Perhaps the most notorious of the Python team's television sketches, the Undertaker's sketch (written by Graham Chapman and John Cleese) concerns a man (Cleese) taking his dead mother (in a sack) to an undertaker's office. The Undertaker (Chapman) suggests they can "bury 'er or burn 'er", both of which Chapman notes are "nasty." Cleese shows the Undertaker his mother's body and sees that the dead woman "looks quite young." The Undertaker tells his assistant, Fred (Eric Idle) that he thinks they've "got an eater." The grieving son is understandably shocked by the idea of eating his mother's corpse, but when the Undertaker suggests digging a grave for him to throw up into (in case he feels "a bit guilty afterwards"), Cleese's character agrees.
The BBC were understandably cautious about the sketch, and reluctantly agreed to let it go ahead on the condition that the studio audience were heard to protest loudly, then invade the set at the sketch's conclusion. The Pythons loved to perform this sketch at the end ofshows so that the audience could meet the troupe.
This was poorly-executed: the audience began booing and shouting too early (those who weren't heckling were laughing), and because of studio fire regulations, only a limited section of the crowd were allowed to rush onto the studio floor - the rest of them just sat there looking awkward. (As Roger Wilmut pointed out in the book From Fringe To Flying Circus, a genuinely shocked audience would have reacted with an embarrassed silence.)
The sketch was also part of a longer running joke within the episode, which was that they expected Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to watch the show at some point. Having had interjections throughout the show ("She's switched to ITV !") the final scene, after the desultory audience invasion, had everyone standing to attention while the music to God Save the Queen was played, and the end credits rolled up the screen.
Following its initial broadcast of the sketch in 1970, the BBC wiped the sketch from the master tape and replaced with the "Spot the Braincell" sketch from episode 7 of the second series ("The Attila the Hun Show"). However, when the second series was released on BBC Video in 1985, episode thirteen was rather cleverly 'restored', thanks to the discovery of a (low quality) copy of the sketch that appears to be sourced from an off-air recording or a foreign (probably American) duplicate of the original show. This restored episode was finally shown again on television in the late 1980s as part of a complete (if frequently interrupted) run of second and third series repeats.
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