"The Ministry of Silly Walks" is a sketch from the fourteenth episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, entitled "Face the Press," first aired in 1970. A shortened version of the sketch was performed for Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl.
The sketch Edit
This sketch involves John Cleese as civil servant in a fictitious United Kingdom government agency responsible for developing Silly Walks through grants. Cleese, throughout the sketch, walks in a variety of silly ways, and it is this more than the dialogue that has earned the sketch its popularity. Cleese is presented with a "walk in progress" by one Mr Putey (Michael Palin) — which turns out to be actually not that silly. He tells Putey that he does not believe the Ministry can help him, as his walk is not silly enough, and funding is short. The government, he explains, is supposed to give equally to Defence, Social Security, Health, Housing, Education and Silly Walks, but recently has been underfunding Silly Walks. Cleese later offers Mr Putey a grant that will allow him to work on the Anglo-French Silly Walk, La Marche Futile (an obvious parody of the Concorde's Anglo-French development), illustrated with some particularly ludicrous walk motions by Cleese, who is clearly reveling in the prospect of the Anglo-French project's taking place.
There is a brief appearance by Mrs Twolumps serving coffee with full silly walk (Carol Cleveland in the Hollywood Bowl version). The result of her style of walking is that no coffee is left in the cups by the time she puts them down on the desk. In the Hollywood Bowl version, Carol Cleveland accidentally (or possibly intentionally) hops next to Cleese and spills some of the coffee on him during the sketch.
As the years went by, Cleese found it increasingly difficult to perform these walks. He'd say, when told about a new Python Tour, "I'm not doing silly walks."
Some right-wing inspired observers pretended to see in this sketch a satire of government projects. But it should be noted that in the book The Pythons, members of the troupe indicated that they considered the whole scene nothing more than pure silliness. Cleese in particular is mildly dismayed that so many fans consider it their "best" sketch.
It has been suggested by John Cleese's former Director of Studies at Downing College, Cambridge, that the inspiration for the sketch came as a result of Cleese's time studying there, where the uneven, slippy and ill-supported gravel paths of the college domus often force undergraduates to navigate carefully around frequently-formed puddles and pot-holes with an amusing, broad and 'silly' stride. By contrast, Graham Chapman, in his book Graham Crackers, claims that the idea came to him (who came up with the concept, but then let Palin and Jones write the actual sketch) from a man who would walk past Chapman's house and up a steep hill every day while leaning backwards.
References in popular cultureEdit
- A reference to this sketch appears in Fawlty Towers episode The Germans, when John Cleese tries to cool things down by offering I'll do the funny walk — impersonating a German soldier' Goosestep.
- In 2000, an episode of Mission Hill, Andy and Kevin Make a Friend (or One Bang for Two Brothers), referenced the sketch when one of the characters attempts to impress a girl by showing how he does a "great silly walk" from the Ministry of Silly Walks.
- In the Nintendo 64 game GoldenEye 007, various computer monitors can be seen showing a man doing John Cleese's silly walk.
- In 2005, the sketch was chosen by a poll taken in Britain as the 15th greatest comedy sketch of all time (and one of 5 Monty Python sketches in the top 50).
- A reference is made to the "silly walk" in an episode of the WB's Gilmore Girls when Rory Gilmore says "Please, don't walk away like that," and Dean Forester responds with "Sorry, I'd do a silly walk, but I'm not feeling very John Cleese right now."
- In the movie Blue Collar Comedy Tour: One For the Road, Larry the Cable Guy makes a reference to The Ministry of Silly Walks and performs various silly walks to illustrate how people walked in Wal-Mart at around 2:00 AM.
- In October 2006, the children's educational TV programme Numberjacks on CBeebies (part of the BBC network) featured a "silly walk" by actor/gymnast Alex Liang in episode 5. In this episode, Alex plays a businessman whose shoes get struck by the "Problem Blob" which makes his shoes go into "silly walk" mode and has him "silly walking" all over Richmond Park.
- In an issue of The Simpsons Bongo comic when the British invade Springfield it shows John Cleese doing the goosestep and labels him as "the Minister of Silly Walks".
- In the 25th anniversary special of the radio sketch show I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, John agrees to take part in resurrecting the show on the conditions that he can sing The Ferret Song and perform the Funny Walk. Of course, being a radio show, this comprised a full build-up and introduction, followed by several footsteps, and John finishing it by saying "Thank you," to tumultuous applause. He then apologises, saying that he thinks he missed a bit, to which Graeme Garden replies "The funny bit?".
- The 2014 app for the Apple app store called "The Ministry of Silly Walks"
The Science of Silly WalksEdit
In a research article published by Britain's Royal Society in 2007, it mathematically disproves the function of a silly walk as a natural primary source for mobility. In an example of life imitating art, they funded this through grant money.
- Animated GIFs of the Walks
- Monty Python in Britain's Top 50 Comedy Sketches
- The Silly Walks Generator
- Ministry of Silly Walks Yearly Report and silly walks images
- Montreux Festival - Silly Walks Special
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