“And now for something completely different.” That’s right – it’s time for some Monty Python.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but smile when I hear that phrase. It encapsulates Monty Python and all of their work. It’s all fiercely intelligent, but all incredibly ridiculous, random, and silly.
Monty Python has the kind of collection of work that was just as funny to me as a kid as it is to me now. I used to laugh at all the goofy faces, silly walks, and ridiculous premises, and now I laugh because of the use of language, political satire, and more is concise and hilarious.
With the passing of co-founder Terry Jones, I thought it apt to revisit his legacy. His work with the other incredible members of Monty Python not only revolutionized British comedy but comedy as a whole. While we mourn the death of Jones, it is essential to find joy in his work.
So, without further ado, these are the 10 best Monty Python moments of all time, including TV and film, in no particular order. No singular moment is off limits – as long as it is Monty Python, and is a unique gag, it is eligible. Enjoy!
Biggus Dickus – The Life of Brian
No comedian is, or ever should be, too good for a penis joke. Monty Python realizes this and isn’t afraid to indulge in some low-brow humor.
The set-up is rather silly – characters come up with some Romanesque names that are absolute jokes, purposefully foolish, and unrealistic, such as Biggus Dickus. Of course, the aristocrat has a good friend named Biggus Dickus, and all the centurions have trouble maintaining their composure at the hilarious name. The sketch concludes with another joke regarding the wife’s name, but I won’t spoil that here.
It is a highlight of a spectacular film, and it’s a lot of fun to laugh with the film’s actors at a genuinely hilarious, if immature, name.
Sex Education – The Meaning of Life
Continuing with a theme of sexual humor, Monty Python tackles the awkward nature of sex education in schools. The beginning of the sketch just has some solid comedy regarding ambiguous and complex directions, but it quickly turns explicit. Not only are foreplay and penetration discussed (an essential aspect of every sex education course), but John Cleese begins to discuss “vaginal juices.”
If you cringed, have no fear. Everyone did. But it gets much worse once the professor’s wife comes into the room, strips naked, and the two begin having sex to educate the students on how it’s done. It’s bizarre, awkward, but undeniably hilarious.
But always remember, guys, “What’s wrong with a kiss, boy?”
The Spanish Inquisition – Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Never, if you can help it, utter, “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!”
If you do, prepare for extreme torture via soft cushions, comfy chairs, and coffee at 11. Actually, wait a minute…
This sketch is hilarious and witty, taking something with insidious historical roots and trivializing it with silliness. However, the best part of the sketch isn’t the torture by comfort, although that is certainly very funny, but the lead inquisitor cannot count properly that takes the cake.
He will charge you with three counts of heresy, only to list four; then, he must correct himself and clarify that he is charging you with four counts, not three. He will do this repeatedly, with different variations in delivery and language, to make the concept increasingly hilarious.
It’s a great sketch that benefits from fantastic, exaggerated performances from all the actors involved, and it is a classic example of Monty Python’s ability to take serious subjects and make them silly in the best way.
Argument Clinic – Monty Python’s Flying Circus
As an English major, I have a special place in my heart for the argument clinic. An exercise in language and the modes and methods of speech, the argument clinic has a simple premise. A man goes to a clinic to pay for a good, old-fashioned argument.
Once the customer has entered the appropriate room, the argument immediately begins. However, the man he is arguing with is contradicting the customer, not arguing, or so the customer claims. What occurs is a debate about the qualities of both an argument and contradiction, and the differences between the two. It’s ridiculous, but, most importantly, intelligent. It’s a joy to watch, and you’ll come out of it more educated about the nature of an argument.
And, if you disagree and want to argue about it, I want to let you know that I simply don’t argue in my free time.
The Ministry of Silly Walks – Monty Python’s Flying Circus
On the surface, this sketch seems like pure, solid, stupid humor. The basic concept is that there is a ministry, an official sect of the British government, devoted to silly walks. And the walks are incredibly silly, with John Cleese’s walk being a highlight of one of the best Monty Python moments of the show.
However, the sketch is revealed to be much deeper after John Cleese’s character rejects an individual’s proposal for his own silly walk to be subsidized. Cleese’s character, while flailing his legs and body around in ridiculous ways, explains to the man the economics involved with the Ministry of Silly Walks, and the government’s role in its funding.
The sketch is, in fact, a criticism of the British government’s allocation of funds and resources at the time. The issue is tackled in a funny way, but it gets its point across with surprising grace. Nothing about the message of this sketch is silly, and it is a joy to laugh at Monty Python’s position on the British government.
Self-Defense Against Fresh Fruit – Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Now, this one is just purely stupid, and it’s freaking hilarious. John Cleese is a self-defense instructor, but instead of tackling serious subjects like sharp objects or deadly weapons, the man is obsessed with self-defense against a myriad of fruit.
What ensues is a hilarious scene of ridiculous instruction from the omnipotent threat that is a man armed with fresh fruit. Funnier still is the fact that all the self-defense methods involve shooting someone, dropping a 16-ton weight on their head, or setting loose a literal tiger on your assailant.
It’s Monty Python at their goofiest, and it is comedy gold.
The Black Knight – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
If you are a fan of Monty Python, you knew that some scenes from this legendary film were bound to show up. The Black Knight is arguably their most famous scene or sketch. The scene features a fight between King Arthur and the Black Knight. Of course, the hero, Arthur, wins by dismembering the Black Knight.
But the Knight doesn’t go down without a fight. When losing an arm, he claims “Tis but a scratch,” and continues to fight with only the one arm. Once he loses that arm, he begins to kick King Arthur until he then loses his legs, and so forth. Eventually, the fight ends in what the Black Knight refers to as a draw.
Also, can we start a petition to refer to any dismemberment as a “flesh wound?” I think the whole affair of losing a limb would be a little less dark, and maybe even funnier, that way.
Dead Parrot – Monty Python’s Flying Circus
This sketch is an exercise in euphemisms, and much of its humor derives from the rhetorical strategy. The premise is simple: a customer returns to a pet shop to complain that a parrot he purchased only 30 minutes ago turned out to be dead. Naturally, the clerk doesn’t want to return or replace the parrot, so he vehemently denies the fact, insisting the parrot is “resting.”
So, we are witness to a copious amount of euphemisms for sleeping and/or dying. These are sometimes simple, like using the word “late,” or much more complex, like “It’s rolled down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.” The cherry on top is John Cleese screaming at a parrot and slamming against the counter, which is one the best Monty Python moments ever. I mean, I’d give my next paycheck to see that, and this sketch offers it up for free!
The Piranha Brothers – Monty Python’s Flying Circus
The Piranha Brothers is a spoof of documentary crime shows, and it is just jam-packed full of ridiculous and hilarious jokes. One of Monty Python’s longer sketches, it covers Ethel the Frog (that name!) detailing the Piranha Brothers’, Doug and Dinsdale, rise to power.
Every single line in this skit is a joke. For example, the sketch opens by explaining that Doug and Dinsdale were “born on probation.” Not only that, but Doug was born in February 1929, “and Dinsdale two weeks later…”
“…and again a week after that.”
Doug and Dinsdale both turn out to be hilarious characters, and the cast of characters interviewed by Ethel the Frog gives ample opportunities for the Monty Python cast to play goofy, absurd characters. It points out all the clichés of shows like this and makes you laugh every single step of the way. Personally, it is my favorite Monty Python moment from the show.
The Holy Hand Grenade – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
I find it impossible not to end this list with the Holy Grail, considering it is one of the greatest comedies ever made. This segment, which is towards the end of the film, is ludicrous. And I mean, even more so than usual. After meeting a wizard named Tim, the group come upon a killer rabbit. As one does.
After attacking the animal as a group and failing because “that rabbit’s dynamite,” the remaining members have to resort to more extreme measures. Now, revealing an entire encampment full of people we have never seen before, King Arthur calls for the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. After EXPLICIT instructions on how to use the grenade on, let me remind you, a rabbit, King Arthur uses it to blow the bunny to smithereens.
It’s a segment of the film that is just packed full of jokes left and right. Every line has a purpose- it is either a joke or the set-up for one. It’s a prime example of why Monty Python is a juggernaut in comedy.
And there’s my list of the best Monty Python moments in TV and film! It was hard to nail down so many incredible sketches and scenes from these comedy legends. What are your personal favorites? How has Monty Python affected your life? Let us know in the comments below!
If you find yourself thirsty for some new comedy, check out these shows that are inspired by Monty Python. You could also check out Bojack Horseman, which is concluding this month.