Spam (Monty Python)

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Terry Jones (behind counter), Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and the Vikings in the Monty Python sketch "Spam"

"Spam" is a popular Monty Python sketch, first televised in 1970. In the sketch, two customers are lowered into a greasy spoon café by wires and try to order a breakfast from a menu that includes Spam in almost every dish. The sketch was written by Terry Jones and Michael Palin.

It features Terry Jones as The Waitress, Eric Idle as Mr. Bun and Graham Chapman as Mrs. Bun. The televised sketch also featured John Cleese as The Hungarian and Michael Palin as a historian, but this part was left out of audio recordings of the sketch.

The term spam in the context of electronic communications is derived from this sketch.[1]

Plot[edit]

The three and a half minute sketch is set in the fictional Green Midget Café in Bromley. An argument develops between the waitress, who recites a menu in which nearly every item contains Spam (among them, "Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and a fried egg on top and Spam"), and Mrs Bun, who does not like Spam. She asks for an item with the Spam removed, much to the amazement of her Spam-loving husband. The waitress responds to this request with disgust.

At several points, a group of Vikings in the restaurant interrupt conversation by loudly singing "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam." The irate waitress orders them to shut up, but they resume singing more loudly. A Hungarian tourist comes to the counter, trying to order by using a wholly inaccurate Hungarian/English phrasebook (a reference to a previous sketch). He is rapidly escorted away by a police constable.

The sketch abruptly cuts to a historian in a television studio talking about the Vikings. As he goes on, he inserts the word 'spam' into everything he says ("...and Spam selecting a Spam particular Spam item from the Spam menu, would Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam..."), and the backdrop is raised to reveal the restaurant set behind. The historian joins the Vikings, Mr. and Mrs. Bun are lifted by wires out of the scene, and the singing continues.

Production notes[edit]

The sketch premiered on 15 December 1970 as the final sketch of the 25th show of Monty Python's Flying Circus, and the end credits for the episode were changed so every member of the crew has either Spam or some other food item from the menu added to their names. (Spam Terry Jones, Michael Spam Palin, John Spam John Spam John Spam Cleese, Graham Spam Spam Spam Chapman, Eric Spam Egg and Chips Idle, Terry Spam Sausage Spam Egg Spam Gilliam, etc.) The sketch became immensely popular.[citation needed] The word "Spam" is uttered at least 132 times.

This sketch has also been featured in several Monty Python videos including Parrot Sketch Not Included - 20 Years of Monty Python. A lead sheet for the song appears in Monty Python's Big Red Book.

The DVD release of the episode contains a deliberate subtitling error. When the Hungarian tries to order food, his words are "My lower intestine is full of Spam, Egg, Spam, Bacon, Spam, Tomatoes, Spam." Yet the subtitles read "Your intestine is full of Sperm." This is a continuation of the "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" sketch from the same episode. Some Python fans[who?] argue whether the Hungarian character is actually saying "Spam" (which would be logical) or "Sperm" (which would tie in better with the Hungarian phrasebook's wording).[citation needed]

The audio version of the sketch excludes the Hungarian and historian, and instead has the Vikings reaching a dramatic crescendo. The waitress, resigned to these disruptions, mutters "Bloody Vikings!"

Spam was a popular food during World War II in the UK. Although rationed, it was generally easily available and not subject to supply shortages, as were other meats. Thanks to its wartime ubiquity, the British grew heartily tired of it.[2]

Menu[edit]

  • Egg and bacon
  • Egg, sausage and bacon
  • Egg and Spam
  • Egg, bacon and Spam
  • Egg, bacon, sausage and Spam
  • Spam, bacon, sausage and Spam
  • Spam, egg, Spam, Spam, bacon and Spam
  • Spam, Spam, Spam, egg and Spam
  • Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam
  • Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and a fried egg on top, and Spam.

Impact[edit]

The phenomenon, some years later, of marketers drowning out discourse by flooding Usenet newsgroups and individuals' email with junk mail advertising messages was named spamming, due to some early internet users that flooded forums with the word spam[3] recounting the repetitive and unwanted presence of spam in the sketch. This phenomenon has been reported in court decisions handed down in lawsuits against spammers – see, for example, CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc., 962 F.Supp. 1015, n. 1 (S.D.Ohio 1997). Furthermore, it has been referenced in a Electronic Frontier Foundation amicus curae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in 2014. [4] The term also is used to refer to mass marketing using junk phone calls or text messages, and has since entered video gaming lingo as a term to refer to producing a large quantity of something, such as rocket-spamming or grenade-spamming.

The Python programming language, named after Monty Python, prefers to use spam, ham, and eggs as metasyntactic variables, instead of the traditional foo, bar, and baz.

Hormel's response[edit]

Spam makers Hormel, while never happy with the use of the word spam for junk email, have been supportive of Monty Python and their sketch. Hormel issued a special tin of Spam for the Broadway premiere of Eric Idle's Spamalot, a musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The sketch is part of the company's Spam museum in Austin, Minnesota, United States, and also mentioned in Spam's on-can advertisements for the product's 70th anniversary in 2007 - although the date of the Python sketch was incorrectly stated to be 1971 instead of 1970.

In 2007 the Hormel company decided that such publicity was part of their corporate image, possibly for the better, and sponsored a game where their product is strongly associated with Monty Python,[5] even featuring a product with "Stinky French Garlic" as part of the promotion of Spamalot.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Spam – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  2. ^ How We Lived Then: A History of Everyday Life in the Second World War, Norman Longmate, Arrow Books, 1971, pp 142, 159
  3. ^ "Origin of the term "spam" to mean net abuse". Templetons.com. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  4. ^ https://www.eff.org/files/2013/11/05/eff_amicus_brief_fortres_grand.pdf
  5. ^ "SPAM® - Monty Python's SPAMALOT™ - Play this very silly catapult game for fun!". Spamspamspamspam.co.uk. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 

External links[edit]