Yes, We Have Bananas
Johnny Tremain

The Funniest Monty Python Bit (?)

Perhaps a bit surprisingly for someone of my age and, um, general cultural inclinations, I've never been a serious Monty Python fan, the sort who can quote most of their stuff and finds even a mention of their celebrated skits funny. Truth is, I've never seen it all, not by a long shot. Sure, I think some of the classics, like the Dead Parrot, are very funny. (I just watched it again, and it still cracks me up.) But I always found them a very mixed bag, and have never seen Life of Brian, or all of the Flying Circus. Truth is, I think Fawlty Towers is more consistently funny. Very, very funny.

Well, I noticed recently that Flying Circus is on Netflix, so in the interests of furthering my education ("never too late!" people are always saying, which is self-evidently preposterous), I've been watching it now and then, ten or fifteen minutes at a time. As in the past, I find it a very mixed bag, veering from the hilarious to the more or less stupid. But a few nights ago there was a sketch which I think is as funny as anything else I've seen from them. I guess you probably have to have read some D.H. Lawrence to appreciate it--Sons and Lovers in particular, I think, though it's been a very long time since I read it. It's the confrontation of a tough, harsh, father and his son whom the father regards as effete, soft, and pretty much useless, as in Lawrence:  only their occupations are reversed. 

It's not on YouTube, but if you have Netflix you can see it in Series 1 Episode 2, starting around 17 minutes. I just watched it again and it was as funny as it was the first time. 


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

You're right about Python. Some of it holds up very well, while other bits are just silly.

I remember the sketch you're talking about -- it's very good.

One of my all-time favorites is the combo sketch "The Cheese Shop" / "Sam Peckinpah's 'Salad Days'"

Oddly enough, my favorite Python bit ever is one of the animations, "Brian Islam and Brucie." I have no idea why I find it so hilarious, but from the first time I saw it when I was in college, I can't watch it without laughing uncontrollably. Even thinking about it cracks me up. It really is the funniest thing I've ever seen; or maybe I should say that it's the thing that has a stronger effect on me humor-wise than anything else.

Note: I once played it for a group of a half-dozen family members, none of whom found it as funny as I do, and a few of whom didn't find it funny at all. In short, they thought I was nuts.

I think I've seen the Cheese Shop but have forgotten it. Brian Islam? I don't think I've ever seen that one. In general I don't really care much for the animations. This is just idiosyncratic but for some reason they tend to seem ever so slightly creepy to me. Anyway I'm sure I'll get to both of these.

I don't really like much Python except for the Dead Parrot. I do love the Dead Parrot. I've seen Life of Brian a few times and its fairly funny but it doesn't crack me up. Last semester we used Monty Python and the Holy Grail in a class I taught. We also took the students to see the musical version. I secretly sympathized with the girls (always) who said they just didn't care for it. I think there ARE some humorous things that guys like but not girls - Rabelais, for instance. Years ago when I was writing my book on Comedy in the Bible guys were always telling me to read Rabelais.

I love Fawlty Towers.

I just watched a Python documentary about men who secretly want to be mice, who frequent clandestine clubs where they dress up as mice, etc. It's hilarious. I love the ones that parody a super-serious BBC talk show, especially with John Cleese as the host.

I've never read Rabelais but have always had the impression that what's called "Rabelaisian" humor is not for me.

I seem to remember thinking Holy Grail was about 50% quite funny.

That does sound very funny

I just tried to explain to my wife how very funny it was and I wasn’t getting it across. No accounting for taste, and definitely not for sense of humor. But it’s in the same episode as the Lawrence bit if you want to check it out.

That episode with the Lawrence bit and the men who want to be mice is up on the Dailymotion website:

Somewhat humorous, but basically, eh. I really like Fawlty Towers, though.

"Somewhat humorous"...well, like I said, no accounting for sense of humor. Thanks for finding this. I'm having trouble viewing it but the problem may be on my end.

The Dailymotion site does tend to be very slow at times. Maybe try a different browser?

I can just watch it again on Netflix, which I'm sure I will. It was so very slow that I wondered if it's become one of those dodgy sites that's hosted in some basement in Russia or something. I see from its Wikipedia entry that it is primarily European, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I have similar feelings about Monty Python, but I do happen to own two of the movies, Life of Brian and Meaning of Life. I really love the "every sperm is sacred" song and dance routine, but some may of course find it offensive. Fawlty Towers was more consistent with laughs, that's for sure.

"every sperm is sacred" kind of brings out the Spock in me. Mister, not Doctor. It's Not Logical. Satire has to be fairly close to what it's satirizing to be funny, and it's too far off the mark.

"Satire has to be fairly close to what it's satirizing to be funny, and it's too far off the mark."

Yep. I thought it was way off even when I was a Protestant. Plus it goes on far too long.

The only Python movie I really like is The Grail. I've seen it umpteen times and have huge swaths of it memorized. It's probably my favorite comedy, right up there with The Big Lebowski.

I've only seen Holy Grail once all the way through, though I've seen some of the more famous bits several times. It was very much in the mixed bag category for me.

Wow, I think that skit is about perfect. The time it runs, the seeming hundreds of kids, the great song and dance number that spills out into the streets and then the Protestant couple talking at the end. To me it is the best of Python regardless of your denomination.

As far as movies go though Holy Grail is my favorite from beginning to end. With Spamalot on Broadway and all of that it has shown its staying power.

Just goes to show, no accounting for taste.

Is the scene with the knight who gets his limbs cut off in Holy Grail? Some people think that's absolutely hilarious. My reaction was not only not laughter but a sincere "why do you think this is funny?"

Yes. That scene in Holy Grail is certainly hard to take after the first time I saw it as a teen-age juvenile who did think it was funny. There is certainly much better than that in the movie.

Not so much that it’s gruesome. Just not funny to me. Maybe I would have thought so, too, as a juvenile. :-)

I don't mind the Black Knight scene, because the bloodshed is so ridiculously OTT. I think that people find it funny not because of the gore, but because of that combined with the Knight's total obliviousness to his wounds. But I agree that's it's far from the best bit in the movie.

I think that sort of irony is what makes the "Brian Islam" cartoon so funny to me. You have these two cutout wrestlers/boxers dancing to jug band music, with their legs doing all this completely impossible stuff, but their arms never move and their faces never change expression. For some reason that combination just strikes me as very funny.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)