If a homicidal maniac comes at you with a banana, shoot him. If you don't have a gun, run for it.
OR pull the lever that will release a 16-ton weight on the adversary.
OR release the tiger.
On its own it's just a one-dimensional joke, but the pure insanity of the self-defense instructor (played by John Cleese) kicks the whole thing Up to Eleven.
The random, persistent appearances of bit characters in the entire episode of "Face The Press", starting with the ever-increasing line of similar-looking delivery men, and ending with the Minister of Silly Walks himself just casually walking through the insanity of the Piranha Gang sketch on his way to work.
Not to mention that it had to be translated one word at a time by different experts. One translator accidentally saw two words and had to spend many weeks in the hospital.
Or Tommies shown running through a battlefield shouting its German translation: "WENN IS DAS NUNSTRUCK GIT UN SLOTERMEYER? JA! BIEHERHUND DAS ODER DIE FLIPPERWALDT GERSPUT!"
The Mouse Problem, a thinly-disguised criticism of society's views on homosexuality during the late 60s ...
... especially funny considering a behind-the-scenes event that happened later, which combined Crowning Moment of Funny with Moment Of Awesome. A woman sent a letter to the BBC saying that she heard one of the Pythons was gay and that whoever it was should be put to death. Graham Chapman was in fact a homosexual, but — depending on who's telling the story — either John Cleese (because he wanted to leave the show anyway) or Eric Idle (who just thought the whole thing hilarious) anonymously wrote back to the woman assuring her quite solemnly that the gay Python had been unmasked and duly stoned to death. Cleese then, of course, failed to appear in the next series. The woman's reaction to this is unknown.
"You're a very silly man and I'm not going to interview you."
The "Storytime" sketch. "Discipline? Naked? With a melon?"
The Burglar sketch, in which Eric Idle tells a housewife that he'd like to enter her house and steal a few things; she remains suspicious that he's actually selling encyclopaedias, but finally agrees to let him in. Sure enough, as he begins taking things from her shelves and putting them in his jacket, he muses, "Mind you, I don't know whether you've really considered the advantages of owning a really fine set of modern encyclopaedias!"
The famous Lumberjack Song! "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay! I sleep all night, I work all day! ... I cut down trees, I wear high heels, suspendies and a bra. I wish I've been a girlie, just like my dear mama!" (It's not until And Now for Something Completely Different that it's changed to 'dear papa'.) "Ooooh, Bevis! And I thought you were so rugged!"
"Dear Sir, I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about the song which you have just broadcast, about the lumberjack who wears women's clothes. Many of my best friends are lumberjacks and only a few of them are transvestites. Yours faithfully, Brigadier Sir Charles Arthur Strong (Mrs). P.S. I have never kissed the editor of the Radio Times."
How Not to Be Seen. Particularly when one person doesn't fall for the Schmuck Bait of being told to stand up, and when a person is hiding behind one of three trees which they blow up one at a time until they find her. The combination of Deadpan Snarker and Captain Obvious in the announcer is utterly hilarious.
The moment when Graham Chapman "improvises" his telephone hangup in the Flying Lesson sketch, as well as his disgusted reaction to the idea that his client wants to fly in an aeroplane rather than simply jumping off a table to fly.
"'Oh, oh, no more buttered scones for me, mater. I'm off to play the groohnd piano'. 'Pardon me while I fly my aeyroplane.' NOW GET ON THE TABLE!"
Eric: I had to get up at 10 o clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed.
The 1979 Secret Policeman's Ball version, with Rowan Atkinson as the guest Yorkshireman, is the best, partly because of the pacing and the quality of the performances, but also because the director keeps returning to Cleese's reaction throughout: he becomes more and more stony-faced as the others' tales of woe become more and more outrageous, until he finally sits forward, says "Right -", and proceeds to top them all with the most terrifying childhood misery story in the history of the sketch, delivered with the trademark Cleese intensity. Terry Jones is corpsing so much that he has to hide his face.
The charity version with Vic Reeves, Harry Enfield, Eddie Izzard and Alan Rickman (!) at the Secret Policeman's Ball is also worth mentioning.
The "Deja Vu" sketch. Particularly when the It's The Mind host, after rushing out of the studio only to mysteriously appear back inside, screams at the camera and rushes out again.
The Argument Clinic, particularly Graham Chapman in the "Abuse Department" and the quite silly "Getting Hit on the Head lessons". Which is followed in "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" by this.
The "crunchy frog" sketch, which may be J.K. Rowling's inspiration for the chocolate frogs of Harry Potter (At the very least, it is the source of Cockroach Clusters, another candy in HP).
"He doesn't know when he's beaten, this boy, he doesn't know when he's winning either! He doesn't have any sort of sensory apparatus!"
"And Oliver has run himself over [with a car]!"..."Oliver is still dead, but he's not necessarily out of it!"
"My GOD, this is exciting!"
"The jump of a lifetime, if only his father could understand!"
The episodes with an actual story (three times, all in all) can be this. The Cycling Tour of North Cornwall and its recurring gag "The pump got caught in m'trouser leg" is an underappreciated highlight. Then there's Mr. Gulliver's invention of a tomato which ejects itself just before a crash.
[tomato jumps out of Gulliver's glove box and through the car window] Pither: Here!! That tomato's just ejected itself! Gulliver: Really? It works! It works!![CRASH]
Larry: We don't seem to be doin' anythin' illegal! Boss: What d'you mean? Larry: Well, we're payin' for the watch. Boss: Yeah? Larry: Well, why're we payin' for the watch? Boss:(snorts) They wouldn't give it to us if we didn't pay for it, would they?
Drop your panties, Sir William! I cannot wait until lunchtime!
Silly voices at the police station. A guy walks into the station to file a burglary report, but the officers end up telling him to file his report in different vocal registers.
I'm sorry, I can't read this trope entry, sir. Can you try writing it in a higher register?
CAAAALLING ALL SQUAD CAAARS IN THE AAAAAREAAAAAA!
The Boxer Documentary sketch.
"Every morning, Ken wakes up at 3 o'clock...and then goes back to bed again because it's far too early."
From the German TV special, the Silly Olympics. Events include:
The 100 yards for people with no sense of direction; when the starter fires his pistol, the runners scatter in all directions.
The 1500 metres for the deaf; the starter fires his pistol repeatedly and screams at the top of his lungs, but the runners remain on the starting line.
The 200 metres freestyle for non-swimmers; the competitors dive into the pool... and don't re-surface.
The marathon for incontinents; as soon as the starter's pistol is fired, the runners bolt for the men's toilets en masse, and the lead keeps changing as, one at a time, they make a break for the nearest hedge to relieve themselves.
The high jump, a film of a stunt dummy being thrown off a balcony played in reverse.
The 3000 metres steeplechase for people who think they're chickens; a Canadian competitor has laid several eggs on one fence.
The Chemist sketch, interrupted by a speech from the censor and followed by the Less Naughty Chemist Sketch:
Chemist: Right, I've got some of your prescriptions here. Er... (looks at bottle) who's got the pox? (customers look embarrassed) Come on, who's got the pox?... Come ON! (one customer looks at the floor and raises his hand; the other customers recoil from him) Catch! (throws customer his prescription) Who's got... (looks at bottle) a boil on the bum? Boil on the botty? (throws prescription to second customer) Who's got the chest rash? (female customer raises her hand) Have to get a bigger bottle. Who's got... (looks at fourth bottle) who's got wind? (the other customers back away from the only one not to have raised his hand) Catch! (throws customer the bottle) (cut to screen reading "THE CHEMIST SKETCH - AN APOLOGY!") Announcer:The BBC would like to apologise for the poor quality of the writing in that sketch. It is not BBC policy to get easy laughs with words like "bum", "knickers", "botty", or "wee-wees".(audience laughter) SHH! (cut to presenter in front of screen) Presenter: These are the words which are not to be used again on this programme! (clicks through the words B*M - B*TTY - P*X - KN*CKERS - KN*CKERS - W**-W** - SEMPRINI) Young Woman:(walks on, confused) "Semprini"?? Presenter: OUT! (points off camera) (cut back to chemist's; the chemist exits the back room with another bottle) Chemist: Right, who's got a boil on his semprini, then? (a policeman exits the back room and hauls him away) (cut to "A LESS NAUGHTY CHEMIST'S", complete with a sign on the wall and a sign around the chemist's neck advertising this) Customer:(enters) Good morning. Chemist: Good morning, sir. Customer: Morning. I'd like some after shave, please. Chemist: Certainly, sir. Walk This Way, please. Customer: If I could walk that way, I wouldn't need after shave. (the chemist points accusingly at the customer; the constable appears again and carts him off)
Person #1 (inquiring how much time has elapsed): How long is it? Person #2: That's rather personal, isn't it?
"How to Recognise Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away". The sketch which caused a whole generation of people to chuckle to themselves any time larch trees were mentioned.
Number one - the Larch. The... Larch. And now... Number one - the Larch. The... Larch. (repeat, until) And now... Number three - the Larch.
"Conjuring Today": Good evening. Last week we learned how to saw a lady in half. This week we're going to learn how to saw a lady in three bits and dispose of the body-WHOA! (gets chased off by police)
Announcer: Yes! Whenever bicycles are broken, or menaced by International Communism, Bicycle Repair Man is ready! Ready to smash the communists, wipe them out, and shove them off the face of the earth!... (voice rises hysterically) Mash that dirty red scum, kick 'em in the teeth where it hurts! Kill! Kill! Kill! The filthy bastard commies, I hate 'em! I hate 'em! AAAUUUUUUURRRRGH! Announcer's Wife: Tea's ready! Announcer: (calming down immediately) Coming, dear! (exits, followed by the knight with the rubber chicken)
Military Fairy, an over-the-top camp sketch which features some "close-order swanning about".
The Butcher Shop sketch. Eric Idle and Michael Palin are wonderful! Also a great collection of creative British insults.
Confuse-A-Cat. Particularly Graham Chapman's 'reassuringly professional' vet from the opening scene. "Your cat is suffering from... something we vets don't have a word for yet."
"My husband, in common with a lot of people of his age, is fifty."
"Well that's, er, very interesting, because, er, I am, in fact, made entirely of wood."
"I think there should be more race prejudice." (slapped) "Less!" "Less race prejudice."
The incredibly short sketch about the man and the police inspector - so short it's almost not a sketch, just a naturalistic exploration of the concept of Straight Gay:
Man: Inspector? I'm terribly sorry but I was sitting on a park bench over there, took my coat off for a minute and then I found my wallet had been stolen and £15 taken from it. Inspector: Well did you er, did you see anyone take it, anyone hanging around or... Man: No no, there was no one there at all. That's the trouble. Inspector: Well there's not very much we can do about that, sir. Man: [Awkward pause, quietly] Do you want to come back to my place? Inspector: ...Yeah, alright.
The interview with Sir Edward Ross, which becomes a bit too friendly; the host first calls him Edward, then Ted, then Eddie-baby:
Host: I didn't really call you Eddie-baby, did I, sweetie? Ross: Don't call me sweetie!! Host: Can I call you sugar plum? Ross: No! Host: Pussy cat? Ross: No. Host: Angel-drawers? Ross: No you may not! Now get on with it! Host: Can I call you 'Frank'? Ross: Why Frank? Host: It's a nice name. Robin Day's got a hedgehog called Frank. Ross: What is going on? Host: Frannie, little Frannie, Frannie Knickers...
The would-be introduction of Harry Fink:
Compère: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Refreshment Room here at Bletchley. My name is Kenny Lust and I'm your compère for tonight. You know, once in a while it is my pleasure, and my privilege, to welcome here at the Refreshment Room, some of the truly great international artists of our time. And tonight we have one such artist. Ladies and gentlemen, someone whom I've always personally admired, perhaps more deeply, more strongly, more abjectly than ever before. A man, well more than a man, a god, a great god, whose personality is so totally and utterly wonderful my feeble words of welcome sound wretchedly and pathetically inadequate. (by now on his knees) Someone whose boots I would gladly lick clean until holes wore through my tongue, a man who is so totally and utterly wonderful, that I would rather be sealed in a pit of my own filth, than dare tread on the same stage with him. Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparably superior human being, Harry Fink! Outside voice: He couldn't come! Compère:(standing up) Never mind, it's not all it's cracked up to be.
"The Fish Slapping Dance" is perhaps the perfect distillation of the random insanity that is Python, all in a convenient, easily-digested package.
Emboldened by his Spirit Advisor, Arthur Pewtey attempts to invoke Heroic Resolve and get his wife back from the Marriage Guidance Counsellor currently shagging her in the next room:
Southerner: Now you go back in there, my son, and be a man. Walk tall. [Exits] Arthur Pewtey: Yes, I will. I will. I've been pushed around long enough! This is it. This is your monent Arthur Pewtey - this is it, Arthur Pewtey! At last, you're a man! [He opens the door very determinedly and goes back into the room.] Arthur Pewtey: All right, Deirdre, come out of there! Counsellor: [From behind screen] Go away. Arthur Pewtey: Right. [leaves]
The "Blackmail" sketch on its own is nothing special writing-wise, but something about the voice Michael Palin uses for the Smarmy Host character just so completely sells it that you're hard-pressed not to laugh.
Every appearance of Graham Chapman's Colonel character reprimanding the show, especially:
Now, I've noticed a tendency for this program to get rather silly. Now I do my best to keep things moving along, but I'm not having things getting silly. Those last two sketches I did got very silly indeed. And that last one about the beds was even sillier. Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do, except perhaps my wife and some of her friends. Oh yes, and Captain Johnson. Come to think of it, most people like a good laugh more than I do, but that's beside the point.
A quiet evening at home for two competitive dancers:
Chapman (in a ballroom dress): George? Jones (in a tuxedo): Yes Gladys? Chapman: There's a man at the door with a mustache. Jones: Tell him I've already got one. (Chapman slaps him around with a newspaper)
During one of their many fake BBC continuity links, with Palin and Jones as announcers:
Palin: Well, it's five past 9, and nearly time for six past 9. On BBC2 now it'll shortly be six-and-a-half minutes past 9. Later on this evening it will be 10:00, and at 10:30 we'll be joining BBC2 in time for 10:33. And don't forget tomorrow, when it'll be 9:20. Those of you who missed 8:45 on Friday will be able to see it again this Friday at a quarter to 9. Now, here is a time check: It's six-and-a-half minutes to the big green thing. Jones: You're a loony. Palin: I get so bored, I get so bloody bored!
Mr Verity:(after Mr Lambert has put a paper bag on his head because the customer said "mattress") Did you say "mattress"? Customer: Well, a little, yes... Mr Verity: I did ask you not to say "mattress", didn't I? Now I've got to stand in the tea chest. (drags a tea chest onto screen, climbs into it and starts singing 'Jerusalem' at the top of his lungs)
A talk show host decides to "ask the man in the street what he thinks".
Woman in Street:(seductively) I am not a man, you silly billy. Man on Roof:(pours himself some tea from a thermos, then sees camera) I'm not in the street, you fairy! Man in Street: Well, uh, speaking as a man in the street- (gets run over by car) WAAGH!
Host: But the real question remains. What is the solution, if any, to this problem? What can we do? What am I saying? Why am I sitting in this chair? Why am I on this programme? And what am I going to say next? Here to answer this is a professional cricketer. Cricketer: I can say nothing at this point. Host: Well, you were wrong.
"All you have to do is... Spot the Looney!" Plenty of classic moments in this sketch:
A panel of three guests is introduced - Gurt Svensson, a man dressed only in a green loincloth and green socks standing on his head (which is wrapped in orange cloth) and sporting the word "EGGS" on his stomach; Dame Elsie Occluded, a woman sticking out of the side of a block of concrete (with her feet sticking out another side perpendicular to her body) dressed in a green wig, flying goggles and gloves, and fairy wings; and Miles Yellow-Bird-Up-High-In-Banana-Tree, a man in a rabbit costume with a megaphone strapped to his eye. The phone on the presenter's desk rings; he answers it, chuckles, and congratulates the caller on having spotted that the entire panel are loonies.
The presenter tells the viewers they are about to see photos of golfer Tony Jacklin, then-Chancellor Anthony Barber, author Edgar Allan Poe, TV presenter Katie Boyle, former Chancellor Reginald Maudling, and a looney. The screen cuts to a photograph of Anthony Barber... and a viewer immediately phones in.
Having instructed the viewers to wait until all of the photos are shown (in order: Barber, Boyle, Poe, a looney in a red wig and comedy glasses with the words "A LOONEY" written on his chest, Maudling, Jacklin), the presenter confirms that the looney was indeed the second picture. He then has to issue a hasty correction that Katie Boyle is not a looney... she is a television personality.
The completely bonkers Ivanhoe "adaptation" (set in a modern butcher's shop with a "cast" comprising Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel (from the "Silly Election" sketch), a man in a bee costume jumping up and down on the counter, a man in a knee-length vest dancing with a side of beef, a man dressed as a carrot squawking "Pretty boy!", and a man in oilskins and waders flying back and forth on a stage rope)... and the revelation that, as correctly guessed by Mrs. L of Leicester, Mrs. B of Buxton, and Mrs. G of Gatwick, the looney was the writer, Sir Walter Scott.
(cut to an outraged Scott in his study) Walter Scott (Graham Chapman): I didn't write that! Sounds more like Dickens! (cut to Dickens in HIS study) Charles Dickens (Terry Jones): You bastard!
The "Biggles Dictates a Letter" sketch, especially Biggles' argument with his secretary.
Biggles: No, no, no, you loopy brothel inmate. Secretary: I've had enough of this. I am not a courtesan. Biggles: Oh, oh, 'courtesan', oh aren't we grand. Harlot's not good enough for us eh? Paramour, concubine, fille de joie. That's what we are not. Well listen to me my fine fellow, you are a bit of tail, that's what you are. Secretary: I am not, you demented fictional character. Biggles: Algy says you are. He says you're no better than you should be. Secretary: And how would he know? Biggles: And just what do you mean by that? Are you calling my old fictional comrade-in-arms a fairy? Secretary: Fairy! Poof's not good enough for Algy, is it? He's got to be a bleedin' fairy. Mincing old RAF queen.