How Not to Be Seen

How Not to Be Seen

"How Not To Be Seen" is a popular sketch from "Monty Python's Flying Circus".

This filmed sketch purports to be a British government film (No. 42, PARA. 6.) presented for public service. In this sketch, the narrator, John Cleese, is trying to explain the importance of not being seen.


The film starts with a serene wide shot of a landscape in which there are supposedly 40 (this is changed to 47 for the first sketch of "And Now for Something Completely Different") people, but none of them can be seen. The picture then changes to another serene wide shot of a different landscape. In it is Mr E. R. Bradshaw of Napier Court, Black Lion Road, SE 14 who cannot be seen. The narrator asks him to stand up; he complies and is immediately shot. According to the narrator, "This demonstrates the value of not being seen."

There is a cut to another landscape wide shot. In it is Mrs B.J. Smegma of 13, The Crescent, Belmont. The narrator asks her to stand up; she complies and is also immediately shot.

Next is a shot of a clearing near a wood with only one bush in the middle of the frame. Somewhere in the vicinity is Mr. Nesbitt of Harlow, New Town. He is asked to stand up, but contrary to the previous people, he does not comply. The narrator explains that "Mr Nesbitt has learnt the first lesson of not being seen... not to stand up. However, he has chosen a very obvious piece of cover."; the bush then explodes and a scream is heard.

Following this is another clearing with three bushes in the frame. Hiding nearby is Mr. E.V. Lambert of Homeleigh, The Burrows, Oswestry, who has presented the narrator with "a poser" by choosing a very clever way of not being seen ("We do not know which bush he is behind"), although, according to the narrator, "we can soon find out." The left bush explodes, then the right one, and finally the middle bush is blown up, and mixed with the noise of the explosion comes the scream of Mr Lambert. "Yes, it was the middle one."

Next is a farmland area with a water barrel, a wall, a pile of leaves, a bushy tree, a parked car, and lots of bushes in the distance. "Mr. Ken Andrews, of Leighton Road, Slough has concealed himself extremely well. He could be almost anywhere. He could be behind the wall, inside the water barrel, beneath a pile of leaves, up in the tree, squatting down behind the car, concealed in a hollow, or crouched behind any one of a hundred bushes. However, we happen to know he's in the water barrel." The water barrel then explodes (without the accompaniment of a scream).

There is then a panning shot across a line of beach huts along the sea while the narrator says: "Mr. and Mrs. Watson of Ivy Cottage, Worplesdon Road, Hull, chose a very cunning way of not being seen. When we called at their house, we found that they had gone away on two weeks' holiday. They had not left any forwarding address, and they had bolted and barred the house to prevent us from getting in. However a neighbour told us where they were", as the camera pans to spot a singled-out hut in the middle of the beach. The hut which contained the Watsons explodes, accompanied by the screams of the Watson couple, and there's a cut to a Gumby-looking fellow who is supposed to be the neighbour who told the filmmakers where the Watsons were. He explodes; his boots are the only remains. "Nobody likes a clever dick," explains the narrator. The film cuts to a shack ("And this is where he lived"), which also blows up, then changes to another shack ("And this is where Lord Langdon lived; who refused to speak to us"), which blows up as well. The picture goes on to various changes of houses ("So did the gentleman who lived here... and here... and, of course, here."), which each blow up, and then a series of atomic explosions ("Manchester... The West Midlands... Spain... China...!").

The narrator bursts into mad laughter, and the sketch segues into Michael Palin as a presenter stopping the film. This ending was slightly altered in "And Now For Something Completely Different" ("ANFSCD"), in which Cleese proceeds to say, with a serious face, "And now for something completely different" after laughing, and is blown up afterwards, segueing into the opening credits.

Also in the "ANFSCD" version, there are 47 people in the first shot, the farmland scene is not shown, the beach hut scene is shortened, the explosions of Lord Langdon's and others' houses are not shown, and the atomic explosions are not seen. They are replaced by "And this is where he lived. And this is where he was born."

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