Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In This Nerd's Opinion: The 11 Best Monty Python Bits

IFC's spectacular six-part documentary on Monty Python has gotten me into the Python spirit all over again. (Thanks, IFC!) As a result, here are my top 11 favorite Python moments, in no particular order.

Upper Class Twit of the Year
Absolutely hysterical. From the door slamming bit to the removal of the debutantes' bras to the not-so-surprisingly difficult leap over the wall made of match box, this is pure gold.

What Have the Romans Done For Us? from Monty Python's Life of Brian
As a former classics major with a thing for Romans, this bit cracks me up every time.

Four Yorkshireman from Live at the Hollywood Bowl
For anyone who's ever sat through a particularly appalling pity party, consider yourself lucky it wasn't this one, where four Yorkshiremen recount their poverty-stricken childhoods living in boxes, lakes and, well, whatever was handy really.

French Taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
An oldie but a goodie -- and perhaps every geek child's favorite inspiration for insouciant insults.

Killer Rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Oh, the vagaries of rabbit rage! Who knows why rabbits attack? I'm just grateful they do in this wonderful scene where King Arthur's knights don't quite take this fearsome bunny seriously -- "What's he do? Nibble your bum?" -- with rather dire consequences.

Little Red Riding Hood from Live at the Hollywood Bowl
While the stoutly masculine casting for Little Red Riding Hood is a hoot, it's really the Wolf that makes this one work.

The Parrot Sketch
What can I say about this sketch? It's just perfect -- a brilliant mix of rage on Cleese's part and absurdist excuse making from Palin. This one's a classic for a reason.

Argument Clinic
There's nothing particularly spectacular about this one -- it's just silly and it works.

I Want to Be A Woman from Monty Python's Life of Brian
Stan wants to be called Loretta from now on...oh, and he wants to have babies, even if they will have to gestate in a box.

Exploding Penguin
This is one of my all-time, absolute favorite sketches for one very simple reason: the way Graham Chapman shouts "Burma!" That and "Intercourse the penguin!" reduces me to a giggling mess every time I see it.

Fish Slapping Dance
Not only is this bit my favorite Monty Python moment, it's also potentially one of my very favorite bits of comedy ever devised. It's so simple, so ridiculous and just wordlessly perfect.

So there's my 11 cents. What are your favorite Python bits?


Aurora said...

I don't think you can leave off Nudge Nudge. I'm a giant Eric Idle fan and this is him at his best.

And I loved the Murdering Barber/Lumberjack Sketch. The musical numbers are great and while everyone usually just remembers the song, the intro to it is brilliant.

Bill said...

I love all your picks (and Nudge Nudge), but I'd have to make room somewhere for the Ministry of Silly Walks. Overplayed, but that's because it's great.

Marcus said...

What? No Spanish Inquisition?

Anonymous said...

The Ministry of Silly Walks is one of my personal faves:

...ah, I see that commenter Bill has beat me to it :)

" go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!"

Misty Mays said...

Great picks. LMAO!

Tallscreen said...

I'm not so keen on the 'classic' sketches. Probably due to having them endlessly requoted by my peers (who seem to miss that one of Monty Python's strengths was in innovation).

I do like the argument sketch though, and the brilliant (and geeky) Galaxy Song!

Anonymous said...

About the French Knight scene: Hank Azaria played the French Knight in the opening cast of SPAMALOT, and during the second week of rehearsals the director remarked to Azaria that it was impressive that he'd memorized his lines for the French Knight scene so quickly.

Azaria reportedly answered, "dude, it's MONTY PYTHON. I've had these lines memorized since I was TWELVE."

Matt_Middleton said...

I love The Piranah Brothers sketch. I saw it for the first time when I was about 6, and it helped warp me for life :D

Mintychip said...

The Northern Playwright is my favourite. "There's more to life then culture!"

Amauriel said...

It's safe to say Python didn't do a lot of bad sketches.

I would have called you out if the Fish-Slapping Dance would have been left off...the best 15 seconds of comedy EVER.

I do agree that I would love to see the Spanish Inquisition on there...although they are over played, they are fantastic. The other favorite of mine is the guy who speaks in anagrams...shows Eric Idle at his best while showing how clever they all really were.

Shan said...

Great list, Liz. Like a lot of folks, I love Silly Walks, Lumberjack and the Inquisition, but I don't know what I'd toss out in favor of them.

Whenever I'm in a dark mood, a little fish slapping always brings a smile.

And that IFC documentary is the shit. (in a good way). Really insightful through 3 eps, and I can't wait to see the rest. Truly good stuff.

Liz said...

Ah, lots and lots of other good choices here. I thought long and hard about Lumberjack and Spanish Inquisition, but there were just too many good ones. I should have made it a top 25 list!

Shan, I'm glad you're enjoying the documentary, too. I find it incredibly fascinating, especially to find out how they each wrote and what the creative process was. Very well done.

Anonymous said...

My personal favourite has always been the Men Being Eaten by a Crocodile bit. I can't find a video but here is a transcript:


Also, the meaning of war:

And, of course, the meaning of birth, featuring the musical joy of Every Sperm is Sacred. Genius!

Anonymous said...

The Black Knight from "Holy Grail". We quote it often in our house!

Anonymous said...

I would also vote for the Ministry of Silly Walks!

Katherine said...

I was surprised and very pleased to see the fish slapping. That is the first Monty Python bit I ever saw, while watching reruns with my parents in a hotel room on a rainy vacation as a kid. Just thinking about it makes me laugh out loud.

I also like the Queen Victoria Handicap (episode 43). You know from the build up what is probably coming, and it is still hilarious when the Queen Victorias charge out of the gates.

There is also the blancmange playing tennis.

Joanna said...

I loves me the Pythons.....I can't think of a sketch I DON'T like. Nudge, Nudge rates up there, Cheese Shop, Spanish Inquisition (actually dressed up as them one year for Halloween), and I'm glad to see you have Four Yorkshiremen (I quote this all the time and no one gets it)and the Exploding Penguin.....what about the Philosopher's Song?

Shanna Swendson said...

The one that made me laugh until I was in pain when BBC America showed the whole Python series recently was the Wuthering Heights in Semaphore sketch (followed by other classic works using odd forms of communication). It may have something to do with the fact that I've never understood the appeal of that book, but the way the flags kept getting bigger as they shouted at each other was brilliant. I suppose the impact on me could also have something to do with the fact that the sketch was all visual, and therefore I hadn't already heard it quoted and mangled a zillion times before I saw it.

Me said...

There was a sketch I vaguely remember where part of it was a shot outside in a town. There was a cat sitting on a fence and on the screen popped the word cat with an arrow pointing at it. Then seconds later, it unexpectedly blew up. Cracks me up everytime but I have no idea what sketch it was.