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Gumbys are recurring characters in Monty Python's Flying Circus, characterized by a very distinctive appearance. Gumbys are portrayed with toothbrush moustaches, wear handkerchiefs on their heads which are knotted at the corners, wire-rimmed spectacles, braces, Fair Isle knitted tank tops, a 1950s shirt rolled up to the elbows (without the detachable collar), trousers rolled up above their knees and gumboots. The characters usually hold their arms in an ape-like position, speak loudly and slowly, and pronounce words syllable by syllable. Though created by John Cleese, the Gumbys were most often played by Michael Palin, although Graham Chapman, Terry Jones and Cleese also had noticeable solo turns as Gumbys. Palin's Gumby voice was used to announce the show title in Series 3.
Many times, a Gumby or group of Gumbys would appear in the series as a means of linking sketches, or would briefly give their views in one of the Vox pop segments. Their most notable appearance was in "The Buzz Aldrin Show" episode where they introduced sketches about architects, insurance, chemists, and the end of the show. A classic line from one of these is during a segment on taxation, where a Gumby (played by Cleese), standing knee-deep in a river, says "I would put a tax... on all people... who stand... in water." (He then shouts in alarm as he looks down at his feet, which are submerged.) They also appeared in their own sketches, such as "Flower Arranging" and "Gumby Brain Surgery".
A popular Gumby catchphrase is "My brain hurts!", which was used in the "Brain Surgery" sketch. This is also heard in the trailer for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the crew is supposedly "looking" for someone to voice the trailer. While playing a clip of King Arthur knighting a peasant — which never made it into the final film — a Gumby, voiced by Michael Palin, auditions, and after being told to "Go away!" by the casting director, voiced by Eric Idle, he comments, "What's wrong with my voice? My voice is fine, it's my brain that hurts..." Other recurring Gumby elements are a violent and oafish clumsiness, and enthusiasm for banging bricks together or against their heads.
In the Pythons' 30th Anniversary Special all the surviving Pythons played Gumbys; Chapman's role was filled in by Eddie Izzard.
In Monty Python Live (Mostly), Terry Gilliam filled Michael Palin's role of "D.P. Gumby" performing the "Flower Arranging" sketch.
Normally, no names were given for Gumbys — they invariably refer to each other as "Mr. Gumby" — but occasionally their names were listed in subtitles. Some of the names given for Gumbys were:
- Prof. R.J. Gumby (played by Graham Chapman, later Michael Palin)
- Prof. F.H. Gumby (played by Eric Idle)
- Prof. L.R. Gumby (played by Graham Chapman)
- Prof. Enid Gumby (played by John Cleese)
- D. P. Gumby (played by Michael Palin, later Terry Gilliam)
- T. F. Gumby (played by Michael Palin)
- Darl Larsen (2003), Monty Python, Shakespeare, and English Renaissance drama, p. 156, ISBN 978-0-7864-1504-5