"One of the things we tried to do with the show was to try and do something that was so unpredictable that it had no shape and you could never say what the kind of humor was. And I think that the fact that 'Pythonesque' is now a word in the Oxford English Dictionary shows the extent to which we failed."
— Terry Jones at the US Comedy Arts Festival, 1998
And Now For Something Completely Different... It's...Monty Python's Flying Circus is a British sketch comedy television series featuring the comedy troupe Monty Python that originally aired on the BBC from 1969 to 1974. The success of its uniquely surreal lunacy has also generated four spinoff films to date, each featuring the same troupe in multiple roles before and behind the camera.In its native country the show is considered by many to be the best British television program ever made, with the Pythons themselves regarded as essentially The Beatles of comedy (John Lennon and George Harrison were in fact huge fans, and Ringo Starr made a brief cameo in one episode). Monty Python invaded America with rebroadcasts on local PBS stations, two ABC late-night specials in 1975 and a 1988 video release. They found a relatively small but devoted and appreciative audience stateside and influenced many American sketch comedy series over the years. On either side of the Atlantic, the show is now so firmly entrenched in pop-culture that quoting a line from almost any sketch or one of the films triggers either a hail of quotes or a chorus of groans.The show became so popular abroad that in 1971 and 1972 the Pythons produced two special episodes for West German and Austrian television under the title Monty Pythons fliegender Zirkus at the Bavaria studios in Munich. The first was done in German (memorized phonetically as none of them spoke the language), the second in English, and consisted mostly of material not seen before (although there is a German version of the Lumberjack song). An English-language motion picture, And Now for Something Completely Different, featuring remakes of many sketches from the series, was released while the series was still on the air.After their original run ended, the Python troupe made besides their own films many more in various non-Python-related collaborations, and all its members went on to continued success in film, television and other media. However Monty Python, as a troupe, disbanded upon the death of member Graham Chapman (Though fans often consider any film with two or more members of the troupe in it as a Python film despite this).As noted above, the show's seemingly random but actually highly sophisticated humour has spawned its own adjective — Pythonesque. Anything can happen during any given sketch, and usually does. Sketches end without punchlines, or the Pythons sometimes just stop mid-sketch and declare it all to be "too silly". Although the Pythons weren't the first to use these methods, they made them into an art form: postmodern, self-referential comedy, punctuated by Gilliam's absurdist animations and starring a whole lot of odd men in drag.Thanks for some of the description go to Monty Python's Completely Useless Web Site, which has loads of current information on the cast, clips, and a supply of original scripts.Vote on your favorite sketch here!
Four Yorkshiremen (Which was not written for MPFC, but was instead created for At Last The 1948 Show, in which Cleese and Chapman starred along with future Goodie Tim Brooke-Taylor and Young Frankenstein's Marty Feldman. Its use in other Python stuff has led to many attributing it mistakenly to Python.)
Lumberjack Song ("I put on women's clothing and hang around in bars... I wish I'd been a girlie, just like my dear Mamma!")
Military Fairy (Whoops! I've got your number ducky. You couldn't afford me dear. two, three)
Nudge Nudge ("Know what I mean? Know what I mean?")
Exploding Penguin Sketch ("BURMA!")
Self-Defense Against Fresh Fruit ("No point-ed stick?" "SHUT UP.")
Spanish Inquisition ("NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!")
Spam ("Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, LOVELY SPAM!! WONDERFUL SPAM!! LOVELY SPAM!! WONDERFUL SPAM!!"): Yes, Monty Python unwittingly inspired the current usage of the word spam in terms of e-mail!
Sergeant Major (Marching up and down the square... alone.)
The Ministry of Silly Walks ("It's not particularly silly, is it? I mean, the right leg isn't silly at all and the left leg merely does a forward aerial half turn every alternate step.")
The Colonel (Would appear in the middle of a sketch, declare it to be silly, and tell everyone to leave. "I've noticed a tendency for this program to get rather silly.")
The knight with a chicken, similar to the Colonel, would appear at random times and smack someone over the head with it. One of the most genius things about this is that although it was a running gag, they avoided overusing it, and therefore made it last quite some time.
Undertaker/Cannibalism Sketch (So controversial, the BBC only barely allowed it to air.)
How Not To Be Seen. If you have not seen the sketch, can you stand up, please. Boom Head Shot! This demonstrates the importance of watching the sketch, which demonstrates the importance of not being seen.
The BBC would like to apologize for the following tropes:
Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: Gentlemen, our MP saw the PM this AM, and the PM wants more LSD from the PIB by tomorrow AM or PM at the latest. I told the PM's PPS that AM was NBG so tomorrow PM it is for the PM nem. con. note Gentlemen, our Member of Parliament saw the Prime Minister this morning, and the Prime Minister wants more money (£sd refers to the old British monetary system) from the Projected Inventory Balance by tomorrow morning or afternoon at the latest. I told the Prime Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary that morning was no bloody good so tomorrow afternoon it is for the Prime Minister nemine contradicente (Latin meaning we all agree).
"The Dentist Sketch" featured a man held at gunpoint by an evil dentist, who is then disarmed and both are held by another evil dentist with a gun, followed by another evil dentist with a sub-machine gun, and another evil dentist with a bazooka. The whole lot of them are surprised by the appearance of "the Big Cheese", who intends to put them all "under the drill".
A literal example occurs in one of the animations, when the victim of the Fish Slapping Dance is eaten by a German fish that apparently doubles as a submarine. That fish is then eaten by a larger British fish, and then that fish is eaten by an even larger Chinese fish.
Ambiguously Gay: Mr. & Mrs. & Mrs. Zambizi are a woman (Mrs. Zambizi) married to either a transvestite man, or another woman who occasionally acts like a man (Mr. & Mrs. Zambizi).
And Starring: "The Buzz Aldrin Show" has a fake credits sequence for a detective feature called "The Bishop" that includes "AND INTRODUCING F. B. GRIMSBY URQHART-WRIGHT AS THE VOICE OF GOD".
Appeal to Nature: The owner of the Whizzo Chocolate Company takes pride in his company's policy of using only natural ingredients in their chocolate, like raw, boned, baby frogs, lamb's bladder and lark's vomit. Suggesting that "Crunchy Frog" contains a mock frog like an almond whirl is a Berserk Button for him. Which becomes Blatant Lies when he comments that lark's vomit is in the ingredients list, right after monosodium glutamate.
Arbitrary Skepticism: Played for laughs; John Cleese's policeman is quite happy to believe in the existence of tennis playing blancmanges, but refuses to believe that five people could play mixed doubles.
Aren't You Going to Arrest Me?: The incompetent smuggler gets frustrated when the customs official isn't going to arrest him, and he eventually gets taken away for causing a disturbance rather than smuggling.
Argument Of Contradictions: In the "Argument Clinic" sketch, a man goes to the eponymous clinic for an argument, but all he receives is negation - which is to say, this.
Man: An argument isn't just contradiction.
Mr Vibrating: It can be.
Man: No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.
Man: Yes it is! It's not just contradiction.
Mr Vibrating: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
Man: Yes, but that's not just saying 'No it isn't.'
Artistic License - Animal Care: According to the "Fish Club" sketch, goldfish have a ravenous appetite and eat sausages, spring greens, gazpacho, bread and gravy.
Announcer:(with text on screen) "The RSPCA wishes it to be known that that man was not a bona-fide animal lover, and also that goldfish do not eat sausages." Fish Club Man: Treacle tart! Announcer: Shut up! "They are quite happy with bread crumbs, ants' eggs and—" (text shows "and the occasional pheasant" crossed out) Who wrote that?!
Artistic License - Economics: Dennis Moore tries to alleviate poverty by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, but his first attempt involves stealing lupins (a type of flower); after he is told lupins are worthless and to steal valuable things, he does such a good job that he bankrupts the aristocrats, and makes a peasant family wealthy. And then the poor family complain when he can only bring them what's left of what originally belonged to the rich (mostly silverware).
Dennis Moore: "Blimey, this redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought."
Aside Glance: The cast members regularly did this, usually to express their disbelief with the situation.
The only way the BBC would air the Undertaker sketch would be if the audience booed during the offensive bits and stormed the set after the final line ("We'll eat your mum, and then if you feel a bit guilty about it afterward, we can dig a grave and you can throw up in it!")
Bad Liar: In the Customs sketch, a smuggler has a suitcase full of Swiss watches.
Bait-and-Switch Credits: Several examples once the Pythons were established enough to start subverting not just sketch comedy tropes, but the very structure of television programmes.
Episode 25 begins with fake titles and credits for a historical epic called The Black Eagle (purportedly based on a book by Rafael Sabatini), whose opening scene is interrupted by the realTitle Sequence. The scene nevertheless goes on for long enough that early audiences were probably scrambling for the week's Radio Times, wondering if there had been another of the last-minute schedule changes to which Python was often subjected.
Episode 39 took this still further by opening with the Thames TV ident and a fake continuity link delivered by actual Thames continuity presenter David Hamilton, perhaps fooling early viewers into thinking their television was tuned to the wrong station until Hamilton announced, "But right now, here's a rotten old BBC programme!"
Battle Strip: In "Scott of the Sahara", Ensign Oates stripped all his clothes off as he fights the giant electric penguin.
Don't mention anything about dirty forks in one particular restaurant.
You have to say 'dog kennel' to Mr. Lambert, because if you say 'mattress', he puts a paper bag over his head. So, for example, one asks to see the dog kennels.
Yes, pet's department, second floor.
If the button is pressed, you must sing "Jerusalem" a cappella to snap him out of it. While standing in a tea chest.
"It's NOT A BALLOON!" - Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin
Don't reject the designs of Mr. Wiggin of Ironside & Malone:
Wiggin: Yes, well, of course, this is just the sort of blinkered, philistine pig-ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage. You sit there on your loathsome, spotty behinds squeezing blackheads, not caring a tinker's cuss about the struggling artist! You excrement! You lousy, hypocritical, whining toadies with your lousy colour TV sets and your Tony Jacklin golf clubs and your bleeding masonic handshakes! You wouldn't let me join, would you, you blackballing bastards! Well, I wouldn't become a Freemason now if you went down on your lousy, stinking, purulent knees and BEGGED me!
Bilingual Bonus: Like other Monty Python works, Flying Circus has a few moments for those who know other languages. The Chinese that John Cleese recites at the beginning of the "Conquistador Coffee" sketch, for example, translates "This is my friend Fu Chen Chang. My name is Gao; what's your name?" Especially awesome in this case, because "gao" is Chinese for "tall", which Cleese most certainly is.
Billy Elliot Plot: Inverted in one sketch; instead of a coal mining father with black lung disapproving of his son going into theater, it's a playwright father with writer's cramp disapproving of his son working in the coal mines.
Blackmail: The eponymous gameshow in the eponymous sketch. Compromising footage of people has been obtained by the producers, the footage covering the whole gamut of embarrassment potential from evidence of homosexuality to evidence of multiple child sex offences. If the subject doesn't pay a significant amount of money, relevant parties such as spouses and the police will be informed. "That's £3000 for us not to reveal what happened, the names of the three other people involved, the youth organisation to which they belonged, and the shop where you bought the equipment."
Mr. Anemone, the flying man is not hanging from the ceiling on a clearly visible wire. And he is not committing Implausible Deniability when he has to break a hoop that he flips over himself to prove that's he's not on a wire.
The smuggler who is trying to sneak Swiss watches and clocks in his luggage can't tell a convincing lie to save his life, his lies get more and more outrageous as the customs officer toys with him; then his "vest" goes off.
There's nothing going on in the book-shop. Just ask the gun-wielding mobster.
Bowdlerise: Bowdlerisation ruined the "Summarize Proust" sketch by cutting out the marginally offensive part of a punchline (future versions changed it to a shoddily spliced version which simply cut the offending word instead of the whole exchange):
MC: What are your hobbies, outside summarizing?
Contestant: Well, strangling animals, golf, and masturbating.
Blowing a Raspberry: Napoleon Bonaparte in a sketch about a man with people living in his stomach.
Boisterous Bruiser: John Cleese is most definitely this out of the group, being not only the tallest, but also the loudest and most intimidating of them all, as seen in the "Self-Defence Against Fresh Fruit" and "Dirty Fork" sketches.
Brick Joke: Many sketches were referred to later during the same episode, sometimes even later episodes. And like the original brick joke, many earlier scenes started making sense only later on.
A notable example is "The Larch" sketch in "How to Recognize Different Types of Tree from Quite a Long Way Away", where the present shows the audience a picture of a larch over and over again. This is repeated over the course of the show, and seems to serve no purpose until the end credits, when one of the trees in the background is, indeed, a larch.
And then seven episodes later, in the middle of the "Vocational Guidance Counselor" sketch, the counselor says "Time enough I think for a piece of wood." Cut to: The Larch.
In the "Killer Sheep" sketch, a ratcatcher jokes that he's from a committee that's selected the flat as the venue of a cricket match. Later in the sketch, a cricket team shows up. Then another...
Bury Your Gays: Why Biggles killed Algy, and the Prejudice sketch with "Shoot the Poof".
Butt Monkey: If the Pythons ever needed to drop a name, regardless of connotations, it tended to be "Maudling"; Reginald Maudling was a notable MP who faced a lot of scandal in his later career.
Buxom Is Better: Who won the first prize in "All England Summarizing Proust Competition"? The girl with the biggest tits. And she didn't even have to summarize anything.
Calvinball: The game show It's a Living: "The rules are very simple: each week we get a large fee; at the end of that week we get another large fee; if there's been no interruption at the end of the year we get a repeat fee which can be added on for tax purposes to the previous year or the following year if there's no new series."
Camp Gay: A frequent source of humor in the show's early days, something about which Terry Jones later expressed regret. It has to be said that Graham Chapman was a real life Straight Gay who hated this stereotype and preferred parodying it to playing it straight (so to speak). Also, when Graham first came out, Barry Took advised the team that the worst thing they could do was to stop making gay jokes.
Mr. Pither from "Cycling Tour" just doesn't understand that no-one is interested in his cycling tour. The most egregious case is a couple who are arguing over their relationship problems: his interference leads to the woman dumping the man; the man throws him out of the restaurant, which he just shrugs off; and when he passes the woman who is crying her eyes out, he comments that he had a "chat with her dad" before taking off.
Also, Ron Obvious (who, oddly enough, is not a Captain Obvious, despite his name). He never notices that his agent is trying to get him to do crazy stunts, despite his increasingly massive injuries, until he finally dies from one of them. Which the agent tries to claim is another stunt.
Cliffhanger Copout: In "Cycling Tour", Mr. Pither and Mr. Gulliver find themselves in Soviet Russia facing a firing squad, who after several failed attempts at shooting Mr. Pither, attach bayonets to their guns, and try to run them through. We don't get to see how they escape, instead we get a caption noting a missing scene, and then the two men appear back in Britain, safe and sound.
Clothes Make the Superman: Inverted in show 3 with a city populated by men dressed as Superman. Only one of them — F.G. Superman — is actually Bicycle Repair Man, who comes in to the rescue whenever a bicycle breaks down.
John Cleese: It was from such an unlikely beginning as an unwanted fungus accidentally growing on a sterile plate that Sir Alexander Fleming gave the world penicillin. James Watt watched an ordinary household kettle boiling and conceived the potentiality of steam power. Would Albert Einstein ever have hit upon the Theory of Relativity if he hadn't been clever? All of these tremendous leaps forward have been taken in the dark; would Rutherford ever have split the atom if he hadn't tried? Could Marconi have invented the radio if he hadn't by pure chance spent years working at the problem? Are these amazing breakthroughs ever achieved except by years and years of unlimiting study? Of course not. What I said earlier about accidental discoveries must have been wrong.
The 'Science Fiction' sketch features a woman going to the police after seeing a blancmange on the tennis courts. The desk sergeant is more interested in the fact that she was playing mixed doubles with five people.
Constantly Curious: Arthur Lemming in the dentist sketch is a man who gets caught in the middle of an unraveling conspiracy of evil dentists, and he occasionally asks one of the evil dentists what is going on. The end of the sketch reveals that Lemming is a dentist from the British Dental Association who was spying on them.
Corpsing: The very best example comes from the "Penguin On The Television" scene. Graham Chapman's exclamation of "Oh, intercourse the penguin!" is clearly an ad lib. How can you tell? John Cleese obviously trying to stifle his laughter and get back in character...
One episode's closing credits, right after the "Irving C. Saltzberg" sketch, gave every name the "X C. Y-berg" treatment (Graham C. Chapmanberg, Eric C. Idleberg, etc.)
The episode with the "Spam" sketch put everyone's names in menu items (with Spam, of course).
The "Blood, Devastation, Death, War & Horror" episode had a Fun With AnagramsRunning Gag, and the closing credits had the Python members in anagrams (Rice Lied, Torn Jersey, etc.), as well as the crew's titles.
One episode ended with the BBC going bankrupt and having everything taped in a small household (until everyone got kicked out); the closing credits were handwritten on sheets of paper.
One episode featured a callback to a sketch set in a dirty book shop by including suggestive advertising copy or nicknames in the names of each cast and crew member (Michael "Bulky" Palin, Eric Idle (Actual Size - Batteries Extra), etc.).
One episode ended with an inept hijacker who had appeared in several sketches reading the credits aloud as the theme music played in the background; he began with "The show was conceived, written, and performed by... the usual lot."
Of particular note is the episode "The Golden Age of Ballooning", where the closing credits ran about halfway through the show.
The next episode, "Michael Ellis", went one step further. The end credits ran immediately after the Title Sequence. That is, less than 30 seconds into the show.
The episode that started with the "Summarize Proust Competition" sketch rolled the credits right after that sketch.
After the credits roll in the How Not to be Seen episode a BBC announcer states that the episode would be replayed for those that missed it. After the entire episode is indeed replayed in a highly compressed format, the credits are allowed to roll for a second time.
At the end of the episode "Whicker's World", following the "Whicker Island" sketch, had every name with "Whicker" included (John Cleese Whicker, Graham Whicker Chapman, Alan Michael Palin Whicker, etc.)
Crosscast Role: All the Pythons dress up as women at least once. Terry Jones and Graham Chapman specialized in squeaky-voiced elderly ratbags, whereas Michael Palin and Eric Idle portrayed rather convincing middle-aged women, and John Cleese and Terry Gilliam were simply bizarre.
Subverted in the "Piranha Brothers" sketch. So used are we at this point to seeing the Pythons as women that it comes as a bit of a shock when John Cleese, playing a gangster's moll, announces: "Dinsdale was a gentleman. And what's more, he knew how to treat a female impersonator".
Frequent contributor Carol Cleveland, who was dubbed Carol Cleavage by the team, remarked that whenever they had written something for a female character that they thought was funny, they'd almost invariably play that character themselves, whereas if they gave it to her... well, she called herself the "glamour stooge".
Cultural Translation: A few sketches were redone by the German comedy duo of Harald Juhnke and Eddi Arent. The one sketch about the difficult book shop customer gets a justification tacked on: Because the salesman's mother owns the shop and has threatened him that she'll disinherit him and give the shop to his brother if he doesn't manage to sell at least one book — that's the explanation why he puts up with the customer neither being able to pay for the book nor to read it. And the famous "Dead Parrot" sketch becomes... brace yourself... upped to eleven (this was probably the intention) with the dead parrot replaced by a plush parrot. And at the end, when the customer points out that the "parrot" he bought is "just a toy", the salesman states philosophically "Aren't we all but God's toys, somehow?", turning around and revealing that he's a wind-up android.
Decoy Protagonist: Turned Up to Eleven with "Up Your Pavement", which starts by elaborately introducing two cheerful hoboes who then immediately get run over by crime fighter Alex Diamond, who suffers from lumbago which is treated by Dr Koning, whose doorbell was above Rear Admiral De Vere, whose daughter helped uncover the secrets of the Royal Arsenal Women's College, which is being spied on by Len Hanky, hen-teaser; then the sketch is briefly going to be about the chairman of Fiat before being derailed via a hurricane of Decoy Protagonists until it ends up being about RAF fighter pilots.
Scotsman: There's a bomb on board this plane, and I'll tell you where it is for £1,000. Co-pilot: I don't believe you. Scotsman: If you don't tell me where the bomb is... if I don't give you the money... Unless you give me the bomb— Flight Attendant: The money? Scotsman: — the money, thank you, pretty lady — the bomb will explode, killing everybody. Co-pilot: Including you. (beat) Scotsman: I'll tell you where it is for a pound.
John Cleese is a masked bank robber who realises too late that he's robbing a lingerie shop:
Robber: Well, um ... what have you got? Assistant: [politely] Er, we've got corsets, stockings, suspender belts, tights, bras, slips, petticoats, knickers, socks and garters, sir. Robber: Fine, fine, fine, fine. No large piles of money in safes? Assistant: No, sir. Robber: No deposit accounts? Assistant: No sir. Robber: No piles of cash in easy to carry bags? Assistant: None at all, sir. Robber: No luncheon vouchers? Assistant: No, sir. Robber: Fine, fine. Well, um... adopt, adapt and improve. Just a pair of knickers then please.
Didn't We Use This Joke Already?: In episode 2 an announcer says, "And now for something completely the same: a man with three buttocks," and gets a phone call pointing out that they did that already.
One sketch briefly mentions a man being investigated by the police for two years, convicted of not having a license for his car radio, for which he was subsequently hanged, "despite the prohibition of capital punishment, and a huge public outcry".
Don't Like, Don't Eat: In the "Spam" sketch, Mrs. Bun tries to order one of the spam-filled dishes with the spam removed, and argues with the waitress over it, despite there being two items on the menu with no spam in them, one of which was exactly what she was trying to order.
Double Vision: The "Kilimanjaro Expedition" sketch has Sir George Head OBE who suffered from double vision and keeps seeing two people in place of one, or four in the case of twins, including two of himself. At the end of the sketch, it turns out there are two George Heads, shown with one George Head on a Chroma Key screen superimposed next to the other one.
The Dreaded: The Piranha Brothers were feared gangsters, but Doug Piranha took the cake. Even Dinsdale Piranha, a man who strapped people to tanks and nailed their heads to the floor, was frightened of him.
Luigi Vercotti (terrified): I've seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug.
Epic Fail: In the "Election Night Special", Kevin Phillips-Bong of the Slighty Silly Party doesn't receive a single vote, or Pathetic Defeat.
Eureka Moment: In "the Olympic Hide-and-Seek Final", Francisco Huron has spent over 11 years looking for Don Roberts and is searching the Tagus Valley for him. He opens a garbage can and finds a sardine can, which not only clues him in to go to Sardinia, but to the exact spot where Don Roberts is hiding.
Everything Is an Instrument: The mouse organ, a set of mice trained to squeak at a selected pitch, arranged in a set of boxes from E# to G, that can squeak "the Bells of St. Mary's". They are played by striking them with mallets; not small felt covered mallets like you use for xylophones and such, large wooden meat tenderizers. The organist is dragged away with off-stage screams of "Oh my God! Stop him!"
Plus the penguins who are smarter than BBC programme planners.
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: One sketch involved a man trying to get the head of a bank to donate a pound to Orphans, with the banker being utterly mystified at the concept of charity.
Executive Meddling: The BBC got cold feet over some of the Pythons' humour. In the narration to one Gilliam animation they crudely replaced the word "cancer" with "gangrene"; in the "Summarize Proust Competition" they muted Chapman's reference to "masturbating"; and they would only allow the "Undertaker Sketch" to be recorded if some of the studio audience were seen protesting about it. Even so, the sketch was apparently cut from the master tape after transmission, and had to be reinserted from an NTSC copy. The "Quiz Show"/"Spot the Brain Cell" sketch was cut from BBC repeats for several years, but restored for DVD release.
Even worse was the show's treatment by ABC in the US, which involved cutting shows for timing and removing anything the network considered objectionable - which, the Pythons claimed, included almost everything that was funny. This led to a full-blown lawsuit between the Pythons and ABC, the ultimate result of which was the full reversion of copyrights to the Pythons' own company.
Some of the BBC's complaints stretched into downright paranoia. In the "New Brain from Curry's" sketch, a representative for the brain's delivery asks a Pepperpot to sign a fake leg; when the Pythons submitted the sketch for review, they were told to "cut the penis." The angle that Cleese held the leg into the doorway caused it to resemble an oversized Johnson.
Episode "A Book at Bedtime" originally opened with a "Party Political Broadcast" where a member of the Conservative and Unionist party breaks out into a choreographed dance as he gives his speech. This was removed from subsequent broadcasts for fear that it could be taken seriously.
The infamous "Wee-wee" sketch is one of only two filmed sketchesnote The other, one about an artist that makes a statue of Cleese only to give it an incredibly long nose, was cut for unknown reasons that have not only never aired but also failed to surface from the vaults. It revolved around a wine connoisseur being served urine by a French waiter and repeatedly believing he's drinking fine wine ("No, sir, zat is wee-wee."). The BBC didn't like it because one of the wine glasses was slightly rosé (pink), which they took to mean menstrual urine. Eric Idle protested, but the excuse was good enough for John Cleese who detested this sort of humor and managed to get the sketch canned for good.'
Terry Gilliam's animation for a "cartoon ministry" was cut short for repeat broadcastings due to a scene where Jesus was crucified on a telephone pole that was being repaired. Then the devil, an Alter Kocker Satan voiced by Idle, popped up out of a crack in the ground, turned into a bat, and flew off into the field of the next sketch (the famous "How Not to Be Seen" sketch). The animation has survived, albeit in lower quality, on YouTube.
Fan Disservice: Especially in the third season, with a nude organist playing a little fanfare before the opening titles.
Fanservice: The episode "How to Recognize Different Parts of the Body" started with a lineup of beautiful women in bikinis, leading to John Cleese and the It's Man, also in bikinis.
In the "Dull Life Of A City Stockbroker" sketch, a bare-breasted woman is one of the merchants.
Insurance agent Ron Devious sells a vicar a car insurance policy that includes a "free nude lady"; when the vicar leaves Devious' office, he takes with him a shopping trolley that has a naked girl sitting in it.
Subverted in a few cases. In "And now, a bit of fun," a busty blonde woman does a striptease, but the footage is sped up so fast it's very difficult to actually see anything. "Scott of the Sahara" has a topless Carol Cleveland running on a beach, but is only shown from behind.
This was Carol Cleveland's primary role for most of her appearances on the show.
Fictional Political Party: In the "Election Night Special" sketch, covering the 1970 UK General Election, all elections are mainly contested by two parties, the Sensible Party and the Silly Party; the Slightly Silly Party and Very Silly Party both vouch candidates in a few districts as well.
Fighting Irish: "Bookshop Sketch": 101 Ways to Start a Fight by "an Irish gentleman whose name eludes me."
Professor: Our only clue is this portion of wolf's clothing which the killer sheep-
Random Viking:-WAS WEARING-
Professor: -in yesterday's raid on Selfridges.
Random Vikings appeared in a few sketches.
Presenter: What is the attitude-
Random Viking: -of the man in the street towards-
Presenter: -this growing social phenomenon?
Forgot to Pay the Bill: In one episode the BBC runs out of money, and the gas and heat get turned off in the flat they use as their studio.
Freudian Excuse: After "Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days", a fake apology appears, stating that the creators "all come from broken homes and have very unhappy personal lives, especially Eric."
Freudian Slippery Slope: "Good evening. I'd like to talk to you tonight about the place of the nude in my bed... um... in the history of my bed — of art, of art! I'm sorry. The place of the nude in the history of tart — call girl — I'm sorry, I'll start again. (pauses, takes deep breath)Bum. Oh, what a giveaway, I'm sorry... the place of the nude in art..."
Freud Was Right:invoked An actor playing Hamlet is depressed because he is bored with life and wants to become a private dick (detective), hoping to get fame, money, glamour, excitement, and sex; all the psychiatrists and other people around him jump on the "sex" part.
Going Down with the Ship: The S.S. Mother Goose, the captain is on the intercom announcing that women and children are to get on the lifeboats first. Inside the cabin, the crew is dressing up like women and children, but they run out of costumes and some of the crew dress up as other things to avoid their fate.
Captain: "This is your captain speaking, do not rush to the life boats, women, children, Red Indians, spacemen and sort of idealized versions of the complete Renaissance man first."
Gory Discretion Shot: In the "Explorer's Sketch", four explorers are dining at a jungle restaurant when it is attacked, but we don't get to see the attack; we are told by an announcer that it was very gory, and due to the unsuitability of the scene, we are shown a clip from "Ken Russell's Gardening Club (1958)", which instead of gorn, is porn.
Groin Attack: A nun kicks a policeman in the groin and Inspector Leopard knees a policeman in the 'nads.
Hair Trigger Sound Effect: : For the love of god, whatever you do, don't say anything about the fact that you're not expecting the Spanish Inquisition. *DRAMATIC STING* Goes even further, as it is accompanied by the Spanish Inquisition.
Happiness Is Mandatory: The fairy-tale kingdom of Happy Valley. The subjects were always happy all the time because, by royal decree, anyone who wasn't happy would be put to death. One subject whose wife had just died is seen being arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to hang by the neck until he cheers up.
Hates Small Talk: "Vocational Guidance Counsellor" sketch has this exchange between Palin and Cleese (no prizes for guessing who plays what):
Counsellor: Ah, Mr Anchovy! Do sit down. Mr Anchovy: Thank you. Take the weight off the feet, eh? Lovely weather for the time of year I must say! Counsellor: Enough of this gay banter.
Hey, That's My Line!: In the "Explorer's Sketch" at the British Explorer's Club, "Our Hero" approaches the counter and asks the porter if there's been word from Betty Bailey's expedition; the actor playing the porter hasn't rehearsed, and starts reading the wrong lines from the script, getting the response from the explorer.
Hidden Depths: The Pepperpots. Despite supposedly being squeaky voiced caricatures of lower middle class housewives; they always show an enormous amount of knowledge of history, philosophy and art (One sketch concerned an argument about the real meaning of Jean Paul Sartre's work; apparently they were on first name terms with his wife).
The Highway Man: Dennis Moore is the, ehm, botanical version of this. He gets it right later on, though.
Hurricane of Euphemisms: Arguably the Trope Codifier. According to John Cleese, the Parrot Sketch was partly inspired by a thesaurus' list of synonyms for "died": "He's not pining, he's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! He's expired and gone to meet his maker! He's a stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed him to the perch he'd be pushing up the daisies! His metabolic processes are now history! He's off the twig! He's kicked the bucket, he's shuffled off his mortal coil, rung down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!"
Hypocritical Humor: Shows up constantly, though none more so in the Argument Clinic sketch where the actors in said sketch are accused of taking part in a sketch with intent of inflicting grievous mental confusion. It's later lampshaded when the policeman who comes in to arrest them for this is himself arrested for the same crime.
This was almost averted since Michael Palin's original idea was to call it "Gwen Dibley's Flying Circus" after a neighbor of his named Gwen Dibley, because, he reasoned, wouldn't it be great to give someone their own TV show without them knowing about it?
Played with in the 30th Anniversary Special, when Idle presents a mock biography of the non-existent Mr. Python.
Further played with in the playbills for Spamalot, which include a small bio for Monty Python in the "Cast & Crew Bios" section. The bio presents him as a faceless Man Behind the Man who secretly runs the troupe from the shadows, but admits outright that nobody knows if he even exists.
I Ate What?: A sketch where someone thought they were tasting wine, but was actually "wee-wee", was nixed by the BBC.
I Hear Them Too: Mr. Notlob goes to a psychiatrist because he keeps hearing music (mostly folk songs) everywhere he goes; the psychiatrist starts talking about auditory hallucinations, and is startled when he hears "We're All Going to the Zoo Tomorrow".
Improbably Low IQ: BBC programme planners scored 8 on a standardized IQ test, at least they understand how ridiculously high that is.
Prof. Rosewall: The BBC programme planners' surprisingly high total here can be explained away as being within the ordinary limits of statistical error. One particularly dim programme planner can cock the whole thing up. (Followed by superimposed title: "You can say that again!")
Improvised Platform: Described in the Lumberjack scene: "I always wanted... to be a lumberjack! Leaping from tree to tree, as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia!"
Incessant Music Madness: In the Cheese Shop sketch, when John Cleese's character enters, there are some guys playing Greek music and dancing. After several minutes of the annoying music in the background, he turns around and yells, "Will you shut that bloody dancing up!" and they stop playing.
Indestructible Edible: Mr. Gulliver from the Cycling Tour episode develops these. He made a cheese sandwich that can resist 4000 psi, and a tomato that predicts when it's going to be in an accident and jumps to safety.
Mr. Neutron is supposed to be the most powerful man in the universe, but the only super power we actually see on screen is transforming Mrs. S.C.U.M.'s outfit; otherwise he is seen doing totally mundane things like gardening and hanging wallpaper in a non-super powered way. The entire sketch becomes this when it reaches a cliffhanger, and an announcer tells us about how expensive and special effects filled the ending is, only for the show to end without showing any of these scenes.
Inverted in the same sketch with Teddy Salad, an ex-CIA agent whose claim to fame is disguise, and is the only man able to find Neutron; when we meet him, he is disguised as a sled dog, and he knows exactly where Neutron is.
Informed Obscenity: After a sketch filled with naughty words, Michael Palin appears to show us a list of words that will not be tolerated on the program. After a list of (decidedly British) dirty words, the word "Semprini" appears. A woman then comes on screen and says, "Semprini?" prompting Michael to throw her out.
I Thought Everyone Had Big Teeth: Martin Curry is a film director who makes films where every character has enormous teeth, this is because he has overly large teeth himself; and when asked by a normal toothed person about the dental appendages, he doesn't understand what's so odd. This is followed by several people with different abnormalities (man with large ears, man with large nose, man in drag) also thinking the film was weird, except for another person with big teeth who thought it was just fine.
It's Been Done: Mr L F Dibley is a director who keeps making films that other people have already done (If, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rear Window); he claims that they are ripping him off, and that those high budget movies were "rushed out" while his were still at the chemist's (i.e. being developed).
Jack-of-All-Trades: According to Eric Idle, out of the six regular Python members, Michael Palin has the most talent to be able to play the widest variety of characters out of them all, from the brainless Gumby to "manly" lumberjacks to boring civil servants to zealous Spanish inquisitors.
Jive Turkey: Parodied in the "RAF Banter" sketch; the chaps' banter has become so impenetrable that none of them can understand each other.
Bovril: Hold on then. [shouts] Wingco! Wingco: Yes? Bovril: Bend an ear to the Squadron Leader's banter for a sec, would you? Wingco: Can do. Bovril: Jolly good. Wingco: Fire away. Squadron Leader: [draws a deep breath and looks slightly uncertain, then starts even more deliberately than before] Bally Jerry...pranged his kite...right in how's yer father...hairy blighter...dicky-birdied...feathered back on his Sammy...took a waspy...flipped over on his Betty Harper's and caught his can in the Bertie... Wingco:...No, don't understand that banter at all.
Just Like Making Love: The Bruces claim that American beer is like making love in a canoe: it's fucking close to water. (From their "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" film)
Just Like Robin Hood: Parodied by Dennis Moore, who first makes the mistake of stealing only lupins from the rich to give to the poor, and then steals so much else from the rich that the rich become poor and the poor become the new rich.
Dennis Moore: This redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought.
Just Plane Wrong: As the BALPA spokesman points out. Except for the plane door that opens without any decompression or anything. Then there's the whole "landing on hay bales" thing.
Kangaroo Court: The court seen in the Njorl's Saga episode. When Njorl is brought to trial for promoting a London suburb during a BBC saga, there are several trumped up charges tacked on, the court only follows procedure because the press is watching, he's clearly the victim of Police Brutality, and the cop that testifies against him gets his stories mixed up and makes up a phony confession from Njorl.
Conservative MP: Well, I think they should attack the lower classes, first with bombs and rockets destroying their homes and then when they run helpless into the streets, mowing them down with machine guns. And then, of course, releasing the vultures. (beat) I know these views aren't popular, but I have never courted popularity.
Lampshade Hanging: And plenty of it. After each punchline in the Conquistador Coffee sketch, for example, the characters hold up a sign that says "JOKE".
Language Barrier: Oh, the poor tobacconist and the poor Hungarian, trapped in malicious trickster translation of a Hungarian-English phrasebook.
Large Ham: In-universe, John Cleese's padre in the First World War sketch... so much so that he is taken to a hospital for "Over-acting".
Larynx Dissonance: If any of them could do a convincing woman's voice, they certainly didn't try it, since it wouldn't be as funny. Except Idle, who did sound like a middle-aged woman and was even funnier for it.
Laughably Evil: Despite all the sting chords and maniacal cackling, the Spanish Inquisition can't even get their lines straight, let alone intimidate anyone.
Laugh Track: Parodied in the "Interesting People" sketch, the announcer had a switch which could turn on canned applause whenever he needed it.
Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The Pythons didn't think to get permission from DC Comics for using Superman as part of the "Bicycle Repair Man" sketch, and worried afterward. No lawsuit was forthcoming (possibly due to Fair Use by way of parody/satire, and because the sketch did no harm to the brand).
Also, SPAM. Hormel, the makers of Spam, didn't mind the use and even advertise their wonderful Spam using the Python Spam references.
Biggles (Graham Chapman): Courtesan? Oh, oh, aren't we grand? Harlot's not good enough for us, eh? Paramour, concubine, fille de joie, that's what we're not. Well, you listen to me, my fine fellow, you are a bit of tail.
Miss Bladder: I am not, you demented fictional character.
Biggles: Algy says you are. He says you're no better than you should be.
Miss Bladder: And how would Algy know?
Biggles: And just what did you mean by that? Are you calling my old fictional comrade-in-arms a fairy?
Miss Bladder: Fairy? Poof's not good enough for you. He's got to be a bleedin' fairy! Mincing old RAF queen!
Lights Off, Somebody Dies: "The Detective Sketch" has a police detective entering a house to investigate a murder, he sits down, the lights go out, a shot is heard, and when the lights come on, he's dead. A second policeman comes in to investigate the first's murder and want to recreate the crime, so he asks for the lights to be turned off, and he's shot.
Literal Ass Kissing: The Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook is available at Her Majesty's Stationary Office for the price of a kiss on the bum.
Logic Bomb: The Bruces' Rule 6 is "There is no rule 6".
Medium Realization starting at 4:23 of the "Argument Clinic".
There's also the Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things: "Good lord! I'm on film. How did that happen?"
In the sketch titled "The Silliest Sketch We've Ever Done", at the end the actors just stop, remark to each other that it's the silliest sketch they've ever done, call if off, and walk off the set.
The end of the phonograph record version of "The Piranha Brothers": "Sorry, squire, I scratched the record." *click* "Sorry, squire, I scratched the record." *click* "Sorry, squire..."
The opening of Monty Python's Previous Record ("NOT THIS RECORD!")
The end of the "Crunchy Frog" sketch:
Policeman: I shall have to ask you to accompany me to the station! Mr. Hilton: (Aside Glance) It's a fair cop... Policeman: And don't talk into the camera!
Medium Blending: Terry Gilliam's cartoon segments. There were even a few moments when the animation was split-screened with live-action scenes.
Gilliam himself appeared in one particular segment. He starts out by explaining how he usually does the animation, complete with a shot of his hands holding the animated cardboard characters, before realizing the segment is already running, at which point he himself appears on-screen to apologize.
Minion with an F in Evil: Cardinal Ximinez, head of the Spanish Inquisition, is not helped in his quest for legitimacy by subordinates Cardinal Biggles and Cardinal Fang.
Misplaced Wildlife: Became a problem for "Scott of the Antarctic" as the film was going to have Scott fight a lion, until it is pointed out there are no lions in the Antarctic. Instead of losing the lion, which was in the contract, they switch locations to the Sahara desert, where they have lions and giant electric penguins with green tentacles that sting people.
Mistaken for Badass: In the "Dentist Sketch", an evil dentist mistakes a tobacconist for an agent of the BDA, and pulls a gun on him; it's subverted at the end when said tobacconist reveals himself as Arthur Lemming, Special Investigator from the British Dental Association.
Mistaken for Gay: One sketch occurred at a wedding chapel, where a rather confused clerk kept misinterpreting his patrons' desires to get married; it ended with five men getting married to each other.
Mister Strangenoun: The show was littered with oddly named characters like Mr. Anchovy. Sketches about two women would have pairs of complementary names of this sort, such as Mrs. Thing and Mrs. Entity, Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion, or Mrs. Gorilla and Mrs. Nongorilla.
Mockumentary: John Cleese does a door-to-door TV documentarynote he has a cardboard cut-out of a TV that he stands behind so he can go door-to-door with his documentary on molluscs, at first it's a normal documentary, but the people are so bored he switches to talking about the sex life of molluscs, painting the whole phylum as the perverts of the animal kingdom.
" Tonight 'Spectrum' examines the whole question of frothing and falling, coughing and calling, screaming and bawling, walling and stalling, galling and mauling, palling and hauling, trawling and squalling and zalling. Zalling? Is there a word zalling? If there is what does it mean...if there isn't what does it mean? Perhaps both. Maybe neither. What do I mean by the word mean? What do I mean by the word word, what do I mean by what do I mean, what do I mean by do, and what do I do by mean? What do I do by do by do and what do I do by wasting your time like this? Goodnight."
Dinsdale Piranha is incredibly violent but his brother Doug is far more terrifying because he used...sarcasm.
Luigi Vercotti: [visibly shaken] He knew all the tricks — dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire.
The Matching Tie and Handkerchief featured an entire sketch of Mundane Made Awesome: file clerk Ralph Mellish goes to work and despite Michael Palin's awesomely dramatic narration and appropriately epic/sinister music, Mellish can't help noticing that there is no evidence whatsoever of any web of crime and intrigue which he might be drawn into, because there isn't one; his secretary doesn't notice any "tiny but tell-tale bloodstains" on his clothing, because there aren't any; Ralph doesn't end up in court because he hasn't done anything; in fact, precisely because nothing happened, Mellish doesn't end up "like all those who challenge the fundamental laws of our society: in an iron coffin with spikes on the inside."
Mr. and Mrs. Norris' Ford Popular, a day-long trip presented as an expedition looking for prehistoric migrations.
"Blood, Devastation, Death, War, and Horror" has a series of animals fighting (seal vs seal, limpet vs limpet, ant vs wolf, culminating in famous documentary filmmakers brawling) set to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
Newscaster Cameo: BBC anchor Richard Baker turns up in a few scenes, more than happy to go along with the gag in play.
Ninja Prop: A woman is being interviewed about a gangster, the woman is played by a man in drag. Women being played by men is common enough on the show that the audience would just think of this as the case here... right up until he says "... and what's more, he knew how to treat a female impersonator."
No Ending: Many, many sketches and shows end without a punchline, or any sort of resolution at all. Often by having The Colonel show up and disrupt things for being too silly. They are the essence of Surrealism.
John Cleese is also quite an accomplished shouter.
The Pepperpots, the waitress in the "Spam" sketch included.
No Kill Like Overkill: Hank and Roy Spim, who use machine guns, explosives and fighter jets to hunt tiny insects like flies and moths; and they relax by dynamite fishing, which is somewhat reasonable. They do it for sport.
Non Answer: "How to Do It" shows us how to play the flute and cure the world of all known diseases.
Nonindicative Name: "Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror" is a lighthearted chat show which features a man who speaks entirely in anagrams.
Host (Michael Palin): Hello, good evening, and welcome to another edition of Blood, Devastation, Death, War, and Horror. And later on we'll be meeting a man who actually doesgardening.
By contrast, "Ethel the Frog" is a very serious news magazine programme.
No Sense of Humor: The Colonel in episode 8 who stopped sketches for being "too silly":
"Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do... except perhaps my wife... and some of her friends... oh, yes, and Captain Johnston. Come to think of it, most people like a good laugh more than I do, but that's beside the point."
No Title: The "Showbiz Awards" episode makes no mention of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" at all; the "It's" intro goes straight into the "Showbiz Awards" opening, and the end credits are in the context of the wife-swapping competition.
Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Dinsdale Piranha thought he was being followed by a giant hedgehog, whom he referred to as "Spiny Norman"; at the end of the show, a giant hedgehog is lurking around London looking for Dinsdale.
The Nudifier: Scientists send probes across the galaxy to study shopping and women's underwear. The Algon-1 probe was the first piece of space hardware specifically designed to undress ladies.
Office Golf: "Party Political Broadcast" has a sketch in which a doctor practices his golf swing while his patient bleeds to death in his office.
Off the Chart: Mr. Frog's (S. Frog's [Shut up!]) sales campaign for Conquistador Coffee sends the sales graph plummeting through the horizonal axis and off the bottom of the page.
Old-Fashioned Copper: A favoured target of satire. Constable Pan-Am, from the ending of the Chemists sketch, for one.
Once for Yes, Twice for No: The sketch in which a coffin is called as a witness. In Pleasure at her Majesty's, the film of the first ever Amnesty International "Secret Policeman's Ball", the backstage footage shows Peter Cook (who stood in for Eric Idle as the defendant) pointing out to John Cleese (the defense counsel) that at one point he asked the coffin a question without a yes-or-no answer: "Mr. Aldridge, are you thinking or are you just dead?"
Oop North: Northern English stereotypes - turned on their ears, of course - figure quite prominently in several sketches.
In "Our Ken" from the Series 1 episode "Sex and Violence", Graham Chapman and Terry Jones play a seemingly typical working-class Northern couple whose RP-accented son Ken (Eric Idle) has returned to visit them, only to face his father's disapproval for his career path. However, the father turns out to be a successful London playwright (who has sudden attacks of writer's cramp), while Ken has defied him to work in the coal mines in Yorkshire.
The first "Spanish Inquisition" sketch opens when Graham Chapman delivers a line about "trouble at t' mill" in a heavy Northern accent to Carol Cleveland... only to have to repeat it several times to make himself understood. He ultimately drops the Northern accent and starts speaking in his normal RP accent, and finally admits he has no idea what the line means anyway.
Ron Vibbentrop: Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein! Oh. Ha ha. No, different other chap. I in Somerset am being born. Von Ribbentrop is born in Gotterdammerstrasse 46, Dusseldorf Vest 8... so they say!!note Von Ribbentrop was actully born in Wesel, just outside Dusseldorf.
The Other Darrin: A couple of times one of the actors was needed to play another character, and was replaced mid-sketch once their lines ran out:
In "Court Charades", the jury foreman (Palin) and the defendant (Jones) were also two members of the Spanish Inquisition. When the defendant says "I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition", the scene cuts to film of the Inquisition racing to the court house, and then cuts back to the studio when the Spanish Inquisition storms in; by which time the defendant has been replaced, and the foreman seems to have disappeared altogether.
In the "Father-In-Law" sketch, the father is played by Graham Chapman; when the sketch comes back as a link, he is replaced by Terry Gilliam.
On live stage productions, Eric Idle would sing the Lumberjack Song instead of Michael Palin.
Our Product Sucks: Used in the "Dentist Sketch"; an evil dentist was using a bookstore as a front and is waiting for an associate, so when a customer shows up, the dentist tries to convince him to go to another bookstore across the street.
The cream of the crop comes from the "Election Night" sketch (and the Very Silly Party):
Election Official: Malcolm Peter Brian Telescope Adrian Umbrella Stand Jasper Wednesday (pops mouth twice) Stoatgobbler John Raw Vegetable (sound of horse whinnying) Arthur Norman Michael (blows squeaker) Featherstone Smith (blows whistle) Northgot Edwards Harris (fires pistol, which goes 'whoop') Mason Chuffchuffchuff Frampton Jones Fruitbat Gilbert (sings) 'We'll keep a welcome in the' (three shots, stops singing) Williams If I Could Walk That Way Jenkin (squeaker) Tiger-drawers Pratt Thompson (sings) 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head' Darcy Carter (horn) Pussycat 'Don't Sleep In The Subway' Barton Mannering (hoot, 'whoop') Smithnote He received two votes, causing the Sensible Party to defeat the Silly Party by only one vote.
Overt Operative: Played with in the "Mr. Neutron" episode with Teddy Salad, a retired CIA agent who now breeds rabbits in the Yukon. When his services are needed, Captain Carpenter goes to the Yukon believing Salad would've maintained the secrecy of his old job, and says Teddy Salad is a ballet organizer (or a hen teaser), which confuses everyone as the only Teddy Salad they know of is the CIA man.
Pantomime Animal: Two pantomime horses fight over a job at a merchant bank, a pantomime goose kills Terence Rattigan, and the recurring pantomime Princess Margaret.
Biggles: Get back in the cupboard you pantomimetic royal person!
Pirate Parrot: Seen in several sketches, including one with Long John Silver impersonators playing football.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A gang of four desperate criminals form an elaborate plot to go into the British Jewellery Centre and... buy a watch. Lampshaded by one of them, who objects to the plan on the grounds that "We don't seem to be doing anything illegal."
Boss: Oh you dumb cluck! We spent weeks organising this job. Reg rented a room across the road and filmed the people going in and out every day. Vic spent three weeks looking at watch catalogues until he knew the price of each one backwards, and now I'm not going to risk the whole raid just for the sake of breaking the law.
One sketch is about the Olympic Hide-and-Seek finals.
One of the German specials features the Silly Olympics, an event held traditionally every 3.7 years, with events such as the 100-meter dash for people with no sense of direction, the 1500 meter dash for the deaf (who fail to go because they can't hear the starting gun), the freestyle swim race for people who can't swim ("we'll return to this event as soon as all the corpses are fished out") and the cross-country race for incontinents (who break away every five seconds to relieve themselves on the roadside).
A barber gives it all up to become a lumberjack. He has a hair phobia and he never really wanted to be a barber anyway.
A chartered accountant wants to pursue a career as a lion tamer, but he is discouraged from doing that by a vocation guidance counsellor, who says his aptitude test shows he's perfectly suited for a career in chartered accountancy. Sadly, his ideas about lions are also quite twisted.
Rail Enthusiast: Two appearances, first the "Camel Spotting" sketch (in which camels are numbered, just above the cylinder box) and a murder mystery that quickly devolves into an extended discussion of trivia about railway timetables, which it turns out was written by one Neville Shunt. In the latter case, the trainspotter is played by Michael Palin, who is one of these in Real Life (indeed, Palin's first travel documentary was "Confessions of a Trainspotter").
Reading Ahead in the Script: In several episodes characters would read the script to find out what was going on or what they (or another character) were supposed to do.
RecurringCharacters: Oddly enough, there are a few, including gangster Luigi Vercotti (Michael Palin) and Eric Praline (John Cleese) who attempts to buy a fish license, attempts to return a pet parrot for having died, and arrests Terry Jones for making disgusting confections. Palin also plays a number of smarmy television hosts who are quite similar.
Recurring Extra: In the first season a knight in armor would knock various characters over the head with a rubber chicken at least once in every episode.
Colonel: Watkins, you've only been in the army a day. Watkins: I know, sir, but people get killed, properly dead, sir, no barley cross fingers, sir. A bloke was telling me, if you're in the army and there's a war, you have to go and fight. Colonel: That's true. Watkins: Well I mean, blimey, I mean if it was a big war somebody could be hurt. Colonel: Watkins, why did you join the army? Watkins: For the water-skiing and for the travel, sir. And not for the killing, sir. I asked them to put it on my form, sir - no killing.
Renamed the Same: When Adolph Hitler hides out in Minehead as Adolph Hilter. His cronies Von Ribbentrop and Heinrich Himmler are similarly renamed Ron Vibbentrop and Heinrich Bimmler.
Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: In the "How Not to Be Seen" sketch, "When we called at their house, we found that they had gone away on two weeks' holiday... However, a neighbor told us where they were." (Blows them up.) "And here is the neighbor who told us where they were." (Blows him up.)
Ripped from the Headlines: The second half of the Architect Sketch, in which the model of proposed block of flats collapses and catches fire, is a reference to the then-recent controversy around the partial collapse of Ronan Point. Of course, the show promptly lampshades this with the word "SATIRE" flashing on screen in huge green letters.
Rule of Three: The Spanish Inquisition appeared three times, the Bishop theme was played (or at least started) three times, the "piston engine" gag was done three times in a row, and "Mr. Neutron" started with the post office commissioning a new postal box with a speech in English, French, and German.
Running Gag: Quite a few, the most well-known of which is probably, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" This particular gag subverts itself at the end of the episode, when it has become so routine for the Inquisition to appear when someone says they weren't expecting them that, well, everyone is expecting them to, but they're stuck in traffic so they can't arrive on cue.
Cafe Proprietor: 35 p please. Mr Pither: Ah... oh, I have only a fifty. You have change? Cafe Proprietor: Well, I'll have a look, but I may have to go to the bank. Mr Pither: I'm most awfully sorry.
Saw a Woman in Half: "Conjuring Today" tried to demonstrate it with a rather crazy-looking stage magician with a bloody saw.
Conjuror: 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 into three bits and dispose of the body-
Science Hero: The "Science Fiction Sketch" has Charles, the Chief Scientist at the Anthropological Research Institute at Butley Down, who is an expert on what makes a person change from one nationality to another, perfect for determining why people are turning into Scotsmen. Although he figures out the Blancmanges' nefarious plan to win Wimbledon, he has nothing to do with their defeat; instead they are (b)eaten by Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Brainsample.
Sdrawkcab Name: Notlob. First mentioned in the "Dead Parrot" sketch as the palindrome of Bolton, then a news reader says "Notlob" when he meant to say "Bolton", and later there was a Mr. Notlob who went to a psychiatrist when he heard folk music wherever he went.
Self-Deprecation: They got David Hamilton, who was working for Thames (a rival TV station) to dish out this beauty:
David Hamilton: Good evening. We've got an action-packed evening for you tonight on Thames, but right now here's a rotten old BBC programme.
Also, this bit, which also leans on the Fourth Wall:
Cleese (narrating): Number 29, the interior of a country house.
Cleese (on camera): That's not a part of the body.
Cleveland: No, it's a link, though.
Chapman: I don't think it was very good.
Cleese: No, it's the end of the series, they must be running out of ideas.
Separated by a Common Language: In Mr. Neutron, a American spy talks like this to a British spy; partially Justified in that they were in the Yukon and the British spy was dressed like an Eskimo, but he's already confirmed that he's not an Eskimo and speaks clear English. The American figures it out after a couple of lines of shouting broken English.
Serious Business: Alien Blancmanges travel 2,200,000 light years and turn everyone in England into Scotsmen to... win Wimbledon?
Sex Sells: The Soho Motors ad has hot women draped over cars, the announcer uses vague language, and at the end it becomes clear its an ad for an escort service disguised as a sexy car ad.
Shame If Something Happened: Used by Luigi and Dino Vercotti when they try the old protection racket bit on an Army base, insisting it would be a shame if someone were to set fire to the paratroopers; unfortunately for them, the colonel has an aversion to silly things and stops the sketch in its tracks.
Luigi: It's only because you couldn't think of a punch line. Colonel: Not true! Not true!
Shaped Like Itself: The Oxford Dictionary defines the word "pythonesque" as "after the style of or resembling the absurdist or surrealist humor of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a British television comedy series (1969–74)".
The "Confess!" segment of the Spanish Inquisition sketch is very similar to a scene in The Prisoner episode "Fall Out".
In "Silly Election", the exchange "What about the nylon dot cardigan and plastic mule rest? / There's no such thing! / Thank you, Spike!" is a direct Shout-Out to The Goon Show and its creator, Spike Milligan.
"The Bishop" is a very obvious lampoon of The Saint.
In the "Buying a Bed" sketch from Series 1, the two eccentric sales assistants played by Eric Idle and Graham Chapman are named Mr. Verity and Mr. Lambert.
Signature Style: In the early days, the team used to joke that you could tell who wrote any given sketch; any sketch involving Hurricane of Euphemisms or violent authoritarian figures was Cleese/Chapman, any sketch with large amounts of location filing was Jones/Palin and any sketch with a long monologue descending into gibberish was Idle.
Carol Cleveland, who was in more sketches than anyone else who wasn't a writer for the show.
Neil Innes can also make a claim for this title, given that he contributed much of the music for the shows and films and was an indispensable part of the troupe's stage shows.
Aside from Cleveland, the woman most frequently seen was Cleese's then-wife Connie Booth (she's the woman Michael Palin is holding in the Lumberjack Song). She'd be even more important to Fawlty Towers, which she co-wrote with Cleese and in which she played Polly.
Not to mention Eric's then-wife, Lyn Ashley, who was always credited solely as "Mrs Idle".
And then there's Ian Davidson, who made guest appearances in almost every episode of the first series.
Douglas Adams became Graham Chapman's writing partner after John Cleese left in the fourth series and was the only non-Python besides Neil Innes to get a writing credit on the show (for co-writing the "Patient Abuse" sketch). He also appeared in that and a few other sketches.
Small Reference Pools: Completely averted. To cite one of many examples: a joke from the very first episode requires the viewer not only to have heard of the painter Toulouse-Lautrec, but to be familiar enough with his disability to be able to identify a caricature of him by sight.
Stock Footage: One common gag involved cutting to stock footage of old women smiling approvingly and applauding in a music-hall theatre on the punchline of a sketch, often evoking dissonance by using it with Black Comedy sketches.
When Eric Idle gets fed up with the "Mary... Army Recruitment" sketch, Graham Chapman suggests a scene change; Eric stays the same when the recruitment office spontaneously changes to a bus.
Also used a lot in the "Confuse-a-Cat" sketch, among others.
Straight Gay: Graham Chapman, who passably played his share of aggressively heterosexual characters. In one sketch, he shoots another character for being gay.
Studio Audience: In the "Undertakers' Sketch", they rush the stage in mock indignation. Apparently, letting the audience react this way was a condition of the BBC letting them use the skit. The BBC agreed to let them do the sketch only if they made it clear that the studio audience disapproved of it. The Pythons responded by taking it Up to Eleven, having the audience loudly boo practically every joke and then rush the stage at the end. It was All Part of the Show, of course.
When shooting people just isn't enough in "How Not To Be Seen".
"Well, it's just after eight o'clock, and time for the penguin on top of your television set to explode."
Stupid Crooks: The "Non-Illegal Robbery" sketch is about a group of criminals who aren't even plotting anything that's criminal. Upon learning that their parking meter may have run out, they panic, planning to leave the country, get plastic surgery, and so forth. They are forced to abandon the plan when one of them points out that blowing up the building would be illegal.
Subliminal Advertising: Parodied in the Series 3 episode "Njorl's Saga". The title story receives emergency funding from the North Malden Icelandic Society, who proceed to derail it with advertising trying to persuade businesses to invest in Malden (a London suburb). At one point, during a fight scene in which the characters are carrying placards advertising the virtues of Malden for businesses, the words "INVEST IN MALDEN" flash on the screen repeatedly. At first, they only stay for a few frames, but each time they appear, they remain on screen for longer, until finally they flash on screen and stay there until a cut to the next sketch.
Subverted Kids Show: One called Storytime goes awry as the host (Eric Idle) realizes that all the cutesy stories in the book he's reading from are actually erotica, complete with illustrations (see Comic Sutra above).
Suffer The Slings: An impromptu one is made from underwear to fight a giant electric penguin.
Generally assume that a character named "Maudling" is one of these against Reginald Maudling, an MP who was embroiled in financial scandals. The Pythons make frequent mockery of him, though one sketch used him as a springboard to make a tremendous slam against Margaret Thatcher.
[Image shows a shin]Cleese: Number Twenty-three: the shin.
[Image shows Reginald Maudling]Cleese: Number Twenty-four: Reginald Maudling's shin. [An arrow points at his shin]
[Image shows a brain]Cleese: Number Twenty-five: the brain.
[Image shows Margaret Thatcher]Cleese: Number Twenty-six: Margaret Thatcher's brain. [An arrow points to her shin. Cue tremendous audience applause.]
One sketch involved a narcissistic actor named "Timmy Williams", played by Idle, who is constantly distracted in furthering his career from an old friend's desperate pleas for help, to the point where the friend shoots himself and Timmy takes it in stride. This is followed by credits for "The Timmy Williams Show", which - while written "entirely" by Williams - features a list of "contributors" that takes up several seconds, including Ralph Emerson, Burt Ancaster, and Monty Python. This is based largely off of the Python's experiences working with David Frost on The Frost Report.
The "Killer Joke" sketch refers to it as being 'over 60,000 times as powerful as Britain's great pre-war joke', which is narrated over footage of Neville Chamberlain holding up the Munich Agreement.
The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Used in the "Barber Sketch" where the barber leaves a recording of himself chatting with the customer, the deception was so good that it repeated a line when the customer said he didn't hear it.
Tap on the Head: The scientist to his female assistant during the Blancmange sketch.
John Cleese:You bastards! You vicious, heartless bastards! Look what you've done to him! He's worked his fingers to the bone to make this place what it is, and you come in with your petty, feeble quibbling and you grind him into the dirt! This fine, honorable man whose boots you are but worthy to kiss! (beat) Oh, it makes me mad.
"Look there's not really a great deal of point in your, sort of hanging on at your end, because I'm afraid there aren't any more jokes or anything."
Palin at the end of "Scott Of The Antarctic":
Well, that's about it for tonight, ladies and gentlemen. But remember, if you've enjoyed watching the show just half as much as we've enjoyed doing it, then we've enjoyed it twice as much as you!
Theme Tune: First movement of Sousa's "Liberty Bell", chosen as it is public domain, to save money. Nowadays, people know it as "The Monty Python Song", and as one of the references to British comedy present in Hogs Of War, the Monty Python version of the song (although rearranged) is the main theme of said game.
This Just In: Eric Idle plays a news anchor reporting on a jewel robbery and shows film of a possible witness, it's of him sitting at a news desk; the film then shows a cop appearing to arrest Film!Eric, while Real!Eric gets a news flash handed to him, saying that the person of interest has been taken in for questioning. Film!Eric comes back as Real!Eric gets another bulletin saying the first person was not the one they were looking for, but has given them another lead, the cop appears in studio and takes Real!Eric into custody. Film!Eric then says that they've received word that the man is now helping the police with their inquiries.
Throw It In: During a sketch with John Cleese where they played a pair of Pepperpots, Graham Chapman suddenly went off script and screamed "BURMA!" for no reason. Cleese then asked Chapman, in character, why he did that, to which Chapman replied, in character, "I panicked!". It was later decided it was too funny not to include.
Time Marches On: The "New Brain" sketch has captions pointing out that the sketch was written before currency decimalization, so whenever a monetary value in the old pound/shilling/pence system is mentioned, the caption translates it to the modern value.
Tiny-Headed Behemoth: According to one theory about the Brontosaurus, it was thin at one end, much much thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end.
Title Sequence: The episode "Scott of the Antarctic" featured its namesake sketch at the beginning — 18 minutes long — before ever showing the show's Title Sequence. This is probably the first ever example of a show delaying its title sequence to anywhere near or (in this case) beyond its halfway mark. It's only possible thanks to the BBC having no commercial breaks, and thus not having to identify the show upon returning from such a break.
The twits from the "Upper Class Twit of the Year Show" take part in an obstacle course involving jumping over a line of matchboxes to waking a sleeping neighbour; the last challenge involves shooting themselves. Honourable mention goes to Oliver St. John-Mollusc who managed to run himself over with his own car.
Ron Obvious tried to run to Mercury (the planet) at the behest of his manager, Luigi Vercotti. Other exploits attempted include jumping across the English Channel, eating Chichester Cathedral, and digging a tunnel to Java.
The Topic of Cancer: In an animated segment a prince sees a black spot on his face, but ignores it. Then he dies of cancer. Bowlderised in later episodes to gangrene, much to Graham Chapman's disgust.
Trap Door: Used on a man collecting money for charity in the "Merchant Banker" sketch. Because the set had to be raised to accommodate the space beneath the trapdoor, it's audibly obvious that Cleese and Jones are walking on wooden boards rather than the concrete studio floor. This does however help in the later part of the scene, when the pantomime horses have to tap on the floor.
Trolling Translator: The "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" sketch had a phrasebook that gave bogus translations from Hungarian to English, such as translating the Hungarian "Can you direct me to the station?" into the English "please fondle my bum". The publisher of this phrasebook was taken to court for "breach of the peace".
Uncle Tom Foolery: Attila the Hun's butler played by Eric Idle in black face, he was named "Uncle Tom" and very stereotypical.
Unfortunate Item Swap: In the "Police Raid" sketch, Graham Chapman plays the role of a policeman who intrudes on two guys having lunch, claiming he's got a warrant to search the premises. After a brief awkward silence, Graham produces a paper bag from his pocket, drops it on the table, and begins loudly declaring that he has discovered a bag which may indeed contain illicit substances. Eric Idle searches the bag to find... a sandwich. Dismayed, Graham looks at the camera and inquires, "Blimey! Whatever did I give the wife?"
Unsatisfiable Customer: One sketch inverts this and has Unsatisfiable Waitstaff, who angst over one dirty fork, resulting in utter carnage.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The "Dull Life of a City Stockbroker" sketch, in which a stockbroker goes to work and doesn't react at all to the fact that a nude girl sells him his morning newspaper, that a Frankenstein monster kills everyone else on his bus or that his office seems to be the scene of orgy, murder and suicide — and then he sits down at his desk and starts furtively reading a comic book called Thrills and Adventure. For the inverse, see Mundane Made Awesome above.
Unwitting Pawn: Angus Podgorny was one to the Blancmanges, making him a literal Cosmic Plaything. The rules for Wimbledon said that there must be at least one human being involved in the final; so the Blancmanges arrange for the Scottish tailor to enter the tournament, and then eat all the other human players, leaving the final down to a Blancmange, and Angus who is hopelessly incompetent at tennis.
In the Spanish Inquisition's first appearance, Cardinal Ximenez is forced to repeatedly revise the number of their chief weapons as new ones keep occurring to him.
"Our chief weapon is surprise! Surprise and fear! Fear and surprise- our two weapons are fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency- our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope- our four- no... amongst our weapons... amongst our weaponry, are such elements as fear, surprise... I'll come in again."
"This expedition is primarily to investigate reports of cannibalism and necrophilia in- This expeditions is primarily to investigate reports of unusual marine life in the as yet uncharted Lake Paho."
Vomiting Cop: Live performances of the "Crunchy Frog" sketch had Constable Parrot (Terry Gilliam) vomit into his hat, onstage, after Inspector Praline mentions "Anthrax Ripple," as seen in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. After having done so, Praline orders Parrot to put the hat back on — which he does. Cue the vomit sliding down Gilliam's face.note After running offstage pretending to be sick, Gilliam had filled his mouth with cold beef stew before going back onstage.
Vox Pops: Ask the man on the street what he thinks?
Woman (Carol Cleveland):(seductively) I am not a man you silly billy! Man on rooftop (Terry Jones):(pours himself some tea from a thermos, then notices the camera) I'm not on the street you fairy! Man in street (John Cleese): Well, speaking as a man on the street... (gets knocked flying by speeding car) WAAGH!
What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: Invoked by John Cleese's character in the "Cheese Shop" sketch after he shoots the shopkeeper of a cheese shop, because he just found out that the shop is completely devoid of cheese after five minutes of questioning the shopkeeper.
Hank: Well, I follow the moth in the helicopter to lure it away from the flowers, and then Roy comes along in the Lockheed Starfighter and attacks it with air-to-air missiles. Roy: A lot of people have asked us why we don't use fly spray. Well, where's the sport in that?
A sketch about a man going camel-spotting ends with the interviewer noting that, in fact, he's train-spotting, to which the man replies, "Oh, you're no fun anymore." This line is then used by mischevious band members, a woman whose vampiric lover loses his fangs, and a man who undergoes the lash ("Cut him down!" "Oh, you're no fun anymore!") This causes the original to threaten action agaisnt anyone else that uses the line, which he acts upon in the next sketch.
William Telling: One of the German episodes begins with a William Tell sketch. It has Tell successfully shooting the apple, then the camera zooms out to show his son's body is riddled with arrows from previous attempts.
Windbag Politician: One sketch has an interviewed man claim that "as a Conservative, he likes to drone on and on" until he keels over backwards, foaming at the mouth.
Word Salad Title: The team specifically wanted a nonsensical title for the programme and considered several. The runners-up were mostly reused as episode titles for Series 1, such as "The Ant, an Introduction" and "Owl-Stretching Time". One title that was never used in an episode (although it was referenced in "Royal Episode 13") is "The Toad Elevating Moment".