Dead Parrot

From Academic Kids

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Palin, Cleese and the dead parrot

The "Dead Parrot" sketch (alternatively and originally known as the "Pet Shop" sketch) is a popular sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus. It portrays a confrontation between disgruntled customer Mr. Eric Praline (played by John Cleese), and a shopkeeper (Michael Palin), who hold contradictory positions on the vital state of a Norwegian Blue parrot. The sketch aired in the eighth episode of the television series.

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Palin and Chapman in the "Car Salesman" sketch from How to Irritate People.

The "Dead Parrot" sketch was inspired by a "Car Salesman" sketch that Palin and Graham Chapman had done in How to Irritate People. In it, Palin played a car salesman who refused to admit that there was anything wrong with his customer's (Chapman) car, even as it fell apart in front of him. The sketch was based on an actual incident between Palin and a car salesman.

Over the years, Cleese and Palin have done many versions of the "Dead Parrot" sketch for various television shows, record albums, and live performances.

Mr Praline enters a pet shop, complaining that the parrot he has recently purchased at the location is, in fact, dead. The shopkeeper denies this and points out the beauty of its plumage, further suggesting that the bird is merely asleep. Praline is unconvinced, especially when shouting and the offer of a lovely fresh cuttlefish fail to evoke a response.

Praline takes the parrot out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter, then tosses it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor. The shopkeeper remains unconvinced, claiming that it is now stunned, and that it is pining for the fjords.

Praline points out that the only reason that the parrot had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been nailed there. The shopkeeper counters that it was simply to stop it escaping. Praline disagrees in these words:

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Norwegian Blue parrot pining for the fjords
"It's not pinin', it's passed on! This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet its maker! THIS IS A LATE PARROT. It's a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace, if you hadn't nailed it to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies! It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!"

The shopkeeper admits defeat, claims that he is right out of parrots, and offers a slug. The dialogue continues:

Praline: Does it talk?
Shopkeeper: Not really, no.
Praline: Well, it's scarcely replacement then, is it?

The action then moves to Bolton, or possibly Ipswich, or maybe even Notlob (Bolton spelled backwards). Much play is made of the location, including the suggestion that the confusion between the towns is due to a pun, or possibly a palindrome.

In And Now For Something Completely Different, the skit ended by going into The Lumberjack Song.

In The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball, a benefit for Amnesty International, the sketch opens similarly, but ends very differently.

Praline: This parrot is dead!
(audience goes wild)
Shopkeeper: Oh, why so it is. I'll get you another one, and some holiday vouchers for your trouble.
Praline: (spends a few seconds acting and looking flabbergasted) Well, there's one good thing Thatcherism's done for the country.

The "Dead Parrot" in Popular Culture

At Graham Chapman's memorial service, Cleese began his eulogy by stating that Graham Chapman was no more, that he had ceased to be, that he had expired and gone on to meet his maker, and so on. The congregation was somewhat scandalized, but Cleese justified his eulogy by claiming that Chapman would never have forgiven him if he had not delivered it exactly as he did.

The same lines from the skit are frequently used to describe anything which the speaker wishes to describe as defunct or no longer viable. The name "Dead Parrot" is also sometimes used, and specifically applies to a controversial joint policy document which the Liberal Party and Social Democrats issued in 1988 in the process of their merger into the Liberal Democratic Party.

Life Imitates Art

In February of 2005, Itzik Simkowitz of Beersheeba sued a pet shop in Tel Aviv for selling him a dying Cockatoo. The shop owner had assured him that the 11,000 shekel ($2500) bird only needed time to adjust to his new surroundings.

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