Top 10 Monty Python Sketches

From 1969 to 1974 five British comedians and their American animator pal brought to the masses a show which completely changed the comedy landscape and became a global phenomena. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a sketch comedy show unlike any other, eschewing a traditional set-up and punchline style that was standard at the time, the troupe of; John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam gave audience a heaping helping of absurdity which has been correctly labelled as intelligent silliness. Over the decades that followed Python has given us various films and stage shows while the series that started it all has become one of the most beloved shows in the world. So in honor of their accomplishments it’s…..(cue the John Phillip Sousa music) the Monty Python Top 10 Sketches.


10. Musical Mice: An often underrated sketch due to its brevity but, Terry Jones gusto filled performance ensures absolute hilarity from this morbid bit. Jones takes on the role of a stuffy musician, who proudly announces that he has trained a series of mice to squeak in certain pitches. To demonstrate what they can do he has arranged them in order and intends to use them to play the Bells of St. Mary. Much to the audience’s horror Jones pulls out to two hammers and proceeds to pound away on the rodents with great gusto obviously pleased with himself.


9. The Lumberjack Song: Monty Python was famous for many of their musical numbers even inspiring a Broadway musical based on their film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But hands down the most popular song  Python ever performed was the Lumberjack Song.  Michael Palin who co-wrote the piece with Terry Jones about a man who is fed up with his mundane job and wishes to instead be a lumberjack. With the unofficial seventh Monty Python member Carol Cleveland in his arms he belts out a song about his love of the profession which may be more manly of an occupation than he anticipated.


8. Ministry of Silly Walks: In his decades long career John Cleese has built a body of work which would be the envy of any entertainer. But despite it all, this sketch will be what the popular performer will be forever remembered by. Cleese nails his role as a civil servant struggling with a lack of funding for his Ministry of Silly Walks must coach the lowly Mr. Putey who is struggling to create his own silly walk, which really is not that silly. With the lack of funding this department of government he must decide whether or not Mr. Putey has earned a grant to develop his silly walk.


7. Argument Clinic: Another gem from Palin as the straight man and Cleese as the guy impersonating a straight man. Palin plays a man who is in search of an argument and is willing to pay for it. After stumbling into Graham Chapman’s abuse office he finds himself arguing with Cleese over whether an argument is simply just contradicting the other person. A frustrated Palin is left to wander the hall to learn how to get hit on the head before being arrested for violating the Strange Sketch Act by Graham Chapman as the blustering authority figure he played so well.


6. Woody-Tinny Words: In the final run of Flying Circus John Cleese left the rest of the crew to continue of without him. In this sketch led by Graham at his best as a stuffy patriarch type, the rest of Monty Python proved they could still carry on despite the loss. As the head of an aristocratic family he goes through a vast collection of words deciding which ones had a nice “woody” sound to them such as “seemly” “vacuum” or “intercourse” but not “antellope” or “recidivist” which are definitely “tinny” words. Throw in a rifle and the entire bit is an exercise in the absurdity that Python performed so well.


5. Spam: If there is a food that will be forever associated with Monty Python it is the strange meat in a can, Spam. Eric Idle and Graham Chapman find themselves lowered into a diner filled with Vikings run by Terry Jones. Every item on the menu includes the ingredient of Spam. Chapman and Jones in drag arguing in shrill voices is a sight to behold especially as they are trying to be heard over the Norsemen singing about the wondrous meat-type product.


4. The Spanish Inquisition: No one expected this entry on the list!!!!!!!!! Well you probably did. Chapman and Cleveland begin the sketch with him not expecting the Spanish Inquisition….enter Palin, Jones, and Gilliam with as Catholic Inquisitors with a variety of weapons. But the religious trio find that they are not very good at this line of work as they constantly forget what weapons they have and try to draw out confessions utilizing; comfy chairs and soft cushions. This sketch has become a classic and created a popular catchphrase fans still shout out to this day.


3. Four Yorkshire Men: We have all experienced those of an older generation talking about how easy kids have it and how difficult they had it growing up. They begin by discussing how when they had tea it had to milk or sugar…or tea…in a broken cup….or out of a rolled up newspaper, and it just spirals down from there. The quartet compared their awful living conditions from shacks to holes in the ground and working in inhumane jobs where they suffered and died. But if you tell kids that nowadays they won’t believe you.


2. Self Defense Against Fresh Fruit: Taking on the role of a tough as nails self defense instructor Cleese fervently teaches his class how to defend themselves against people attacking them with fresh fruit (because that is more dangerous than pointed sticks). His easy to learn methods of defense include shooting your attacker with a gun, or releasing a tiger. Chapman may have been the go to guy for Python to play the alpha male type but Cleese proves he was just as good as his colleague yelling at and trying to intimidate everyone of his  students.


1. Dead Parrot: The sketch that even people who have not seen a single episode of Monty Python know. TV Guide once theorized that just about every college dorm has someone who can quote this bit verbatim. Based off an experience Palin had with a car salesman, Cleese attempts to register a complaint with the owner of a pet shop about the Norwegian Blue he purchased which is stone dead. But Palin tries (unsuccessfully) to argue that the parrot is in fact just resting after a long night. The pair demonstrate the spot-on chemistry they had which led to so many classic moments on the show as they argue back and forth about the parrot which had gone on to meet its maker and had it not been nailed down would be pushing up daisies. Luckily Chapman is on hand as the military officer he often portrayed to keep things from getting too silly.

Honorable Mentions

Dirty Fork: Graham Chapman takes his date to a restaurant only to discover his fork is a bit dirty. Should be no trouble getting a new one…..or so he thinks.

Wink, Wink,Nudge, Nudge: A classic featuring a sleazy Eric Idle badgering a stoic Terry Jones until the hilarious punchline.

Olympic Hide and Seek: A favorite of Terry Jones, the popular game of hide and seek is played on a global scale with hilarious commentary from Idle.

Silly Job Interview: We all dread going into job interviews. They would be worse if the interviewer was the nutcase that John Cleese portrays in this sketch.