuals who don’t appreciate the nuance of your comments. As such, there is an inherent risk involved when quoting Monty Python that is greater than when quoting more well-known sources.

Fortunately, some simple tips can help determine whether quoting Monty Python is the right thing to do or whether it is going to enrage everyone in your immediate vicinity.


1. Note your surroundings and audience

Suggesting someone’s mother was a hamster and their father smelled of elderberries may seem like the correct thing to say, but there are scenarios in which quoting Monty Python is simply not appropriate.

If you are at a party with like-minded friends, quoting Monty Python is perfectly acceptable. Yet if you work as a mortician, yelling, “Bring out yer dead!” is not the best way to console a grieving family. (Realistically, it isn’t even in the top 5.)

Take note of your environment and respect that not everyone likes Monty Python, trying your best to ignore how wrong this opinion is.


2. Start with something unassuming

If you are unsure of someone’s knowledge and feelings towards Python, start by mentioning something inconspicuous that could potentially make sense whether people are familiar with the source material or not.

Something simple like suggesting somebody is “a very naughty boy” may be a good start, as working “fishy, fishy, fishy, fish!” organically into conversation can be difficult.


3. Observe people’s reactions

Judging a person’s interests based on their appearance can be presumptuous, but if every time you quote Monty Python, people scowl, roll their eyes or appear to be assembling some sort of angry mob wielding pitchforks, it may be best to shut up.

(That being said, a violent incident may set up the perfect scenario to insist your injuries are “merely a flesh wound” as you smile to yourself and pray for the beating to stop.)

For many people, quoting movies and TV forms a disturbingly large part of the modern conversational arsenal. For some, without The Simpsons and Seinfeld, there would be hardly anything left worth saying! But though an Associate Member of the British Royal Society of Medicine has noted that frequent quoting from movies can be a sign of sociopathy, for most of us quoting things is a simple pleasure that brings joy to many.

It also arguably provides a valuable service. For instance, without The Simpsons and its incessantly quoting fans, the world would be far less aware that purple is a fruit and that you don’t win friends with salad. Monty Python fans further this grand quoting tradition, ensuring people are mindful that witches are made of wood and cheese-makers are truly the most blessed people on Earth.

Still, it can definitely be annoying to hear people say “Ni” repeatedly and not everyone appreciates being told they are “empty-headed animal food trough water. Therefore, when it comes to quoting Monty Python, and other classic films and TV, being selective in choosing your audience is the best approach. (Although if you find yourself unable to quote The Simpsons with an enthusiastic response, it is time to find better friends.)

Now you understand the etiquette... 



Watch 'Monty Python's The Meaning of Life'

Wednesday 24 March, 10:55pm on SBS / Friday 2 April, 9:30pm on SBS World Movies
NOTE: No catch-up at SBS On Demand

UK, 1983
Genre: Comedy
Language: English
Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Starring: Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin

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