The Colonel (Monty Python)
The Colonel acts as a "straight man" comic foil to the show's absurd characters and sketches. He maintains a rigidly mirthless personality and is always dressed in khaki British Army uniform. He occasionally makes appearances in the show, usually breaking the fourth wall and disrupting sketches to pronounce them too silly for the public and, therefore, demanding that something else be shown. He often orders the show to proceed in a different direction (sometimes to the unshown director) and frequently makes offhanded insults to men with long hair.
The Colonel's role in stopping or redirecting sketches has been discussed as an example of a character breaking the fourth wall of theatrical production, challenging the "fictional credibility" of the presentation, and has been compared to the work of Luigi Pirandello.
He appears four times in "Owl-Stretching Time", protesting rip offs of the British army's slogan, "It's a Man's Life in the Modern Army."
The Colonel appears most frequently in "Full Frontal Nudity". In this episode, the Colonel is writing in his office when he is suddenly approached by Private Watkins (played by Eric Idle), a young soldier who has been in the army for one day, claiming he wants to leave as it's dangerous and people get killed. They're interrupted by the entrance of two gangsters, Dino and Luigi Vercotti, who attempt an outrageously obvious protection racket, hoping to extort money from the Colonel in exchange for agreeing to protect his army. After a brief dialogue between the gangsters and the humourless Colonel, the latter stands up, exclaiming that the whole premise is too silly. He addresses the unseen director of the sketch and begins to take over the show. He claims that he has not been given a single funny line and demands to have the camera zoom in on his face. Looking straight into the camera, the Colonel orders that the show proceed to an animated segment, which it does.
Later on, the Colonel again stops the episode to announce “Now, I’ve noticed a tendency for this programme to get rather silly.” After a brief speech of condemnation, he lets the show move on to an outdoor hermit sketch. He then interrupts this sketch in the middle of a scene, forcing the actors and, in fact, the entire filming crew to desert the set.
Afterwards, he later interrupts the famous Dead Parrot sketch, when after Mr Praline calls the situation too silly, the Colonel bursts in on the scene, expressing his agreement and demanding that the show “Get on with it!”
The Colonel lastly appears in this episode during the documentary sketch about “Hell’s Grannies,” when a vicar (Eric Idle) is attacked by a vicious gang of keep-left signs. The Colonel effectively ends the episode, by staring straight into the camera and saying “Now for a complete change of mood.”
The Colonel has made appearances in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, at Pink Floyd's 1975 concert at Knebworth UK, and in a May 1982 episode of Saturday Night Live in which the character is used to comment on NBC's earlier refusal to air a commercial (featuring Chapman as the Colonel) for the Amnesty International benefit The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.
Archive footage of the Colonel was used in Monty Python Live (Mostly) for 2014.
The surviving members of Monty Python sent a "boot-shaped floral arrangement" to Graham Chapman's funeral, which included the phrase "stop us if we're all getting too silly", in recognition of his role as The Colonel.
- Robert I. Williams, Comic Practice/comic Response (University of Delaware Press, 1993), ISBN 978-0874134636, p. 151. Excerpts available at Google Books.
- Darl Larsen, Monty Python's Flying Circus: An Utterly Complete, Thoroughly Unillustrated, Absolutely Unauthorized Guide to Possibly All the References : from Arthur "Two-Sheds" Jackson to Zambesi (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), ISBN 978-0810861312, pp. 120, 57, & passim. Excerpts available at Google Books.
- Douglas McCall, Monty Python: A Chronology, 1969-2012, 2d ed. (McFarland & Company, 2013), ISBN 978-0786478118, pp. 87-88. Excerpts available at Google Books.
- Susan Schindehette, Janine Di Giovanni, "Mourning Monty Python Lays to Rest Silly, Brave, Unique Graham Chapman", People, 30 October 1989.