And now for something completely differentiated... As the Monty Python-inspired ''Spamalot'' hits Broadway, we pick the comedy troupe's top 20 sketches
EW counts down Monty Python’s 20 funniest sketches
20 Argument Clinic (Monty Python’s Flying Circus DVD 9, Episode 29)
A troupe hallmark and a paraphrasing of what Python fans are thinking now. ”That’s not one of the top 20.” ”Yes, it is.” ”No, it isn’t.” ”Is.” ”Isn’t!”
19 Kilimanjaro Expedition (MPFC DVD 3, Ep. 9)
Who did an explorer who sees double hire to find a crew he sent to build a bridge between Kilimanjaro’s two peaks? ”The Arthur Brown twins, two botanists called Machin…and a couple of the Ken Spinoza quads. The other two pulled out.”
18 The Restaurant Sketch (MPFC DVD 1, Ep. 3)
A polite complaint about a dirty fork riles a cleaver-swinging cook and suicidal manager. Highlight: John Cleese’s gasping moan, ”Oh, it makes me mad.”
17 Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion Visit Sartre (MPFC DVD 9, Ep. 27)
Who better to debate Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy and burial methods for live cats than two shrieking housewives? The best of the sketches with the Pythons’ drag alter egos, the Pepperpots.
16 The Visitors (MPFC DVD 3, Ep. 9)
The rudest drop-ins ever, including Arthur Name (”What’s brown and sounds like a bell? Dung”), Mr. Equator (”[The seat’s a] bit lumpy…ah, no wonder, I was sitting on the cat”), and his incontinent, beans-gobbling wife.
15 Every Sperm Is Sacred (Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life)
Terry Jones’ directorial high, this rousing musical number about the perils of masturbation from the 1983 film is Python irreverence at its most elaborate.
14 Interesting People (Monty Python’s Flying Circus DVD 4, Episode 11)
A goofy TV panel features a hypnotist who puts bricks to sleep and a man whose cat flies across the room into a pail of water. (”By herself?” ”No, I fling her.”)
13 Spam (MPFC DVD 8, Ep. 25)
Thanks to this operatic, Viking-sung ditty, the jellied canned luncheon meat will always be synonymous with classic comedy.
12 Self-Defence (MPFC DVD 2, Ep. 4)
What’s a fruit-obsessed instructor’s advice for dealing with an assailant attacking with a banana? (1) Shoot him. (2) Eat the banana, thus disarming him.
11 Crunchy Frog (MPFC DVD 2, Ep. 6)
Crunchy Frog, Cockroach Cluster, Ram’s Bladder Cup with lark’s vomit: This candy selection yields oddly tasty humor.
10 Stoning (Monty Python’s Life of Brian)
You may be humming ”(Always Look on the) Bright Side of Life” after the 1979 film, but the beard-wearing, rock-hurling women make the movie sing.
9 Eric the Half a Bee (Monty Python’s Previous Record)
A rousing ode to a bifurcated bug from 1972: ”I love this hive employee/Bisected accidentally/One summer afternoon by me/I love him carnally.”
8 Nudge Nudge (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, DVD 1, Episode 3)
”Nudge nudge, know what I mean? Say no more!” Eric Idle’s winking insinuator is the ultimate perv, even if the sketch ends, ”You’ve slept with a lady…. What’s it like?”
7 The Lumberjack Song (MPFC DVD 3, Ep. 9)
A barber longs to be a macho woodsman, because ”I cut down trees, I skip and jump/I like to press wildflowers/I put on women’s clothing/And hang around in bars.” During some live shows, fans Tom Hanks and George Harrison both slipped into lumber gear to sing backup.
6 Fish-Slapping Dance (MPFC DVD 9, Ep. 28)
John Cleese and Michael Palin prance about, slapping each other with fish, naturally. Fifteen seconds of sublime silliness.
5 The Funniest Joke in the World (Monty Python’s Flying Circus DVD 1, Episode 1)
A British joke so funny its audiences die laughing becomes a critical weapon against the Nazis during WWII. Not so the Germans’ failed retaliation: ”Der ver zwei peanuts, valking down der strasse, and von vas…assaulted! Peanut.”
4 Dead Parrot (MPFC DVD 3, Ep. 8)
”If you hadn’t nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies…. This is an ex-parrot.” The legacy of John Cleese’s complaint to Michael Palin for selling a stuffed pet is marred only a bit by a listless reprise on a 1997 Saturday Night Live.
3 Guy de Loimbard’s Castle (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
”Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries” from the 1975 film remains the gold standard of verbal abuse.
2 The Ministry of Silly Walks (MPFC DVD 5, Ep. 14)
Cleese’s giant steps are equally hilarious on the TV show and in the ’82 concert film Live at the Hollywood Bowl.
1 The Spanish Inquisition (Monty Python’s Flying Circus DVD 5, Episode 15)
Red-caped crusading cardinals threaten torture with (gasp!) the comfy chair! Unforgettable for one reason: torture by kitchen drying rack, and Michael Palin’s inability to count…two! Two reasons!