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CLASSIC: Monty Python’s ‘Dead Parrot Sketch’

Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on the BBC late 1969 and fast became the stuff of legend. Amongst the classic material were a good few sketches that still remain as funny and fresh nearly 50 years later. Here is one – The Dead Parrot Sketch.

BACKGROUND? The “Dead Parrot Sketch” – originally known as the “Pet Shop Sketch” or “Parrot Sketch“, was written by John Cleese (here as the customer) and the late Graham Chapman.   It was initially performed in the show’s first series, in the eighth episode (“Full Frontal Nudity”) which first aired on BBC2 on the 7th December 1969.

The sketch portrays a conflict between disgruntled customer played by Cleese and a shopkeeper Michael Palin who hold contradictory positions on the vital state of a “Norwegian Blue” parrot. the key to the comedy was the ongoing references to the way that the British referred to or handled ‘death’.

Trivia – Did you know the “Dead Parrot” sketch was inspired by a “Car Salesman” sketch that Palin and Chapman had done in a previous show How to Irritate People.  In it, Palin played a car salesman who repeatedly refused to admit that there was anything wrong with his customer’s (Chapman) car, even as it fell apart in front of him. That sketch was based on an actual incident between Palin and a car salesman.

Palin said later at their famous Aspen interview that this salesman “had an excuse for everything”. John Cleese said on the same show that he and Chapman “believed that there was something very funny there, if we could find the right context for it”.

In early drafts of what would become the Dead Parrot Sketch, the frustrated customer was trying to return a faulty TOASTER to a shop. But Chapman realised that it needed to be “madder”, and came up with the parrot idea. Over the years, Cleese and Palin due to ‘demand’ have performed many versions of the “Dead Parrot” sketch for various television shows, record albums, and live performances.
“Dead Parrot” was voted the top ‘alternative comedy’ sketch in a UK Radio Times poll. See why …. 

Credit – BBC Comedy

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