Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just how old is the dead parrot sketch?

A customer enters a pet shop.
Mr. Praline: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
(The owner does not respond.)
Mr. Praline: 'Ello, Miss?
Owner: What do you mean "miss"?
Mr. Praline: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
Owner: We're closin' for lunch.
Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!
Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.
Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Monty Python fans will recognize the above ramblings as part of the "Dead Parrot" sketch and now an ancestor of the famous comedy sketch has been discovered in a joke book that dates back to 4th century Greece.

Go figure but then again, not surprising given the range of subjects on the series.

Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, which has been translated from Greek manuscripts, contains a joke where a man complains that a slave he was sold had died.

"When he was with me, he never did any such thing!" is the reply.

In the Python sketch, written 1,600 years later, the shopkeeper claims the dead parrot is "pining for the fjords".

The 265 jokes in Philogelos are attributed to Hierocles and Philagrius, about whom very little is known.

Interesting item, actually, on how old (very) jokes and themes travel throughout the ages.

The rest of the Dead Parrot Sketch for Python-ites can be found here:

Other jokes in the book include:

- Someone needled a well-known wit: "I had your wife, without paying a penny". He replied: "It's my duty as a husband to couple with such a monstrosity. What made you do it?"

- An Abderite sees a eunuch talking with a woman and asks him if she's his wife. The man responds that a eunuch is unable to have a wife.
"Ah, so she's your daughter? "

- A misogynist is attending to the burial of his wife, who has just died, when someone asks: "Who is it who rests in peace here?".
He answers: "Me, now that I'm rid of her!"

I guess you had to be there at the time...

And for people interested in finding out about the contents of the allegedly World's Oldest Joke Book, Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, try here:

Keep in mind that humor is subjective.

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