The Life of Python – 20 Greatest Monty Python Sketches

Sunday 04th, October 2009 / 03:18 Written by
The Life of Python – 20 Greatest Monty Python Sketches

This Anniversary Special marks the day that Monty Python made its sparkling debut on television when the very first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was aired on the BBC on 5 October 1969.

The irresistible Oxbridge partnership of John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, mixed with the dazzlingly surreal artworks of American Terry Gilliam, celebrates four decades and 45 episodes of risqué silliness.

The comedy of Monty Python was streaks ahead of its time. Famous for its innovation and radical splendor, Python sketches broke the mould of building to a specific punchline, delivering some of the funniest and most enduring sketches of our lifetime.

In honour of 40 phenomenal years of comedy, we take a look at the 20 greatest Python sketches ever.

1. Dead Parrot

Undeniably the most popular and well known of the Monty Python sketches, and for good reason too. The dead parrot – or “resting” Norwegian Blue, depending on which comedian you believe rightly – deserves its place at the peak of this list. Quintessentially Python, Cleese’s ranting complaints are deftly sidestepped by Palin’s slippery shopkeeper. Quite how this sketch only came second in the UK in Channel 4′s 50 Greatest Comedy Moments to Little Britain is anyone’s guess. Pure comedy gold doesn’t get better than this.

2. The Lumberjack Song

The best Python song, barring perhaps Always Look On The Bright Side of Life, The Lumberjack Song is both eminently hum-able and achingly funny. Way before Eddie Izzard made cross-dressing cool as his executive transvestite, Python made it a topic of comedy.

3. The Ministry of Silly Walks

(click image to launch sketch)

The versatility of Python is amazing, as are John Cleese’s legs on the evidence of this sketch. Hardly the most intellectually demanding of skits, it’s a tribute to the brilliance of the show that it can flutter between scintillating word play and slapstick silliness. Great physical comedy.

4. Self Defence Against Fresh Fruit

(click image to launch Python clip)

Cleese delivers a knockout performance as the crazed Army instructor, helping his lackluster crew of misfits defend themselves from the dangers of passion fruit, bananas and other assorted fresh fruit.

5. The Spanish Inquisition

(click image to launch Monty video)

Given how memorable the great Python sketches are its amazing how few are successfully quotable. That’s because invariably the sketches were far too lyrically dense to be contracted to single catchphrases. One exception to the rule is, “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!” which is enough to get tears rolling about the plethora of weapons the Inquisition has at its disposal.

6. Four Yorkshiremen

(click image to launch Python sketch)

A brilliant bidding war of which hard-bitten Yorkshireman had the toughest of upbringings.

7. Candid Photography, AKA Nudge Nudge

(click image to launch sketch, Nudge Nudge)

Idle takes the innuendo of a bit of slap and tickle to the furthest extreme. Say no more!

8. The Bruces

(click image to launch sketch)

Howlingly un-PC yet still terribly funny for all non-poofters.

9. Argument Clinic

(click image to launch Python silliness)

This is the best sketch Monty Python ever did. No it isn’t. Yes it is. No it isn’t.

10. The Funniest Joke in the World

(click image to launch Python sketch)

The ultimate weapon to win the war and destroy the Nazis. The atom bomb? Nope, humour.

For Python’s top 10 skits:

Go to Greatest Monty Python Sketches (11-20)

More Monty Python Links:

The official Monty Python YouTube Channel

On the BBC: Monty Python’s Flying Circus 40th anniversary

For more entertainment check out Spec63

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Ree Saunders

About the author

Surfer, blogger and social media addict, Ree has definitely already seen that funny video you just posted on Facebook. He loves taking his kids on adventures (Instagram opportunities) and if his old body can take it, surfing the raging left-hand tubes of Indonesia or his native Jeffreys Bay beaches in South Africa. Otherwise, he'll be surfing the raging YouTubes instead.

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78 Comments on “The Life of Python – 20 Greatest Monty Python Sketches

  • Reg Pither (as in brotherhood but with a Pi instead of a Bro and no hood) cycling tour. Made Ben Hur look like an Eric.

  • Frank Tutankhamun, “Wrong Way” Norris, Spam, Marriage Guidance Counsellor, Blackmail, Mao Tse Tung – “sing little birdy”, The Architects, Dennis Moore, Oscar Wilde sketch… it’s endless and unsurpassed.

  • Ron Obvious’s attempt to jump the channel, Norman Vole’s claim to have written all the works normally attributed to Shakespeare, mice men, travel agent “Torremolinos” sketch, Hilter, gas cooker sketch, Blackmail, and Court sketch with Eric Idle apologising as Mr Larch… Well, I’d just like to say, m’lud, I’ve got a family… a wife and six kids… and I hope very much you don’t have to take away my freedom… because… well, because m’lud freedom is a state much prized within the realm of civilized society. It is a bond wherewith the savage man may charm the outward hatchments of his soul, and soothe the troubled breast into a magnitude of quiet. It is most precious as a blessed balm, the saviour of princes, the harbinger of happiness, yea, the very stuff and pith of all we hold most dear. What frees the prisoner in his lonely cell, chained within the of rude walls, far from the owl of Thebes? What fires and stirs the woodcock in his springe or wakes the drowsy apricot betides?

  • … but it starts with Graham Chapman suspended near the ceiling. I believe he’s wearing a tutu. He’s talking on the phone when the sketch begins, and he ends the conversation and just throws the phone down onto the desk. For some reason this has always made me howl with laughter.

  • The flying lesson is one of my faves…Your ‘oop has got an ‘ole in it…of course, it wouldn’t be an ‘oop if it didn’t ‘ave an ‘ole in it! hahahahahaha


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