Cheese Shop sketch

From Academic Kids

The "Cheese Shop" sketch is a famous sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

It is a fairly typical John Cleese set-piece. In essence John Cleese attempts to purchase some cheese from the cheese shop; unfortunately the proprietor, Mr. Henry Wensleydale1 (Michael Palin, as usual playing the obstructive shopkeeper to Cleese's irate customer) appears to have not one single variety in stock, not even a morsel of Cheddar cheese, 'the single most popular cheese in the world'. The slow crescendo of bouzouki music (played by live musicians in the shop) in the background mirrors Cleese's growing anger as he lists various, increasingly obscure2, cheeses to no avail. The secondary punchline of this sketch is when John Cleese, who at the beginning said he wasn't annoyed by the music, suddenly loudly interrupts the musicians and tells them to stop. The main punchline, of course, is that there is no cheese in the shop; when Palin admits this fact, Cleese shoots him in the head. In the television program, the sketch is revealed to be a teaser for Sam Peckinpah's "Rogue Cheddar"; this provides a link to further discussions of Peckinpah films.

The sketch was reworked for The Brand New Monty Python Book, becoming a two-player game in which one player ("The CUSTOMER") must keep naming different cheeses, and the other player ("The SHOPKEEPER") must keep coming up with different excuses (otherwise "the CUSTOMER wins and may punch the SHOPKEEPER in the TEETH").

The sketch was parodied in an episode of The Young Ones. Alexei Sayle rushes into a shop (also seeming to do a silly walk, paying homage to another Python sketch) and asks if it is a cheese shop. When Rik Mayall, the Palinesque proprietor replies "No, sir." Alexei says, "Well, that's that sketch knackered then, innit?"

Another pastiche was a script circulated on the Internet in early 2004 which parodied the SCO v. IBM lawsuit. In the script, a judge, taking Cleese's role, inquires of the Palinesque attorney for The SCO Group as to the evidence he will be presenting for his suit, only to discover after a monotonous line of questioning similar to the original sketch that SCO has no evidence at all. The script was a sharp parody of the quality of the SCO lawsuit, implying that it was exceedingly frivolous.


  • Note 1: In the sketch itself Palin refers to his character's name simply as "Mister Wensleydale". However, the name "Henry Wensleydale" appears above the shop front in the series of stills that precede the original TV version of the sketch.
  • Note 2: The list comes to a typically bizarre conclusion with Cleese's desperate request for "Venezuelan Beaver cheese".

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