Very few characters of the BBC television series Monty Python's Flying Circus appeared in more than one episode, and when they did, it was usually to link sketches together. A few well-known characters are described below.
Opening Sequence CharactersEdit
Played by Michael Palin. The sole function of the It’s Man is to begin the sentence “It’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus!” He has a huge gray beard and long, unkempt hair, as if he has been on a deserted island for some time. His clothes are in tatters. In early episodes, the It’s Man is seen (on film) struggling to get to the camera from far away (from out at sea, for example, or across a large field). Upon arriving in the foreground, he is on the verge of collapse before looking up at the camera and saying his one word. Immediately thereafter, the animated titles begin and a more energetic announcer takes over. Eventually, the “long journeys” of the It’s Man were dispensed with, and he was generally seen for only as long as it would take to say "It's." The character was the first one seen in the first episode and he was retained throughout the entire run of the show.
The Nude OrganistEdit
Played by both Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, the wild-haired organist sits nude (but for a white collar and black bow tie) at a small organ and grins at the camera while playing a few chords that introduce a sketch or, more frequently the opening titles of the episode. His appearances rarely last more than two seconds, though in one episode he comments philosophically to an interviewer on his role as “the nude man” before beginning to play.
Played by John Cleese, the announcer is a very dignified BBC representative who wears a black dinner jacket, sits at a news desk, and reads into a large microphone. His initial catch phrase is "And now for something completely different," a statement which is meant to introduced a new sketch. Like the It's Man, however, his shtick was shortened over time, and he was usually heard to say simply: “And now . . “ with his one-second clip appearing between those of the Organist and the It’s Man.
The typical sequence before the opening titles was therefore: Nude Organist, Announcer, It’s Man.
Recurring Sketch CharactersEdit
Though not referred to by a single character name, the somewhat disreputable shopkeeper, played by Michael Palin, is a staple of many a two-person sketch (e.g., the Parrot Sketch, the Cheese Shop Sketch, the Pet Shop sketch). He often speaks with a strong Cockney accent. In the Cheese Shop sketch, he is indirectly identified as Mr Wensleydale (although this name would seem to be relevant only in this particular sketch). As the customer (John Cleese) tries to guess which of a lengthy list of cheeses the shop actually has in stock, the shopkeeper answers "Yes?" when the customer says "Wensleydale". The shopkeeper then explains that he thought that he was calling his name rather than asking about the variety of cheese.
The term Pepperpots refers to any of the middle-aged, matronly types played by the men of Monty Python. A pepperpot is usually somewhat overweight and wears a rather unflattering ensemble often topped off by a small, old-fashioned hat. She holds a small purse in her gloved hands, and is very often seen out and about, apparently running errands while her husband is at work. She usually speaks in a high voice that sounds very much like that of a man imitating a woman (fair enough). The Pepperpots are given different names in various sketches: Mrs Premise, Mrs Conclusion, Mrs Nesbitt, Mrs Smoker, Mrs Non-Smoker, etc.
A character generally personified by Michael Palin, though the first was played by John Cleese, but all of the Pythons have played him at one time or another, sometimes all at once. Gumby is a character of limited intelligence and vocabulary. He speaks haltingly, in a loud, indistinct manner. He wears round glasses and a sweater-vest. His shirt sleeves and trouser legs are always rolled up, exposing his socks and his knees. Gumby stands stoop-shouldered, with his hands are permanently clenched in front of him, elbows slightly bent, and his feet turned to the outside. He wears a folded white handkerchief knotted at the corners on his head and sports a vaguely Hitler-esque mustache. His famous catchphrase is "my brain hurts"
Described in one of the scripts as “excruciatingly public school,” the Colonel, played by Graham Chapman, is an officer of the British Army with an authoritative bearing. He is known to interrupt sketches when he feels that they have become too silly and demand that something else be shown. (The Colonel made a cameo appearance on Saturday Night Live when one of the sketches there seemed to lack a conclusion.)
Played by Terry Gilliam. A Medieval knight whose only function is to conclude a sketch when it has run its course. He does this by entering the scene, hitting one of the characters on the head with a dead chicken, and then turning around and walking away silently. His face is never seen (as he is wearing a helmet and full armor) and he never speaks.
Luigi is a low-level East End gangster with Sicilian connections. He is played by Michael Palin, who wears a mustache, sunglasses, and a pin-stripe suit. He is often involved in operations that turn out to be very poorly camouflaged illegal businesses, such as a nightclub "for the gentry" that is in reality a brothel. He is sometimes seen with his brother Dino, played by Terry Jones.
Nudge Nudge ManEdit
The Nudge Nudge man (played by Eric Idle) was seen in one of the earliest episodes of Monty Python. He is an annoying man and pub frequenter who speaks in a more or less inscrutable small talk. He is seen conversing with a gentleman Terry Jones who is initially unable to pick up on the obscure sexual innuendoes of his interlocutor and then becomes quite angry when he does. His conversation is laced with knowing smiles and the phrase “nudge-nudge,” accompanied by a slight elbow nudge to his interlocutor. An example: “Does your wife ‘go’? Is she a ‘goer’? Nudge-nudge - know what I mean? Say no more?” In a later episode, he makes a very brief (seconds-long) cameo appearance as “Archbishop Nudge” in a sketch about obscure religions.
Played by Michael Palin. The character was an example of a digusting man with a nasty cough. He supposedly works as a cleaner of public lavatories, but in one sketch he enters a house with a goat, suggesting he either works on a farm or just owns a goat. The character was to appear in the sketch film And Now For Something Completely Different, but executive producer Victor Lownes thought the character to be too disgusting. He also briefly appears as "Archbishop Shabby" in the same sketch about obscure religions that "Archbishop Nudge" appears in.
Played by John Cleese, Mr Praline is introduced during the Whizzo Chocolate sketch. He later, more famously, returns a dead parrot to the pet shop where he bought it. Praline has more problems in series 2 when he tries to buy a licence for his fish, Eric. He also pops up in a handful of short links.
Spiny Norman The HedgehogEdit
Originally a one-shot gag, after one of the Piranha Brothers was revealed to suffer from an irrational fear of a giant hedgehog named Spiny Norman, Norman did indeed appear at the end of said episode. He later made various cameos. On numerous subsequent occasions when there were shots of buildings, Norman was seen wandering around.
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