The sketch appeared in several forms (on the original television series, film, stage, and LP). It first appeared on the ninth episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Each time the sketch started differently.
The common theme was of a man (originally Michael Palin, in later live versions Eric Idle) who expresses dissatisfaction with his current job (as a barber, weather reporter, pet shop owner, etc.) and then announces, "I didn't want to do this job. I wanted to be... a lumberjack!" He proceeds to sing about the life of a lumberjack ("Leaping from tree to tree,"), and lists various trees by their scientific names. He then rips off his coat to reveal a red flannel shirt, walks over to a stage backed with a coniferous forest, and begins to sing about the wonders of being a lumberjack. He is unexpectedly backed up by a large set of male singers, all dressed as Canadian Mounties (several were regular Python performers, while the rest were members of an actual singing troupe, the Fred Tomlinson Singers).
In the original sketch from the program and in the film version, the girl is played by Connie Booth, John Cleese's then-wife; in the Live version, the girl is played by Carol Cleveland. In the video/DVD version of And Now For Something Completely Different, it follows on from the infamous Dead Parrot sketch.
As the song continues, the lumberjack increasingly reveals cross-dressing tendencies ("I cut down trees, I skip and jump, I like to press wild flowers, I put on women's clothing, and hang around in bars"), which both distresses the girl and confuses the Mounties who continue to repeat and chorus his lines until they walk off in disgust. The girl cries out "And I thought you were so rugged!" (That was in the original TV sketch; in other versions, she says, "I thought you were so butch!") before running off. In the video/DVD version of And Now For Something Completely Different, at the end of the song the lumberjack is pelted with rotten fruit and eggs by the mounties, who can also be heard shouting insults. Another notable difference is that in the original version the lumberjack wishes he was a girlie "just like my dear mama," whereas the And Now For Something Completely Different version substitutes "mama" with "papa," implying that the lumberjack inherited his tendency for transvestism from his father.
The sketch took its inspiration from a discussion Palin had with an assistant cameraman, in which the subject was the cameraman's former jobs. One of the jobs was revealed to be that of a lumberjack.
There also exists a German version of The Lumberjack Song for which Palin learned the German text phonetically and the group of Mounties was replaced by a group of Austrian border guards. Instead of one of his parents, the German version credits the lumberjack's "Uncle Walter" as inspiring his passion for cross-dressing; this change was likely done simply for a rhyme with "Büstenhalter", the German translation for "bra", which caps the phrase preceding the "I wish I'd been a girlie..." line.
In The Concert for George (a memorial concert put on one year to the day after George Harrison's death), they performed the Lumberjack Song with Tom Hanks as one of the chorus of lumberjacks.
References in popular cultureEdit
- King of the Hill episode 45 (KH311):
- Hank: "Heck, I thought I'd go ahead and sharpen all the axes."
- Dale: (singing) "Hank's a lumberjack, and he's OK...."
- In the game World of Warcraft, a non-player character in Elwyn Forest is a lumberjack named "Terry Palin".
- In the MMORPG RuneScape, the character named "Lumberjack Leif" says, when examined: "He's a lumberjack and he's okay." From one of the game's minigames, a character can also acquire a 4-part Lumberjack outfit. All pieces have the examine information: "You'll certainly be alright wearing this/these." The enemies they are acquired from, Undead Lumberjacks, have the examine "He is one, but he's certainly not alright." The outfit looks exactly like Michael Palin's costume in the sketch.
- In the game Kingdom of Loathing, there is an outfit named the "OK Lumberjack Outfit."
- In the city-building simulation Master of Olympus - Zeus, lumberjacks will warn of high unemployment with the words: "A lot of people are out of work! But I'm a lumberjack, so I'm okay."
- In the comic strip Liberty Meadows by Frank Cho, the frog Leslie in one strip dresses up as a lumberjack and suddenly can't help beginning to sing the lumberjack song.
- In the Hollywood-themed world in the anime Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Grandpa Masa randomly exclaims that he always wanted to be a lumberjack while ripping off his shirt (as in the sketch) in front of a Canadian wilderness-style backdrop. The voice actor for Grandpa Masa, Takeshi Aono, provided the voice-over for all of Michael Palin's dialogue when Monty Python's Flying Circus was dubbed into Japanese.
- The Blender movie Lumberjacks in the Blender Gallery is based on The Lumberjack song
- In the game Serious Sam The Secound Encounter, Sam sings "I am a lumberjack and I'm OK" when he picks up a chainsaw.
- The RPG Golden Sun contains a reference to the song in one NPC's thoughts: "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK with that."
- The WWE used the song when wrestler Goldust sang the song in one of its skits.
I never wanted to do this job in the first place! I... I wanted to be...
Leaping from tree to tree! As they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia! With my best girl by my side! The Larch! The Pine! The Giant Redwood tree! The Sequoia! The Little Whopping Rule Tree! We'd sing! Sing! Sing!
Oh, I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay, I sleep all night and I work all day.
CHORUS: He's a lumberjack, and he's okay, He sleeps all night and he works all day.
I cut down trees, I eat my lunch, I go to the lava-try. On Wednesdays I go shoppin' And have buttered scones for tea.
Mounties: He cuts down trees, he eats his lunch, He goes to the lava-try. On Wednesdays 'e goes shoppin' And has buttered scones for tea.
I cut down trees, I skip and jump, I like to press wild flowers. I put on women's clothing, And hang around in bars.
Mounties: He cuts down trees, he skips and jumps, He likes to press wild flowers. He puts on women's clothing And hangs around.... In bars???????
I chop down trees, I wear high heels, Suspenders and a bra. I wish I'd been a girlie Just like my dear papa.
Mounties: He cuts down trees, he wears high heels Suspenders?? and a .... a Bra???? (spoken, raggedly) What's this? Wants to be a "girlie"? Oh, My! And I thought you were so rugged! Poofter!
All: He's a lumberjack, and he's okaaaaaaayyy...
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