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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

This sketch involves John Cleese as civil servant in a fictitious United Kingdom government agency responsible for developing Silly Walks through grants. Cleese, throughout the sketch, walks in a variety of silly ways, and it is this more than the dialogue that has earned the sketch its popularity. Cleese is presented with a "walk in progress" by one Mr Putey (Michael Palin) — which turns out to be actually not that silly. He tells Putey that he does not believe the Ministry can help him, as his walk is not silly enough, and funding is short. The government, he explains, is supposed to give equally to Defence, Social Security, Health, Housing, Education and Silly Walks, but recently has been underfunding Silly Walks. Cleese later offers Mr Putey a grant that will allow him to work on the Anglo-French Silly Walk, La Marche Futile (an obvious parody of the Concorde's Anglo-French development), illustrated with some particularly ludicrous walk motions by Cleese, who is clearly reveling in the prospect of the Anglo-French project's taking place.

There is a brief appearance by Mrs Twolumps serving coffee with full silly walk (Daphne Davey, Carol Cleveland in the Hollywood Bowl version). The result of her style of walking is that no coffee is left in the cups by the time she puts them down on the desk. In the Hollywood Bowl version, Carol Cleveland accidentally (or possibly intentionally) hops next to Cleese and spills some of the coffee on him during the sketch.

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.

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.

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