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Buying an Ant is a sketch that appears in "Michael Ellis," the forty-first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus.


Snetterton and Hartford

Chris Quinn (Eric Idle) rings a bell for assistance and a shop assistant (Graham Chapman) wearing a mask pops up from behind the counter, making silly noises. He apologises, as he thought Quinn was someone else. Quinn is keen to know who the shop assistant thought he was. He responds he probably wouldn't know him, but Quinn insists he tells him. He reluctantly tell him Michael Ellis, who would be memorable since he's 6"9 tall, 40-ish, a large scar and no nose. Quinn thinks he knows who that might be, but the shop assistant argues that wouldn't be Michael Ellis. Quinn demands another shop assistant to help purchase an ant. The shop assistant leaves and reappears wearing a fake beard, saying he's Mr Abanazar. Quinn threatens to leave, so the shop assistant dings the bell and another shop assistant (Michael Palin) wearing a mask pops up from behind the counter.

Quinn refuses to be served by either of them, so he demands for the manager, but the second shop assistant says he is the manager. The real manager (Terry Jones) appears after a while and asks him what the problem is. Quinn explains the two shop assistants are being silly and hid under the counter after the manager arrived, but they're not under the counter. He explains all the weirdness going on, and the manager chalks it up to the store's Rag Week, which raises money for charity. The manager calls for a senior assistant Mr Snetterton, the first shop assistant. Quinn refuses him, so the manager calls for Mr Hartford. The second assistant appears and starts aiding Quinn with the purchase of an ant.

Hartford helps Quinn decide on the kind of ant he'd like to buy - a medium size ant worth one and a half p. When asked what to feed them with, Hartford bursts out "blancmange" but he didn't mean that. He says you don't feed them anything, they just die. They die if you don't feed them, which means you'll come back to buy another one. Quinn is satisfied with this explanation but drops the ant he's been petting. Hartford simply gives him another one, and shows him an ant house (a bird cage) with an ant wheel, ant swing, ant ladder, a two-way radio, and a book on ants he'll need to buy, totalling £184.015. Hartford also asks for a blood sample and a piece of skin from the scalp for identification if he wants to pay by cheque, so Quinn decides to pay by account instead.

Hartford sends Quinn off with his new ant Marcus and says "thank you, Mr Ellis", causing confusion to Quinn. Snetterton rushes in and tells him Hartford said "I'm jealous" instead, and the two shop assistants suspiciously wave Quinn away. He leaves the department store and the PA asking for "Michael Ellis" to go to the manager's office, perking Quinn's interest, but on the repeat, "Nigel Mellish". Quinn leaves confused.