The Spanish Inquisition
Split into three parts that appear in the second episode of series two, itself titled The Spanish Inquisition, this delightfully absurd sequence of sketches is predicated, as you would expect, by a character exclaiming that they “didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition”. Not shy of lampooning organised religion, and skilled at joining incompatible elements for comedic effect, Palin, Gilliam and Jones respectively perform the troupe’s three inquisitors, including Cardinals Ximénez, Fang and Biggles, as ineffective buffoons whose idea of torture includes exposure to cushions and comfy chairs.
The three less than fearsome inquisitors stumble and bumble their way through unsuccessful attempts to strike terror into those accused of heresy. Managing to turn up late for their final appearance, bursting into the Old Bailey seconds before the episode ends, Cardinal Ximénez lets out an exasperated and deflated “Oh bugger”.
If you’re ever in a restaurant and are faced with some cutlery that could do with another visit to the dishwasher, just remember the Dirty Fork skit and consider what may happen if you take the very un-British stance of highlighting the fact. In this sketch, when a diner politely asks for a dirty fork to be replaced it kick-starts a meltdown of epic proportions among the proud staff of a three-star French restaurant.
Existential crises, philosophical despair, violent recriminations and even suicide abound when the titular unclean item of cutlery is flagged up by Chapman’s restaurant goer, as he and his wife ponder over the menu. Exaggerated and intense, the skit also marked the first time the troupe responded to the live audience’s reactions.
The Ministry of Silly Walks
A sketch from the first episode of the second series of Flying Circus, The Ministry of Silly Walks makes hilarious use of Cleese’s then slender and gangly 6ft 5’’ frame. Playing Mr Teabag, a bowler-hatted, be-suited Whitehall civil servant, Cleese’s gift for physical comedy – here inspired by Max Wall’s own similar talents – has never been better exemplified than in this skit. Though the dialogue is intrinsic to the sketch’s success, it’s undoubtedly the silly walks themselves that are the highpoint, despite Cleese himself apparently not being overly fond of the routine.