Dead Parrot, alternatively and originally known as Pet Shop sketch or Parrot Sketch, is a sketch that appears in "Full Frontal Nudity," the eighth episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. It also appears in And Now for Something Completely Different.
Disgruntled customer Mr Eric Praline (John Cleese) enters a pet shop from which he previously bought a Norwegian Blue parrot. He complains to the shopkeeper (Michael Palin) that the parrot is dead, though the shopkeeper insists that it is "just resting" or "stunned." An argument ensues with both men holding their position until the shopkeeper sends Praline to his brother's pet shop in Bolton. However, when Praline arrives, it is the same pet shop with the same shopkeeper, who has put on a moustache, but is told that he is actually in Ipswich. He leaves and complains to a porter (Terry Jones), who tells him that he is indeed in Bolton. Praline returns to the pet shop and the men argue about puns and palindromes until the Colonel stops the sketch for being too silly.
In And Now For Something Completely Different, the skit ended by going into The Lumberjack Song. (As the shopkeeper is explaining that he always wanted to be a lumberjack, Mr Praline gets confused and says to him, "I'm sorry, this is irrelevant, isn't it?")
The double album Monty Python's The Final Rip Off features a live version of the sketch, which is slightly different from the TV version. Praline's rant about the deceased parrot includes "He fucking snuffed it!" Also, the sketch ends with the shopkeeper saying that the slug does talk. Praline, after a brief pause, says, "Right, I'll have that one then!"
In The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball, a benefit for Amnesty International, the sketch opens similarly, but ends very differently:
- Mr Praline: It's dead, that's what's wrong with it.
- Shopkeeper: So it is. 'Ere's your money back and a couple of holiday vouchers.
- (audience goes wild)
- Mr Praline: (looks completely flabbergasted) Well, you can't say Thatcher hasn't changed some things.
At least one live version, released on CD, ended with the slug lines, followed by:
- Shopkeeper: (long, long pause) ... Do you want to come back to my place?
- Mr Praline: I thought you'd never ask.
In a 1997 Saturday Night Live performance of the sketch, Cleese added a line to the rant: "Its metabolic processes are a matter of interest only to historians!"
Behind the scenes
The "Dead Parrot" sketch was inspired by a "Car Salesman" sketch that Palin and Graham Chapman had done in How to Irritate People. In it, Palin played a car salesman who refused to admit that there was anything wrong with his customer's (Chapman) car, even as it fell apart in front of him. That sketch was based on an actual incident between Palin and a car salesman.
It was also based on an ancient joke told by the Romans: A Man brought a slave who died soon afterwards. He went to the market to complain. He told the market salesman that the slave had a problem, he died. The market salesman said that he didn't have that problem before he sold him. The joke is one of the oldest jokes in the world.
Over the years, Cleese and Palin have done many versions of the "Dead Parrot" sketch for various television shows, record albums, and live performances.
In popular culture
- At Graham Chapman's memorial service, Cleese began his eulogy by stating that Graham Chapman was no more, that he had ceased to be, that he had expired and gone on to meet his maker, and so on. Cleese went on to justify his eulogy by claiming that Chapman would never have forgiven him if he had not delivered it exactly as he did. Near the end, he also called him an "ex-Chapman".
- The same lines from the skit are frequently used to describe anything which the speaker wishes to describe as defunct or no longer viable. The term "Dead Parrot" is sometimes used in this context too, and also specifically applies to a controversial joint policy document which the Liberal Party and Social Democrats issued in 1988 in the process of their merger into the Social and Liberal Democratic Party. Shortly before her downfall as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher described this party in her deadpan 'comedy' voice, saying "this is a dead parrot, it has ceased to be." The loss of the Eastbourne parliamentary seat at a by-election to the Liberal Democrats shortly afterward was cause for David Steel, its leader at the time to say "it looks like this dead parrot gave her a good pecking!". The emblem of the Liberal Democrats is a flying yellow bird.
- Thatcher's comment was not wholly original, as three years previously Spitting Image had run a take-off of the Dead Parrot Sketch with David Owen, then leader of the SDP, in the role of Mr Praline, Owen's predecessor Roy Jenkins as the shopkeeper, and the SDP ("lovely policies") standing in for the parrot itself.
- In John Cleese's duet act with his daughter in Seven Ways to Skin an Ocelot, he did a Californian version of the Dead Parrot sketch, replacing the parrot with a trophy wife.
- Another British television comedy Not The Nine O'Clock News referred to the Parrot Sketch in their sketch about "Python Worshippers":
Bishop: In the words of John Cleese, whenever two or three are gathered together in one place, then they shall perform the Parrot Sketch.
Interviewer: It is an ex-parrot.
Alexander Walker & Bishop (in unison): It has ceased to be.
- They also performed another sketch called "Not the Parrot Sketch".
- Quest for Glory II features a "Blue Parrot Inn" in Raseir. There is a deceased blue parrot hanging upside down from its perch inside the inn.
- Quest for Glory V also features a "Dead Parrot Inn" in Silmaria.
- When Michael Palin and John Cleese made surprise appearances on the season 22 episode of Saturday Night Live (hosted by Kevin Spacey with musical guest Beck), they recreated the Parrot Sketch.
- A short South Park skit, created specially for the BBC's Python Night, paid homage to the Parrot Sketch. Cartman tries to explain to Kyle, the shopkeeper, that Kenny is dead, borrowing nearly all of the dialogue from the Parrot sketch. An inside joke comes from the fact that the character Kenny dies nearly every episode and strangely is alive the next episode. Directly after the sketch, Trey Parker and Matt Stone discuss the opportunity of creating more Monty Python homages while letting Terry Gilliam do South Park. The two then blackmail Terry by showing his kidnapped mother.
- A Stargate SG-1 episode, "Into the Fire" includes a short scene where Col. O'Neill, after killing Hathor, tries to convince her followers that she's an "ex-goddess," saying, "She's gone. She is no more. She's… well, let's face it, she's a former queen."
- The sketch was also parodied in an episode of EastEnders, where Jim Branning took his dead bird back to the pet shop. Wherein the two shop assistants go about recreating the sketch, much to Jim Branning's bemusement.
- Also in 2001, the Australian sketch show The Micallef Pogram included a brief parody at the beginning of its last episode. The reversal here was that the bird was alive, with the Mr Praline-type character soon realising his error. Later the host complained that the anorak and type of bird were wrong as well.
- Jerry Fodor, a philosopher known for his extensive use of jokes in his writings, describes a theory on concepts in his brief essay Having Concepts: a Brief Refutation of the Twentieth Century rhetorically saying "But this parrot too is pretty certainly dead".
- On his 2005 tour of New Zealand, John Cleese recreated the Parrot Sketch, substituting a dead sheep for the parrot.
- The British comedy programme The Office, written by and starring Ricky Gervais, also contains a brief reference to the dead parrot sketch. David Brent's (played by Ricky Gervais) and Chris Finch's quiz team are named the Dead Parrots and they repeat the line: "it rests in peace, if you hadn't nailed it to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies!" when introduced, to which the quiz-master, Gareth, laughs and simply says "Monty Python" while being the only one apart from Brent and Finch who looks amused.
- On Jasper Carrot's 24 Carrot Gold Tour (where the audience voted for the material in the show) he opened with the joke: "Someone from Newark wanted the Dead Parrot sketch. Newark, the only city in England that's an anagram of Wanker."
- The Neko Desktop Accessory for Macintosh System 7 allowed the mouse to be configured as a blue bird, which was claimed to be a "Norwegian Blue Parrot."
- There's a brief mention of the Norwegian Blue on page 245 of Jasper Fforde's book The Big Over Easy (Mary Mary and Lord Spongg admire it for its "beautiful plumage").
- In the classic computer game Colossal Cave Adventure, a small bird is in evidence at one point in the game. When the player attempts to FEED BIRD, the program responds with "The bird is not hungry (it's just pining for the fjords)"—an obvious early reference to the Dead Parrot Sketch.
- In the MUD Walraven, if one attempts a combat action on a corpse, the system reply is "This is an ex-parrot!"
- In John Cleese's appearance on The Muppet Show, he plays a traditional pirate in a Pigs in Space segment. When the parrot on his shoulder nags him, he threatens it: "Do you want to become an ex-parrot?"
- A list of different breeds of swamp dragon in Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero includes "The Nothingfjord Blue. Wonderful scales, but a tendency to homesickness".
- The "Asian Bride Shop" sketch in Goodness Gracious Me, although starting off as a parody of the Cheese Shop sketch, ends with a customer complaining his bride is dead.
- The Christmas 1998 issue of David Langford's science fiction newsletter Ansible includes a lengthy parody of the sketch by Simon Bradshaw, based on Ken Macleod's suggestion that the upcoming technological singularity might get hit by the (then also upcoming) Millennium Bug.
- A character named Norwegian "Weej" Blue appears in the comic Hopeless Savages.
- In Monty Python's Spamalot, the line "The plumage doesn't enter into it!" is worked into another Python sketch, the conversation about swallows.
- In the movie Fierce Creatures, a zoo visitor, asked about his opinion on sea lions, answers, that they had beautiful plumage.
- In season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, three of the show's characters witness Buffy kill a detached Mummy's hand, joking "This is an ex-Mummy's hand," and "This Mummy's hand is deceased!"
- The phrase also appears in the turn-based strategy game Worms. The death of a Worm in the game is accompanied by an on-screen message reading "Name is an ex-worm" with Name obviously replaced with the Worm's name. From Worms 2 onwards, a variety of phrases are used, which are chosen at random.
- Following the 2–1 victory of Scotland's football team against Norway in Oslo on September 7, 2005, the Daily Record, a Scottish tabloid, parodied a famous quote of the Norwegian radio journalist Bjørge Lillelien whose well-known commentary followed Norway's 2–1 victory against England in a World Cup qualifier in Oslo on September 9, 1981. Daily Record lists famous Norwegians (and the infamous Quisling), not forgetting to include the Norwegian Blue: King Olaf, Roald Amundsen, Liv Ullmann, Edvard Munch, Vidkun Quisling, Thor Heyerdahl, Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Grieg, Monty Python's Norwegian Blue, Morten Harket, and Anni-Frid from ABBA.
- An extract from the sketch was included in the 2007 A Level English Language and Literature NTB5 Paper.
- A Sketch in the third series of That Mitchell and Webb Sound parodied this sketch by featuring a Pet Shop owner who accepted the return of a dead parrot instantly, and even offered the owner compensation. The sketch also parodied many other famous sketches.
- In Xombie: Reanimated Issue #3, among the zombies at the zoo is a parrot which is noted by Dirge as a Norwegian Blue.
- The Neopets website uses a variation of the phrase should you end up on a page which is dead or broken, reading "This is an ex-page. It has shuffled off the mortal coil." Neopets 404 error pages use a variety of catchphrases, and this is just one of them.
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