List of recurring Monty Python's Flying Circus characters

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Very few characters of the BBC television series Monty Python’s Flying Circus appeared in more than one episode, and when they did, it was usually to link sketches together. A few well-known characters are described below.

Recurring Sketch Characters[edit]

"It's" man[edit]

Played by Michael Palin. Dressed in rags, and sporting a long beard, much like an island castaway, this character would start most of the early shows by struggling to cross a landscape of dangers until he got close enough to the camera to say "It's--", immediately followed by the opening credits and musical theme. In one episode, the character had his own talk show, featuring Ringo Starr and Lulu as guests, but was unable to get past his single word catch phrase before being interrupted by Monty Python's theme music.

The Announcer[edit]

Played by John Cleese. Often found in a farmer's field, or the back of a moving truck, this character was a BBC Announcer who usually said only "And now for something completely different" as a way of linking unrelated sketches, or to introduce the show in the cold open. He's appeared in a pond, while wearing a bikini, in a pig pen, and many other odd places.

The Nude Organist[edit]

Initially played by Terry Gilliam in the Blackmail sketch in episode eighteen, "Live at the Grill-O-Mat", the organist was made famous by Terry Jones during the third season as he would complete the opening sequence immediately following the two aforementioned characters, the "It's" man and The Announcer. Jones would appear naked in front of an organ, often placed in bizarre locations. The organist never had any true spoken lines but was considered a staple of the third series.

Reverend Arthur Belling[edit]

His full title was "Vicar of St Loony Up the Cream Bun and Jam." Appeared in two separate sketches, once played by Graham Chapman and once played by Michael Palin. Palin's portrayal depicted him doing insane things like smashing a bunch of dinner plates while conversing with a young couple and making loud noises and waving puppets in peoples faces; he got upset when he realized the couple was disturbed by these actions. When Chapman played the character, he had a fake axe impaled in his head and urged "people like you and me, who are out of our tiny little minds" to help normal people overcome their sanity.

Mr. Badger[edit]

Played by Eric Idle, Mr. Badger's usual method is to interrupt sketches without warning ("I won't ruin your sketch, for a pound"). He speaks with a slight Scottish accent. Occasionally, Mr. Badger actually takes part in a sketch, such as the "silliest interview we've ever had on this programme" where he gives his views on the Magna Carta (which he believes was a piece of chewing gum on a bedspread in Dorset). He also once attempted to hijack a Scottish airliner via explosives, eventually offering to reveal where the bomb is, in exchange for one pound. His wife ran off with a bottle of Bell's whisky during a particularly exciting football match.

The Shopkeeper[edit]

The somewhat disreputable shopkeeper, played by Michael Palin, is a staple of many a two-person sketch (e.g., the Parrot Sketch, the Cheese Shop Sketch, the Pet Shop sketch). He often speaks with a strong Cockney accent. In the Cheese Shop sketch, he is indirectly identified as Mr. Wensleydale. As the customer (John Cleese) tries to guess which of a lengthy list of cheeses the shop actually has in stock, the shopkeeper answers "Yes?" when the customer says "Wensleydale". The shopkeeper then explains that he thought that he was calling his name rather than asking about the variety of cheese.

The character has no consistent name, as the sketch Fish Licence reveals his name as Eric Last (the nameplate on his desk says "Mr. Last").

The Pepperpots[edit]

The term Pepperpots refers to any of the middle-aged, matronly types played by the men of Monty Python. A pepperpot is usually somewhat overweight and wears a rather unflattering ensemble often topped off by a small, old-fashioned hat. She holds a small purse in her gloved hands, and is very often seen out and about, apparently running errands while her husband is at work. She usually speaks in a high voice that sounds very much like that of a man imitating a woman. The Pepperpots are given different names in various sketches: Mrs. Premise, Mrs. Conclusion, Mrs. Nesbitt, Mrs. Smoker, Mrs. Non-Smoker, Mrs. Thing, Mrs. Entity, etc.

Gumbys[edit]

A character generally played by Michael Palin, though the first was played by Graham Chapman. All of the Pythons have played one of them at one time or another. A Gumby is a character of limited intelligence and vocabulary. They speak haltingly, in a loud, indistinct manner. They wear round wire glasses, a fair-isle pattern sweater-vest and wellington boots. Their shirt sleeves and trouser legs are always rolled up, exposing their socks and knees. Gumbys stand stoop-shouldered, with their hands permanently clenched in front of them, elbows slightly bent, and their feet turned to the outside. They wear folded white handkerchiefs knotted at the corners on their heads and have toothbrush moustaches. Their most famous catchphrases are "my brain hurts!" and repeated shouts of "Hello!" and "Sorry!"

The Colonel[edit]

Graham Chapman as The Colonel

Described in one of the scripts as “excruciatingly public school,” the Colonel, played by Graham Chapman, is an officer of the British Army with an authoritative bearing. He is known to interrupt sketches when he feels that they have become too silly and demand that something else be shown. (The Colonel made a cameo appearance on Saturday Night Live when one of the sketches there seemed to lack a conclusion.)

The Knight[edit]

Played by Terry Gilliam. A Medieval knight whose only function is to conclude a sketch when it has run its course. He does this by entering the scene, hitting one of the characters on the head with a dead chicken, and then turning around and walking away silently. His face is never seen (as he is wearing a helmet and full armour) and he never speaks (with the exception of a brief line in the "Johann Gambolputty" sketch, during a montage of people saying the long name of the central character). Only once does he not hit a victim on the head: during episode five, "Man's Crisis of Identity During the Latter Half of the Twentieth Century", he approaches a Gumby (played by John Cleese) who has finished a rant about foreigners. Cleese covers his head in anticipation, and the Knight strikes Cleese in the stomach. Cleese limps away and the Knight follows him with his chicken raised.

Luigi Vercotti[edit]

Luigi is a low-level East End gangster with Sicilian connections. He is played by Michael Palin, who wears a mustache, sunglasses, and a pin-stripe suit. He is often involved in operations that turn out to be very poorly camouflaged illegal businesses, such as a nightclub "for the gentry" that is in reality a brothel. He is sometimes seen with his brother Dino, played by Terry Jones. He appears in "Ron Obvious," "The Piranha Brothers," and "Army Protection Racket."

Arthur Nudge[edit]

The Nudge Nudge man, Arthur Nudge (played by Eric Idle) was seen in one of the earliest episodes of Monty Python. He is an annoying man and pub frequenter who speaks in a more or less inscrutable small talk. He is seen conversing with a gentleman (Terry Jones) who is initially unable to pick up on the obscure sexual innuendos of his interlocutor and then becomes quite angry when he does. His conversation is laced with knowing smiles and the phrase “nudge-nudge,” accompanied by a slight elbow nudge to his interlocutor. An example: “Does your wife ‘go’? Is she a ‘goer’? Nudge-nudge - know what I mean? Say no more?” (The sketch's punch line "What's it like?" reveals Nudge's total lack of sexual experience.) A similar character, most likely the same character, appears later in the first series in the sketch "The Visitors." In a later episode, he makes a very brief (seconds-long) cameo appearance as “Archbishop Nudge” in a sketch about Crackpot Religions.

Ken Shabby[edit]

Played by Michael Palin, the character, a disgusting man with a nasty cough, supposedly works as a public lavatory cleaner. In one sketch, however, he enters a house with a goat, suggesting that he either works on a farm or is a goat owner. Shabby was intended to appear in the sketch film And Now For Something Completely Different, but executive producer Victor Lownes ruled out the character as too disgusting. He also briefly appears as "Archbishop Shabby" in the same sketch, about obscure religions, in which "Archbishop Nudge" appears.

Mr Eric Praline[edit]

Played by John Cleese, Mr Eric Praline is introduced during the Crunchy Frog sketch. He later, more famously, returns a dead parrot to the pet shop where he bought it. Praline has more problems in series 2 when he tries to buy a license for his fish, Eric. He also pops up in a handful of short links, notably hosting a chat show with his flatmate Brooky (Idle) that is pre-empted and cut, although the two return in a later sketch (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) from the same episode.

Spiny Norman[edit]

Originally a one-shot gag, after one of the Piranha Brothers was revealed to suffer from an irrational fear of a giant hedgehog named Spiny Norman, Norman did indeed appear at the end of said episode. He later made various cameos. On numerous subsequent occasions when there were shots of buildings, Norman was seen wandering around. Voiced by Terry Gilliam.

The Batley Townswomans Guild[edit]

Appears on two occasions, once in episode 11 and once in episode 22. Their spokeswoman is Rita Fairbanks (Eric Idle). In both appearances, they act out an important moment in history (Pearl Harbor in episode 11 and the first heart transplant in episode 22) by simply running at each other and beating, kicking, and hitting each other with their purses. All Pythons appear in this group dressed as women.

Red Coat[edit]

This character is played by Michael Palin and appears right before the Science Fiction Sketch in episode 7 series 1 and the restaurant sketch (dirty fork) from episode 3 of series 1. He wears a red 1950s nightclub blazer and acts like a cheesy nightclub host. In the Science Fiction Sketch he provides an introduction to the sketch on the stage of a night club, and when the camera zooms back it reveals that the night club is empty save for one person. He also appears after the Man with Three Buttocks Sketch and before the Musical Mice Sketch.