And now for something completely different.
With the much-loved British comedy troupe Monty Python making recent headlines, including their first reunion project since 1983, we’ve decided to honor them by creating a list of our favorite Flying Circus sketches. Below you’ll find 20 of the silliest, wittiest and most entertaining skits to grace our television sets.
Though many Python sketches are known for being un-PC, “Bruces” goes to the extreme in abusing Australian stereotypes. Several Australian philosophy professors at the fictitious University of Woolamaloo, all named Bruce, bond over their love of beer and hatred of “poofters”—four of the seven faculty rules are even devoted to the latter.
19. Philosophers’ Football Match
At the 1972 Munich Olympics, two football teams face off in a heated match, refereed by Confucius. The Greeks, including Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, and the Germans, including Kant, Nietzsche and Marx, don’t so much duke it out kicking the ball as they do kicking around philosophical ideas.
18. The Visitors
Leave it to Eric Idle’s “Nudge Nudge” character, bickering couple John Cleese and Terry Jones, and a goat with diarrhea to ruin Graham Chapman’s romantic evening.
17. Department Store/ Buying an Ant
Who knew buying a pet ant could be so difficult? After dealing with countless annoyances from the department store workers, it’s a miracle that Michael Ellis—er, Chris Quinn—left with a purchase.
16. The Funniest Joke in the World
In this sketch, the Pythons take the phrase “a killer joke” to the next level. Appearing in the very first episode of Flying Circus, “The Funniest Joke in the World” shows a British joke creator writing the eponymous pun and dying from laughter. It eventually ends up in the hands of the British Army to use as warfare against the Germans in World War II.
15. How Not to Be Seen
This sketch, narrated by John Cleese, conveys the importance of not being seen in this it’s-so-ridiculous-it’s-funny Public Service Announcement.
14. Cheese Shop
A hungry John Cleese walks into a cheese shop and thus begins ordering every type imaginable. Out of the 43 fromages listed—including “Venezuelan Beaver Cheese”—the shop has none in stock.
13. Argument Clinic
What’s the difference between an argument and a contradiction? Michael Palin and John Cleese debate it. No they don’t. Yes they do. No they don’t.
12. Dirty Hungarian Phrase Book
At some point in our lives, we’ll all use a book of translations—just hope that it isn’t one published by Michael Palin’s character in this sketch. But perhaps it’s a sign we should all learn how to say “My hovercraft is full of eels” in every language.
11. Upper Class Twit of the Year
The Pythons are also skilled satirists, and sometimes brutal in their parodies as they are in this sketch. With obstacles such as Kicking the Beggar, Insulting the Waiter, Shooting the Rabbits and Taking the
10. Woody and Tinny Words
In which Graham Chapman, Carol Cleveland and Eric Idle debate the “woodiness” and “tinniness” of words such as “litter bin,” “sausage,” “recidivist” and “caribou.”
9. Nudge Nudge
With this sexual innuendo-laden sketch, Eric Idle brought the phrase “nudge nudge, wink wink” into popular British speech.
Reportedly, this sketch was influenced by the rationing of meat (or lack thereof, in spam’s case) in Britain during WWII. Here we see a cafe, run by Terry Jones as a pepperpot, that serves spam in every dish, including Lobster Thermidor.
7. The Lumberjack Song
One of the best-known Python numbers, “The Lumberjack Song” was created in 15 minutes, according to Michael Palin in a 2007 interview with NPR. In the sketch, Palin sings about his dream of being a lumberjack while backed by a chorus of Mounties. As the song progresses, he ends up sharing more about his dream than the Mounties wanted to know. “The Lumberjack Song” was also honored by several members of The Beatles. During his 1974 North American tour, George Harrison would play the song over P.A. systems before he took the stage. And in the 1990 Christmas Special episode of Shining Time Station, Ringo Starr as Mr. Conductor sings the intro of the song.
6. Reporting a Burglary
How these Pythons keep from bursting into hysterics during this skit remains a mystery. Their ability to switch instantly between high- and low-pitches and speed-talking shows true comedic skill.
5. Self-Defense Against Fresh Fruit
In this absurdist sketch, John Cleese plays a maniacal self-defense teacher against bananas, raspberries and an assortment of other fresh fruit. Make sure to never cross him in a dark alley with grapefruit—whole or segmented.
4. The Fish-Slapping Dance
This silent jig between Michael Palin and John Cleese is 20 seconds of pure comedy, proving that (fish)slapstick never fails to make us laugh.
3. The Ministry of Silly Walks
What’s most impressive about this sketch is not the simplicity of the running walking gag, but the physical comedy of John Cleese’s long-legged, lanky maneuvers.
2. The Spanish Inquisition
This sketch gave way to the single most memorable catchphrase in Flying Circus history.
1. Dead Parrot
Voted number two in the UK on Channel 4’s 50 Greatest Comedy Moments, “Dead Parrot” has remained in the hearts of Python fans everywhere as the best sketch of Flying Circus.