From dead parrots to The Meaning of Life, Monty Python covered a lot of territory. Educated at Oxford and Cambridge, the Pythons made a habit of weaving arcane intellectual references into the silliest of sketches. A classic example is “Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion Visit Jean-Paul Sartre,” (above) from episode 27 of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
The sketch features writing partners John Cleese as Mrs. Premise and Graham Chapman as Mrs. Conclusion, gabbing away in a launderette about how best to put down a budgie. Mrs. Premise suggests flushing it down the loo. “Ooh! No!” protests Mrs. Conclusion. “You shouldn’t do that. No that’s dangerous. Yes, they breed in the sewers, and eventually you get evil-smelling flocks of huge soiled budgies flying out of people’s lavatories infringing their personal freedom.”
Another classic is the “Philosopher’s Drinking Song,” shown above in a scene from Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. The song was written and sung by Eric Idle. In the sketch, members of the philosophy department at the “University of Woolloomooloo” lead the audience in singing, “Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable; Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table…”
And one of our favorites: “The Philosophers’ Football Match” (above), a filmed sequence from Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, pitting the Ancient Greeks against the Germans, with Confucius as referee. The sketch was originally broadcast in 1972 in a two-part West German television special, Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus.
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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in November 2011.