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The Ministry of Silly Walks is a sketch that appears in "Face the Press," the fourteenth episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. A shortened version of the sketch was performed for Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

Synopsis[]

Mr. Teabag (John Cleese), a city gent, walks out of a Tobacconist's, after buying "The Times". He straightens his tie and then walks along the road in a very silly manner, passing by a long line of gas men. He then walks along a busy street, in the same silly manner, into a building named "The Ministry of Silly Walks". He proceeds to walk along the corridor (passing by some other workers, also walking about in a silly manner) and into his office.

In his office is Arthur Pewtey (Michael Palin). He sits down at his desk and Pewtey tells him that he has a silly walk and he'd like to obtain a government grant to help develop it. Teabag asks if he can see his silly walk. Pewtey demonstrates it, doing a few steps and lifting the bottom part of his left leg sharply at every alternate pace. Teabag doesn't find it particularly silly but Pewtey believes that with government backing, he could make it very silly. Teabag then rises from his chair and explains how money is the real problem, walking in an extremely silly manner as he does so. He then sits down and, pressing his intercom, asks Mrs. Two-Lumps (Daphne Davey) if they can have two coffees. While he is talking about the silliest foreign walks to Pewtey, Two-Lumps comes in with the coffee. Unfortunately, she also has a very silly walk, spilling all the coffee. After showing them to Teabag, she then leaves with the tray and the cups.

Teabag then proceeds to show Pewtey an old silent-movie type film which demonstrates various different silly walks. Teabag then throws away the projector playing the film and offers Pewtey a Research Fellowship on the Anglo-French silly walk, La March Futile.


Behind the Scenes[]

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 culture[]

  • A reference to this sketch appears in Fawlty Towers episode The Germans, when John Cleese tries to cool things down by offering to 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 film, 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 Bongo's The Simpsons 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 comedy 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 Walks[]

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.

External links[]


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