The Argument Sketch

The Argument Sketch

The Argument Sketch (or "Argument", "Argument Clinic", or "Six More Minutes of Monty Python's Flying Circus" when including the non-argument sections) is a sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus. It appeared in the show's 29th episode, following the ending credits. It featured the absurd humour favoured by Monty Python and showcased the special chemistry between Michael Palin and John Cleese. In addition to Cleese and Palin, supporting roles were provided by Rita Davies, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, and Terry Jones. It is among the most popular and famous Monty Python sketches.

The sketch's premise involves a service that exposes customers to unpleasant experiences for a fee. For example, one can pay to be verbally abused (by Chapman) or to be hit on the head (by Jones).

Palin pays to have an argument. The receptionist directs him to Chapman's room, but Chapman's job is simply to shout abuse at Palin. After Chapman realises the mistake, he directs Palin to Cleese's room. Initially, Cleese simply contradicts everything that Palin says. This frustrates Palin, who asserts that "an argument's not the same as contradiction" until he realises that Cleese is engaging him in a sort of meta-argument about what constitutes an argument. He gets into it, briefly, but ultimately is unsatisfied with the argument and goes to complain -— only to find that the complaints department (staffed by Eric Idle) is where customers go to listen to a professional complainer. Finally, he stumbles into a room where he is struck on the head with a mallet by Terry Jones, who gives being-hit-on-the-head-lessons, which Palin proclaims to be a "stupid concept".

In typical Python fashion, the sketch ends when Palin and Jones are arrested by Inspector Fox (Graham Chapman) for violating the Strange Sketch Act, before the entire show is arrested by Inspector Thompson's Gazelle (Eric Idle) for violating both the Not-in-Front-of-the-Children Act and the Getting-Out-of-Sketches-Without-Using-a-Proper-Punch-Line Act, viz. "simply ending every bleeding sketch by just having a policeman come in" (this had been a running joke throughout the whole episode). His character then appears to realize that he is himself an accessory to the violation, saying "Wait a moment..." Right on cue, another inspector (Cleese) appears and puts his hand on Thompson's Gazelle's shoulder, who says "It's a fair cop!" Cleese's inspector has an unidentified inspector's arm put on him as well, and the sketch and episode end abruptly.

The sketch is performed slightly differently in "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl". In this version, the sketch ends abruptly while Cleese and Palin are mid-argument, by the entrance of Terry Gilliam, on wires, singing 'I've Got Two Legs'.

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