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Funny / At Last the 1948 Show

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"But you try and tell that to the young people today! Will they believe you?" "No!"

  • By far the series' most well-remembered sketch (even if it's mostly for the sketch comedy equivalent of a Covered Up version by Monty Python) is the "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch, in which Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, and Marty Feldman play four Self-Made Man northerners who have not only not forgotten their working class roots, but are determined to boast about them in the most hilarious game of Misery Poker ever played.
    John Cleese: Well, when I said "'ouse", 'twere only a hole in t' ground, covered by a couple o' foot o' torn canvas, but it were 'ouse to us!
    Graham Chapman: Oh, well, we were evicted from our 'ole in the ground, we 'ad to go and live in the lake!
    Tim Brooke-Taylor: Ee! Ee, you were lucky to 'ave a lake! There were over a hundred and fifty of us living in a small shoe box in t' middle o' t' road!
    Marty Feldman: Cardboard box?
    Tim: Aye.
    Marty: Aye, you were lucky! We lived for three months in a rolled-up newspaper in a septic tank! Aye. Every morning we'd 'ave to get up at six, clean the rolled-up newspaper, eat a crust of stale bread, then we'd 'ave to work fourteen hours at t' mill, day in, day out, for sixpence a week! Aye, and then we'd come 'ome, Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!
    Graham: Luxury. We used to get up at three, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, then we'd work in t' mill for twenty hours for tuppence a month, then we'd come 'ome and Dad would beat us about the 'ead and neck with a broken bottle! If we were lucky!
    Tim: Paradise! We 'ad it tough! I used to get out of t' shoebox at midnight, lick t' road clean, eat a couple of bits of cold gravel, work twenty-three hours a day at t' mill for a penny every four years, and when we got 'ome, Dad used to slice us in half with a bread knife!
    John: ...right. We used to get up in t' morning, at half past ten at night, 'alf an hour- 'alf an hour before we'd gone to bed, eat a lump of poison, work twenty-nine hours a day at t' mill for ha'penny a lifetime, come 'ome, and each night, Dad would strangle us and dance about on our graves!
    Marty: Aye! But you try and tell that to the young people today! Will they believe you?
    Tim, Graham, John: (shaking their heads) Noooo!
    • This version from the 1980 Secret Policeman's Ball sees Cleese joined by Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Rowan Atkinson and is arguably the best version. Also a CMOA for Atkinson, as he performs a classic sketch with three Pythons early in his career and doesn't look out of place at all.
  • Perhaps the second most famous sketch is the "Bookshop" sketchnote  featuring John Cleese as the proprietor of a bookshop and Marty Feldman as a customer asking for a wide assortment of bizarre books. Such was the sketch's popularity that it was repeated not just by Monty Python with Graham Chapman as the customer on their Contractual Obligation Album in 1980, but by Marty Feldman with John Junkin as the proprietor in "Marty Amok!" (an Easter 1970 special of his sketch series It's Marty), and by John Cleese with his then-wife (and Fawlty Towers co-creator) Connie Booth as the customer in The Mermaid Frolics (a 1977 special for Amnesty International).
    • After first asking for Thirty Days in the Samarkand Desert with a Spoon by A.E.J. Elliott and 101 Ways to Start a Monsoon by "an Indian gentleman whose name eludes me", the customer moves on to asking for Edmund Wells' David Coperfield, Grate Expectations, Knickerless Nickleby, and A Christmas Carol "with a 'Q'", Dutch author Charles Dikkens' Rarnaby Budge - at which point the irate proprietor saves time by adding they don't have Carnaby Fudge by Darles Chickens or Stickwick Stapers by Marles Pickens with four Ms and a silent Q. He suggests the customer try the chemist; "I have. They sent me here," says the customer.
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    • The customer tries asking for The Amazing Adventures of Gladys Stoat-Pamphlet and Her Intrepid Spaniel, Stig, Among the Dried Pygmies of Corsica, Volume 2. The irritated proprietor says they don't have it and tries to bundle the customer out of the door when he spots a copy of Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds, but says he wants "the expurgated version without the gannet." The proprietor, his patience wearing ever thinner, tears out the pages with the gannet and the robin. The customer's response? "I can't buy that, it's torn!"
    • After an unsuccessful attempt to get Biggles Combs His Hair, the customer moves on to asking for Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quantity Surveying, which the bookshop actually has in stock... except the customer has no money, no chequebook, no bank account, nothing. The proprietor, now desperate to get rid of the customer, buys the book for him and gives him change for a taxi home... at which point the customer confesses he can't read. The proprietor, at the end of his rope, forcibly sits the customer on his knee and begins reading the book aloud to him.
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  • In "Let's Speak English", ostensibly a production for Italian television, Tim, Graham, John, and Marty are playing four chartered accountants having a tea party. However, John keeps sabotaging the sketch, first claiming to be a gorilla rather than an accountant, pointing to his wristwatch instead of the sugar bowl when saying "sugar", lifting and pointing to Tim's hat when saying "cup of tea", and identifying the spoons as "greenhouses" and the cakes as "surgical trusses". Finally, the reason for his sabotage becomes clear; what makes the scene hilarious is his consistently professional diction and intonation, even as he wreaks havoc on set:
    Tim: (pointing to a plate of cakes) The cakes are on a plate.
    Marty: (doing likewise) The plate is on a trolley.
    John: The trolley is on the table. (grabs trolley, stands up, and slams the trolley down on the table) It also goes through windows! (hurls the trolley toward a nearby window as Marty covers his head) The gorilla is cross with the wop producer because the gorilla is underpaid. If he were paid more, he might become a chartered accountant. (grabs the tablecloth with one hand and sends the contents of the table flying; picks up the teapot with the other hand and empties it over Marty, Graham, and Tim) See how the gorilla pours hot tea on the accountants! Lo! They are scalded! (throws teapot aside) The gorilla is a reasonable man, but he has been provoked! (picks up the table and hurls it toward the corner of the room)
    (the producer (Barry Cryer) enters through a door at the back of the set, carrying a wad of cash and gesturing wildly; he hands the cash to John and leaves again)
    John: (grinning ear to ear) The gorilla is now happy to be a chartered accountant. (holds up wad of cash) I am a chartered accountant.
    Tim: I am also a chartered accountant.
    Graham: I am a chartered accountant too.
    Marty: I am a chartered accountant. (looks at John) But I'm thinking of becoming a gorilla... (smirks)
  • "Plain Clothes Police Women" features Tim Brooke-Taylor as a sergeant giving instructions to three constables, Bude, Hawkins, and Staveacre (played respectively by John Cleese, Marty Feldman, and Graham Chapman) who are going undercover in drag as part of a sting operation on a nightclub. The laughs begin with the Incredibly Conspicuous Drag (Staveacre is smoking a pipe and hasn't bothered to shave off his moustache), but get bigger when Tim begins Corpsing after Staveacre announces his drag name as "Philippa";note  all four performers struggle to get through the rest of the sketch without completely breaking down laughing.
    • The sketch ends with Philippa making a rather bitchy comment about how Samantha (Hawkins) 'doesn't have the legs' for a miniskirt, and the argument escalates to Samantha beating the crap out of Doris (Bude) with her handbag.
  • The "Burglar Hides in the Library" sketch shows the hilarious consequences of overly strict enforcement of a library's rule of silence when a burglar (Tim Brooke-Taylor) tries to hide from a pursuing police sergeant (Graham Chapman). Both are shushed impatiently by the librarian (Eric Idle) and other library patrons if they make any noise at all. The laughs proceed from there:
    • The sergeant starts by holding up signs reading "'Allo 'allo 'allo" and "'Orl right Wilkins, we know yer 'iding in 'ere", then approaches the librarian and mimes a description of Wilkins - approximate height, Blatant Burglar attire including Domino Mask and striped jersey - and pretends to examine valuables before throwing them into a Thief Bag. The librarian, without breaking eye contact with the sergeant, wordlessly points to the trembling Wilkins.
    • After "blowing his whistle" by holding up a tiny sign reading "Peep! Peep!", the sergeant summons two constables (John Cleese and Marty Feldman) with cushions tied to their boots to muffle their footsteps. However, Wilkins draws a gun on them - but first fixes a silencer to the barrel. When he fires, it makes no sound at all; the policemen have to spend a few seconds establishing which of them has been hit. For added laughs, Wilkins is just as alarmed as the policemen about the noise the wounded constable will make when he falls to the floor, and throws them a pillow for him to land on.
    • The remaining constable distracts Wilkins with a sign reading "Look out. There's someone behind you", allowing the sergeant to kick the gun out of his hand. They resort to a fistfight - and Wilkins stomps on the sergeant's foot (which is bare since he had to remove his boots because of the noise they were making). The sergeant slaps his hand over his mouth and hops to the gents' toilets before yelling in pain.
    • Finally, the sergeant returns to find Wilkins and the constable browsing the shelves. Wilkins defiantly holds up a book titled Self-Defence. The constable shows his book to the sergeant, and then to Wilkins: Advanced Self-Defence. Wilkins immediately surrenders; as they pass the librarian's desk, the constable opens Advanced Self-Defence for the librarian to stamp.
  • From Episode 3 of Series 1, "Visitors For The Use Of Lonely Patients". This sketch features Bill Oddie as a patient who is lonely because he has no visitors, so the nurse switches on the robotic visitor (Tim), who comes to talk to him. However, the robot isn't very good, moving with strange jerking movements and saying the wrong things at the wrong times, and just being generally annoying.


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