Jape Sketch (Humour Lecture)

The demonstrators do not say anything but do all the actions. For clarity I have continued to use the initials of the Python performing said action rather than going with “Demonstrator 1” etc

As early as the late 14th century...

A lecturer delivers his address from a lectern. The three demonstrators (TG, MP and TJ) are off to one side (this is the “starting position”)

Lecturer: (G.C.) As early as the late 14th century or indeed as late as the early 14th century, the earliest forms of jape were divisible into the two categories into which I now intend to divide them. The earliest manifestation of the of the basic simple precipitation jest incurred, as will be seen from the demonstration, a disproportionate amount of internal risibility on the part of the operator.

MP stands centre stage with his foot outstretched. TJ walks along and trips over it, falling to the floor. They bow and return to starting

Lecturer: Secondary precipitation occurs when both protagonists and dupe are located indoors. It is true, however, that this has involved the development of a special piece of machinery.

An assistant (C.C) brings on a chair and holds it up for the audience.

But it is still no more than a simple variation of primary precipitation.

TG holds the chair. As TJ goes to sit down, TG pulls it away.

Secondary precipitation

Lecturer: The opening up of the African continent revealed a vast new source of wealth for humorous exploitation.

The assistant brings on a banana and shows it to the audience. TG peels it and hands the skin to TJ.

Lecturer: We are to see demonstrated how this was adapted to the basic precipitation jape.

TJ drops the skin on the floor. MP walks along (so we think the is going to slip on it), steps over the banana skin, turns round, picks up the banana skin, looks at the skin, looks at TJ, looks back at the skin, picks it up, opens TJ's overalls, puts the skin in, fastens TJ’s overall and squashes the banana skin into his chest.

Lecturer: We now come on to a considera... (Sees TG still holding the peeled banana) Ahem!

Nods at banana. TG eats whole banana in one go

Lecturer: We now come on to a consideration of the more sophisticated transitive mode of japing, in which, as we'll observe, the operator or inceptor remains totally unaware of the humorous implications of his action. First... first we are to see the simple sideswipe or "whop."

TG and TJ stand to one side facing forwards. TG holds a plank on his right shoulder. MP stands to other side of stage, by the lectern.

MP: Hey, Vance!

TG turns around towards MP, knocking TJ over with the plank.

Lecturer: Next, the "sideswipe and return."

TG and TG stand as before.

MP: Hey, Vance!

TG turns through 180 degrees, knocking TJ in the head with the plank. TJ gets up. TG turns back, knocking TJ down again.

Lecturer: And now, the "double sideswipe and return."

MP goes to join the other two demonstrators, standing the other side of TG from TJ. He faces back.

MP: Hey, Vance!

TG turns through 180 degrees, knocking both TJ and MP to the floor with the two ends of the plank. They get up. TG turns back, knocking them both down again. They all bow and return to starting positions with TJ in the middle.

Double Sideswipe and return

Lecturer: Popular as this jest has always been, however, it cannot compare with the ribald connotations associated with the dispatch of an edible missile.

The assistant brings on a tray with two custard pies for each demonstrator.

Lecturer: First...first the simple straightforward "offensive deposit."

TJ and MP turn to face each other. MP deposits a pie in TJ’s face.

Lecturer: Second...second the simple "sideways offensive deposit."

All facing forwards. TG delivers a pie into the side of TJ's head.

Lecturer: Next, the simple "surprise deposit."

TJ and MP turn to face each other. As TJ brings his arm back ready to throw a pie, MP pre-empts him with a pie in the face.

The surprise deposit

Lecturer: And now, the "foul pie."

TG and TJ turn to face each other. As TJ prepares to throw a pie, TG delivers a pie into his naughty bits.

Lecturer: Uh, could we have new pies, please?

The assistant comes on with a tray of new pies. TG takes two; TJ puts his existing pies on the tray while he cleans some foam off; MP takes two pies; the assistant leaves before TJ can reclaim his pies. When TJ realises, he looks a little uncomfortable.

Lecturer: Finally, finally we move on to the interesting but little known variant normally designated the "three-course complex."

TG and MP both face TJ in the centre, who faces TG. As TG goes to pie TJ, he ducks so that MP gets it instead. TJ stands up again and receives a pie in the back of the head from MP. TJ ducks again but his head is sandwiched above and below by pies from TG and MP. They bow and return to starting positions.

Whilst the lecturer is speaking, a second assistant (J.C.) sneaks in, sets a chair beside the lectern and steps up onto it, custard pie in hand

Lecturer: But...but finally we must not forget the enjoyment, the satisfaction, and the edification to be derived from the simple straightforward "sideways completely unexpected deposit."

The assistant takes a back swing with the pie he is holding, but the lecturer deposits a previously hidden pie of his own into the assistant’s face.

A piece of history: The Jape sketch was written by Terry Jones and Michael Palin during their time at Oxford University. They then lent the sketch to John Cleese and Graham Chapman for use in their Footlights show Cambridge Circus.


Back to Live at the Hollywood Bowl index