WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 20 MONTY PYTHON SKITS?

Lynne Kiesling

Many thanks to Tyler Cowen for pointing out this Entertainment Weekly list of top-20 Monty Python skits. I agree that the Argument Clinic belongs a lot higher than #20; it’s easily in my top 5. I don’t think the Kilimanjaro skit deserves to be in the top 20. And as a little nit pick: at #5 it’s the Killer Joke, not the Funniest Joke in the World skit.

So here’s my top 25, for what it’s worth (I tried to stop at 20 but couldn’t):

25. Stoning (Life of Brian)
24. Bicycle Repairman
23. The Village Idiot in Society
22. Summarize Proust
21. Crunchy Frog
20. Oscar Wilde, GB Shaw, JM Whistler
19. Lancelot and Swamp Castle (Holy Grail)
18. The Bruces
17. Cheese Shop
16. The Fish-Slapping Dance
15. The Lumberjack Song
14. Spam
13. Guy Lombard’s Castle (Holy Grail)
12. Killer Joke
11. “Romans they go to the house” Latin Conjugation (Life of Brian)
10. Self Defence
9. Miss Anne Elk
8. The Piranha Brothers
7.5. Nudge Nudge
7. Proletariat Peasants (Holy Grail)
6. Dead Parrot
5. Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion Visit Jean-Paul Sartre
4.5. Penguin on the Telly
4. Ministry of Silly Walks
3. “Yes, we are all individuals.” “I’m not.” “SSSH!” (Life of Brian)
2. Argument Clinic
1. Spanish Inquisition

What are yours?

UPDATE: Doh! I forgot Nudge Nudge, which should go in at 7.5. Funny that, because Nudge Nudge is the skit from which the title of a recent post derives.

UPDATE 2: DOH! How could I forget? I was sitting in my TV room while I wrote this post, staring at the small plastic figurine top of the TV, and still I forgot about Penguin on the Telly! I have inserted it at number 4.5.


20 thoughts on “WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 20 MONTY PYTHON SKITS?

  1. Oh my. There is just no way every Python fan is going to agree on anything other than the fact that there are far too many good ones to fit on so short a list. You have sadly neglected, in no particular order:

    The Witch Trial (Holy Grail)
    The Knights Who Say, “Ni” (Holy Grail)
    The Black Knight (Holy Grail)
    The Bridge of Death (Holy Grail)
    The Rabbit (Holy Grail). This is my son’s favorite.
    Holy Grail (in Lego)

  2. Yeah, I agree. The KP Spouse and I discussed this over dinner, and we agreed that the Witch Trial is an important cultural commentary on science. But there are *way* too many for so short a list!

  3. Well, no wonder you’re married. You’re probably the third woman in the world who “gets” Python. (It’s my experience that there is a definite X/Y chromosome divide on this, and “getting it” is expressed more often on the Y side of life.)

    A further aside on this aside: I don’t know if you have it/saw it, but the documentary, “Life of Python” mentioned that the lads had a hard time writing for women. They either wrote female parts with the Pythons (in drag) in mind, or else they didn’t quite know what to do with them.

  4. Rob,

    I have several female friends who “get” Python. Interestingly most of them are economists … What’s not to get? Of course they didn’t have complex female characters, so the women end up being absurd, but their male characters were pretty absurd too! Just in a different way.

    I think it’s more about culture and generation than gender. One of my favorites that didn’t make this list is the New Cooker Sketch, in which a woman orders a new cooker and the shop makes a mistake with her name. The managerialism and bureaucracy that ensues is a gorgeous depiction of the top-down dirigisme of early 1970s Britain, and a parable on the failure of central planning in general.

    Gender, schmender. Does that mean that you don’t find Absolutely Fabulous funny? I do.

  5. I’ve tried watching an ep or two of AbFab; I understand the humor, but it doesn’t tickle my ribs the way it does some others. (For the record, the only person I know who that AbFab was, well, absolutely fabulous was in fact female.)

  6. The Mrs Scum/Quiz Show sketch resulted in (the recitation of) MP being banned by my mother – but then she had 5 children who spoke fluent python as a form of private language.
    Also worthy of consideration: Eric the Half a Bee; Elephantoplasty; Stake your Claim (“…and my wife and I wrote his sonnets”); The Yorkshire businessmen remember their childhood (“we had to lick road clean wit’ tongue…”); the travel agent (a very British take on package holidays); the funeral parlour (“looks like we got an eater”); and, the Church police (“there’s a dead Bishop on the landing, again. Suffragan or diocesan?”)…

  7. The Mrs Scum/Quiz Show sketch resulted in (the recitation of) MP being banned by my mother – but then she had 5 children who spoke fluent python as a form of private language.
    Also worthy of consideration: Eric the Half a Bee; Elephantoplasty; Stake your Claim (“…and my wife and I wrote his sonnets”); The Yorkshire businessmen remember their childhood (“we had to lick road clean wit’ tongue…”); the travel agent (a very British take on package holidays); the funeral parlour (“looks like we got an eater”); and, the Church police (“there’s a dead Bishop on the landing, again. Suffragan or diocesan?”)…

  8. I read your list and went: yes, yes, yes yes, heh, yes , yes, of course, yea, yes, indeed, yes, etc… but there more, more, many many more. I cant even remember them all right now. Such list making is futile, you will end up listing all the sketches.

    I will just point to one brilliant but a bit neglected piece:
    “The Greek and German Philosphers Football match!”

    Lemon Curry?

  9. Inspector Dimm and the Cardinal Richeliu Impersonator was fairly amusing. I remember also Charades in Court (“how can the defendant be ‘not Esther Williams?'”) and a detective sketch featuring Inspector Lookout, of the Yard (“Why, what would we see?”).

    But this topic has become tiresome. Now has come the time on Knowledge Problem when we list great dialog from “Yes, Minister!”

  10. So many missing gems, Lynne:

    “I mean, if I went around saying I was an Emperor because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, people would put me away!”

    Travel agency sketch. Maybe this is so funny for me because as a teenager I lived in a Spanish resort town, and the description of the people on holiday is too true to life.

    Australian Table Wine skit. A bottle of prize winning Cuvee Reserve Château-Bottled Nuit San Wogga Wogga, anybody?

    Good versus evil cricket match.

    Geramn versus Greek philosophers soccer game.

    Sam Peckinpah’s garden party.

    Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson.

    Bookshop sketch, containing two lines that make me split my sides just thinking about them:

    (1) “No, no, Dickens wrote “David Copperfield” with *two* Ps. This is “David Coperfield” with *one* P by Edmund Wells.”

    and

    (2) “I wonder if you might have “The Amazing Adventures of Captain Gladys Stout-Pamphlet and her Intrepid Spaniel Stig Amongst the Giant
    Pygmies of Beccles”…volume eight.

    Maybe the fact that I grew up a dozen miles from Beccles makes this funnier for me than it is.

    Coliseum scene from Life of Brian, especially the snack vendor…

    “Larks’ tongues. Wrens’ livers. Chaffinch brains. Jaguars’ earlobes. Wolf nipple chips. Get ’em while they’re hot. They’re lovely. Dromedary pretzels, only half a denar. Tuscany fried bats.”

    and

    – Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
    – He’s over there.
    – SPLITTER!!!

    I could go on…

  11. So many missing gems, Lynne:

    “I mean, if I went around saying I was an Emperor because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, people would put me away!”

    Travel agency sketch. Maybe this is so funny for me because as a teenager I lived in a Spanish resort town, and the description of the people on holiday is too true to life.

    Australian Table Wine skit. A bottle of prize winning Cuvee Reserve Château-Bottled Nuit San Wogga Wogga, anybody?

    Good versus evil cricket match.

    Geramn versus Greek philosophers soccer game.

    Sam Peckinpah’s garden party.

    Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson.

    Bookshop sketch, containing two lines that make me split my sides just thinking about them:

    (1) “No, no, Dickens wrote “David Copperfield” with *two* Ps. This is “David Coperfield” with *one* P by Edmund Wells.”

    and

    (2) “I wonder if you might have “The Amazing Adventures of Captain Gladys Stout-Pamphlet and her Intrepid Spaniel Stig Amongst the Giant
    Pygmies of Beccles”…volume eight.

    Maybe the fact that I grew up a dozen miles from Beccles makes this funnier for me than it is.

    Coliseum scene from Life of Brian, especially the snack vendor…

    “Larks’ tongues. Wrens’ livers. Chaffinch brains. Jaguars’ earlobes. Wolf nipple chips. Get ’em while they’re hot. They’re lovely. Dromedary pretzels, only half a denar. Tuscany fried bats.”

    and

    – Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
    – He’s over there.
    – SPLITTER!!!

    I could go on…

  12. Albatross!

    The World’s Funniest Joke, as a weapon in WWII.

    The Committee for Putting Things On Top of Other Things.

    Flower Arranging, with Professor D. P. Gumby.

  13. OH, yes, and the insurance salesman patiently explaining to his policy owner, “see sir, it says clearly right here that no claim you make will be paid.”

  14. OH, yes, and the insurance salesman patiently explaining to his policy owner, “see sir, it says clearly right here that no claim you make will be paid.”

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