Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Series One, Episode Seven – You’re No Fun Anymore

scifi

Although the first six episodes of Python had spun about in various different ways, You’re No Fun Anymore is a departure from the norm.  The first five minutes or so seem to be operating in the usual way but the remainder is devoted to a single sketch – that of the tennis-playing blancmanges from outer-space.

We open with Eric Idle as a camel-spotter.

Interviewer: Well, now tell me, what do you do when you spot a camel?
Spotter: Er, I take its number.
Interviewer: Camels don’t have numbers.
Spotter: Ah, well you’ve got to know where to look. Er, they’re on the side of the engine above the piston box.
Interviewer: What?
Spotter: Ah – of course you’ve got to make sure it’s not a dromedary. ‘Cos if it’s a dromedary it goes in the dromedary book.
Interviewer: Well how do you tell if it’s a dromedary?
Spotter: Ah well, a dromedary has one hump and a camel has a refreshment car, buffet, and ticket collector.

The sketch terminates with Idle declaring “You’re no fun anymore” which leads into several other sketches where we only see the shots of the same punch-line – much to Idle’s chagrin who’s peeved that everybody else has pinched his line.

After the accountant sketch and a very worthwhile public-service announcement (“And now here is a reminder about leaving your radio on during the night. Leave your radio on during the night“) we’re into the heart of the episode, introduced by Michael Palin’s creepy redcoat.

Now we’ve got some science fiction for you, some sci-fi, something to send the shivers up your spine, send the creepy crawlies down your lager and limes. All the lads have contributed to it, it’s a little number entitled, Science Fiction Sketch.

Englishmen (and women and babies) are being transformed into stereotypical Scotsmen (complete with kilt, bushy red beard and bagpipe accompaniment).  The establishment are baffled, but luckily for us Graham Chapman is an expert in why people change from one nationality to the other and Donna Reading is his incredibly dumb (but pretty) girlfriend who asks all the questions you would expect someone to ask in this type of story.

reading and chapman

At this point in time the team don’t seem to have settled on Carol Cleveland as their default female performer which is reputably because director Ian McNaughton wanted to hire various different actresses in order to have a variety of pretty faces in the episodes.  Reading is fine but she lacks the sense of comedy timing that Cleveland would have brought to the part.

The sketch can be broken down into various smaller sketches, some of which would have worked well by themselves.  Probably the best of the bunch is John Cleese’s police Sergeant who simply can’t understand how Eric Idle and four friends can play a game of doubles.

Sergeant: A blancmange, eh?
Girl: Yes, that’s right. I was just having a game of doubles with Sandra and Jocasta, Alec and David…
Sergeant: Hang on!
Girl: What?
Sergeant: There’s five.
Girl: What?
Sergeant: Five people . . . how do you play doubles with five people?
Girl: Ah, well … we were…
Sergeant: Sounds a bit funny if you ask me … playing doubles with five people…
Girl: Well we often play like that… Jocasta plays on the side receiving service…
Sergeant: Oh yes?
Girl: Yes. It helps to speed the game up and make it a lot faster, and it means Jocasta isn’t left out.
Sergeant: Look, are you asking me to believe that the five of you was playing doubles, when on the very next court there was a blancmange playing by itself?.
Girl: That’s right, yes.
Sergeant: Well answer me this then – why didn’t Jocasta play the blancmange at singles, while you and Sandra and Alec and David had a proper game of doubles with four people?
Girl: Because Jocasta always plays with us. She’s a friend of ours.
Sergeant: Call that friendship? Messing up a perfectly good game of doubles?
Girl: It’s not messing it up, officer, we like to play with five.
Sergeant: Look it’s your affair if you want to play with five people … but don’t go calling it doubles. Look at Wimbledon, right? If Fred Stolle and Tony Roche played Charlie Pasarell and Cliff Drysdale and Peaches Bartcowitz… they wouldn’t go calling it doubles.
Girl: But what about the blancmange?
Sergeant: That could play Ann Haydon-Jones and her husband Pip.

There’s a certain wonky logic to the story.  The blancmanges are desperate to win Wimbledon and believe that if they turn all Englishmen into Scotsmen (as it’s well known that the Scots can’t play tennis) then they’ll have a clear run to the title.  This rather ignores all the other countries that are good at tennis, but this is a story about blancmange’s playing tennis so I’m not going to argue points of logic.

There are some (I assume) deliberately wobbly effects (an unconvincing flying saucer and the blancmanges themselves) which add to the general 1950’s b-movie feel.  Although the science fiction sketch isn’t wall-to-wall hilarity, there’s enough good stuff to hold the interest although it would be a long time before the Pythons would attempt something similar.

Next up – Episode Eight – Full Frontal Nudity

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