Pepperpots are middle-aged housewives, usually British, portrayed by a male member of the group dressed as a woman and speaking in a screeching falsetto.
Pepperpots typically have farcical names; examples include "Mrs Premise", "Mrs Conclusion", "Mrs Concrete", "Mrs Smoker", "Mrs Non-Smoker", "Mrs Gorilla", "Mrs Non-Gorilla", "Mrs Thing", "Mrs Entity", "Mrs Mock Tudor", "Mrs Elizabeth III" or "Mrs Trepidatious".
One particularly shrill pepperpot made it into a US top 40 single in 1976, screeching out a tirade about '60s girl groups during the instrumental break of the George Harrison #25 hit "This Song". The pepperpot voice was provided by Eric Idle, though in the song's promotional music video the (lip-synced) screed is split between two different 'pots, one of which is played by Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones.
The Pepperpots made a prior appearance in How to Irritate People, whose cast included John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Michael Palin. Here, Cleese demonstrates how their name derives from their convex shape:
"There is a particular type of middle-aged woman who uses irritation as a way of life. It's the only thing she's really good at. She's roughly this shape...[outlines a round, convex shape] like a pepperpot...A Pepperpot's life's ambition is to be in the audience at a quiz show. She is to be found in shopping areas blocking the pavement, tormenting babies, spreading rumours, and spending a fortune on bargains. She enjoys worrying, and being shocked. Individually, she is intolerable. In a group, horrific."
Origins of where these characters stemmed from seem scarce, but according to Jim Yoakum in his book, Monty Python VS. The World, the development of the Pepperpots can be traced back to a Python 'impromtu picnic' in early 1969. There, Chapman and partner David Sherlock had decided to visit a little teashop located in Hampstead where the picnic was being held and whilst there they saw the owners of the shop, a gaggle of elderly ladies, camped behind the counter eyeing up their brand new electric till. They watched with mirth as one would ring up the purchases on the till whilst calling them out to another who would carefully jot them down in a shaky hand on a piece of paper. According to Sherlock, who referred to them as 'mad creatures', they would check the machine by hand that would take twice as long simply because they didn't trust it. All the while they would just chat away, which apparently led to some 'Pepperpotty ideas'.
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