Who could possibly overlook the pinnacle of comedy gold: “Monty Python.” This troupe of the UK’s zaniest and most irreverent snowmen ruled the comedy game of olden days with classic movies like “Holy Grail,” “Life of Brian,” and “Meaning of Life.” Though to many, the memories of their hilarious antics came from their 1969 BBC smash hit sketch show, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” While most fans replay undoubtedly famous skits like “The Dead Parrot Sketch” and “Self Defense Against Fresh Fruits,” here’s a list of the three most knee-slapping scenes from the show that deserve just as much recognition.
- ”World Forum”
Satirizing politics is a rather common trope in sketch comedy. We’ve seen it from “2 Minutes of Fame” star Jay Pharoah’s spot on impersonation of Barack Obama on “Saturday Night Live” to news centered monologues in late night talk shows like “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” However, the Python’s sketch World Forum (or the Communist Quiz) broke comedy barriers of the time. Poking fun at popular quiz shows in the dawning era of television such as “The Big Surprise” and “The $64,000 Question,” the skit revolves around four notorious Communist figures. Competing in prowess are Vladimir Lenin (John Cleese), Mao Zedong (Basil Tang), Karl Marx (Terry Jones) and Che Guevara (Terry Milligan). While one may expect the questions asked to revolve around history, the Pythons blindsides Karl Marx with question “The Hammers is the name of what English fútbol team?” These random questions continuously confuse the leaders in a way that speaks to the Python’s irreverent sense of comedy. While Karl Marx gets lucky with a couple questions that were up his alley in the third round of the game, chancing him to the prize of a “beautiful lounge suit,” he stumbles on the question, “Who won the English Football Cup in 1949?”
“Confuse-a-Cat,” a sketch written by Cleese and Chapman for the fifth episode of the show’s debut season, perfectly depicts the level of absurdist humor which made the Monty Python series shine. The scene plays out quite simply, as a veterinarian (played by Chapman) enters the quaint suburban home of Esher (played by Palin), his wife (played by Jones), and their lazy cat. Called to inspect the unmoving cat, the vet deduces that he is “in a rute” and the only way to bring him back to normal is to confuse him. This leads him to call the task force, Confuse-a-Cat Limited. The force, in rather vaudevillian fashion, performs outrageous acts for the cat on a makeshift stage in the couple’s backyard. From boxing to Napoleon watching a penguin hop around on a pogo stick, this montage provides all the comedy gold needed and successfully confuses the cat. It’s a truly chaotic gem!
3. “Working Class Playwright”
Any comedy professional or staff writer will tell you that a key proponent of producing a truly funny sketch is taking the audiences expectations and flipping them on their heads. Working Class Playwright is a prime example of this comedic tactic. Following his return from London to his parents home, the soft spoken, snazzily dressed Ken (played by Chapman) reveals his aspirations of getting into the coal mining industry. This comes as a shock to his parents as his father (played by Cleese) made a living as a playwright, who believes that the eccentric lifestyles of press conferences and theatre debuts is “a full working day.” This spirals into a heated debate that resembles that of an artistic child looking towards following their dreams and their parents making them settle for “an honest living.” The most hilarious line comes from Ken’s mother (played by Jones), who urges Ken to not upset his father saying, “You know what he’s like after a couple of novels.” This sketch makes for biting dialogue about parenting and the working class mentality while keeping us laughing the whole way through.
“Monty Python’s Flying Circus” can be streamed on Netflix.
By Omar Letson