Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Kiss Me, Hardy!"

In a sketch called "It's Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart," Mozart narrates the reenactment of famous deaths. At the end, Mozart introduces the death of Admiral Nelson. Then, the scene cuts to a mannequin in naval costume being thrown out a window, yelling, "Kiss me, Hardy!" A lot of Americans probably thought, "What the heck was that all about? Why did that guy yell, "Kiss Me, Hardy?"

Admiral Horatio Nelson is one of the British Empire's greatest naval heroes. He fought and won numerous battles during the Napoleonic Wars. His actual death was more dramatic than the one Python portrayed; he was shot and wounded during the Battle of Trafalgar. On his deathbed, Nelson famously said to his close friend, Captain Thomas Hardy, "Kiss me, Hardy." The kiss was most likely platonic. Nelson went on to become one of the U.K.'s most celebrated war heroes with his most famous monument, Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. I think if he had thrown himself out an office window, his legacy would be a little less grand.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


A word that gets thrown around a lot on Monty Python is "knickers." A good example is the lingerie shop robbery sketch:

The context is usually revolving around ladies, so it may seem obvious, but let's assume it's not and define it. What are knickers? Knickers are a British word for ladies' underwear, what Americans call panties. "Knickers" sounds naughtier.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


The first mention of Biggles is in the Spanish Inquisition sketch. When one of the inquisitors calls another one Biggles, that gets a big laugh.

At the time, I thought that was because it was a funny sounding name. Then there was an entire sketch featuring Biggles dictating a letter to his secretary.

So who is Biggles?

Major James Bigglesworth, popularly known as "Biggles," is a popular adventure hero in the United Kingdom. An ace pilot, Biggles appeared in a series of short stories and novels set in the years before, during, and just after the World Wars. Originally intended for children, Biggles' popularity spread to adults as well. Biggles is an institution in the UK, one revered by adults nostalgic for the carefree days of their youth, and the uncompromising spirit he represents. As a result, he makes a perfect target for mockery.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


One of my favorite sketches was simply called the Science-Fiction Sketch. It was about an alien race of blancmange that turned everyone in England into Scotsmen, so they could win at Wimbledon. But for years, I wondered...what's a blancmange? I knew they looked all white and squiggly because of the blancmange costume, and you're supposed to eat them because one got eaten on the show. So what is it?

According to Wikipedia, "blancmange is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss, and often flavored with almonds. It is usually set in a mould and served cold. Although traditionally white, blancmanges are frequently given a pink color as well. Some similar desserts are Bavarian cream, panna cotta, and haupia." So it sounds like blancmange is like Jell-O mixed with milk. But apparently, it's also served with chicken mixed into it as a main dish. The name comes from the french term "blanc mangier," which means "whitedish." Very literal, those French.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The Monty Python crew were very fond of insulting people. Whole sketches were built around one person getting yelled at or insulted. An insult that's often thrown around the average Monty Python sketch is "git." What's a git, you ask? According to Webster's dictionary, a "git" is a "foolish or worthless person." In other words, it's the British way of calling someone an idiot. Apparently, it's a fairly mild curse. So feel free to use it. Stupid git.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gammy Leg

What’s a “gammy leg?” I thought Python best used the phrase “gammy leg” in the Lifeboat Sketch, where the Captain tells his shipmates to eat him to survive and another sailor goes, “Ugh…with a gammy leg?” Many Americans (not me, of course, because I’m hip) might have thought they said “gummy leg,” but no. Legs do not turn multi-colored, chewy, and fruit-flavored, not even in Britain.

A gammy leg is simply a deformed or lame leg. It’s most commonly used to refer to a leg that’s been injured. Americans would call it a “bum leg.” The term was popularized during World War II, when soldiers came back with a lot of gammy legs.

The origin of the phrase “gammy leg” is in dispute. Some say that the phrase comes from a Celtic word “kam,” which means “crooked.” Another source claims the term comes from a Welsh nobleman named David Gam, whose last name means “deformed” in Welsh, and who had a squinty eye. David Gam was also the inspiration for the comic strip character Popeye. Just kidding.


The BBC is an ever-present figure in Monty Python, so let’s start there. What exactly is the BBC?

The BBC stands for the British Broadcasting Corporation. To make it easier, you can think of the BBC as a TV network like NBC or CBS. Isn’t that simple? Unfortunately, it’s also wrong. The BBC is nothing like an American network TV station.

First of all, the BBC is partially run and funded by the British government. That means it’s more like our PBS than NBC. Unlike PBS, however, the BBC is actually enjoyable to watch. The BBC isn’t just focused on education and enlightenment. It produces a wide variety of TV shows. For example, the BBC produced Monty Python. So think of the BBC as NBC crossed with PBS.

Got it? Good. But there’s more.

You may have noticed references on Python to BBC One and BBC Two. That’s because at the time of Monty Python, the BBC ran two television channels, BBC One and BBC Two. But the two channels didn’t compete with each other, just aired different programming at different times. So think of the BBC as NBC and CBS working together, crossed with PBS.

But the BBC is more than just television. It also produces radio programs. That’s why when people in Monty Python turned on the radio, they heard the BBC mentioned. The BBC produced five radio stations, numbered BBC Radio 1 to BBC Radio 5. Just like the TV branch of the BBC, they worked in concert. If you ever wondered about the sketch in which someone pulls out increasingly small radios to get to the right station, you’ve got your answer.

Monty Python pre-dated cable television, so pretty much the only TV and radio programs a majority of British citizens got to enjoy were produced by the BBC. That means the BBC had a virtual monopoly on all entertainment outside the printed page until roughly twenty years ago. Oddly enough, this situation didn’t seem to bother anyone. That tells you something about the British.

The BBC produced the entire series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, so they were sort of like the show’s boss. That’s why Python kept on making fun of them. They enjoyed biting the hand that fed them.