Did you know the sketch? It was originally aired in the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ second season, and it features a lanky and limber Cleese executing some of the most uproarious physical comedy ever committed to film, all while maintaining a completely serious deadpan expression. At one point, the sheer volume of the studio audience’s laughter is sufficient to render Cleese’s lines completely inaudible. In his “The First 20 Years of Monty Python”, prolific Python chronicler Kim “Howard” Johnson relates Graham Chapman’s tale of the sketch’s origin:
“John Cleese and I were writing together one day, and John had been thinking of doing something about anger. He’s very good at it, and he likes that emotion very much indeed. I’d been noticing that there were all sorts of ministries for strange things that were likely to distract people from the main issues of the day and make it look like the government was doing something. A lot of attention would either go to a drought or a flood that probably didn’t exist anyway, and there seemed to be lots of useless ministries. I thought, why not a Ministry of Anger?
It’s difficult to remember whether it was John’s or my idea, but I do know that the next stage was Silly Walks, which was more ludicrous and petty than an emotion like anger. My house was on a very steep hill, and we saw a man walk past, uphill, stooped very sharply backward, defying the laws of gravity! Well, we thought Silly Walks was a good idea, but we couldn’t quite think how to develop it.
As usual, we were supposed to be writing something else when this idea occurred, anything to prevent us from getting to that work! But we thought we’d better get on to writing what we were supposed to be writing. So we rang up Mike (Palin) and Terry (Jones) to interrupt them from whatever they were supposed to be doing, and made them write the sketch.“
Great gift for Monty Python’s fans!