It's a <pun?> [Monty Python's the Dead Parrot Sketch]


polski, Polska

I was watching "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and there's this dialogue between Praline (Cleese) and the shopkeeper in the "The Dead Parrot Sketch":
Praline I understand that this is Bolton.
Shopkeeper Yes.
Praline Well, you told me it was Ipswich.
Shopkeeper It was a pun.
And when Praline hears the word "pun" he looks around, like he had understood something else. It's at 4:38 here <----YouTube link deleted----->-

Do you think there's a double meaning in this scene? Is there a pun in the word "pun"? ;)

Thank you in advance!
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    My husband, a Python fan from way back, said: "This is Monty Pythhon. It's meant to be nonsense."

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    The customer turns to leave the shop after the shopkeeper has told him that Bolton is a pun on Ipswich, then he realises that of course there is no pun there so he turns back to the shopkeeper and points this out. The shopkeeper agrees that it wasn't a pun and explains that he meant it was a palindrome. The customer exclaims that it isn't a palindrome either, then the action is interrupted.

    The only single joke, I think, is about the word 'palindrome' - the actor playing the shop assistant is called Michael Palin. However the joke isn't immediately obvious because the pronunciation is different. The actor's name is pronounced pay-lin while palindrome is pronounced pal-in- drome.

    It is 'nonsense' in the great English tradition of nonsensical humour, but the sketch is an excellent reflection of the problems the customer often has when trying to make a complaint.

    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English - England
    The tone is set right at the start:

    "Hello miss!"
    "What d'you mean, 'miss'?"
    "Oh I'm sorry, I have cold."

    Clearly having a cold is a ridiculous excuse for calling a man 'miss'.

    Later it is the shopkeeper who makes all the excuses. He had lied about the name of the city and his excuse was that he'd made a pun. A crazy excuse as has been pointed out by Hermione G.

    The humour relies on knowledge of British shops, British excuses and British idiom. The sketch depends on a mixture of fulfilled stereotypes and overturned norms. I don't think an 'explanation' can convey the humour.


    polski, Polska
    Well I know how Monty Python works so I didn't ask why the scene was funny. It's just that puns are also very frequent in their work - so a pun in this scene wasn't absolutely impossible.
    Thank you anyway ;)
    < Previous | Next >