Margaret Thatcher Does the Dead Parrot Sketch

Margaret Thatcher does the Dead Parrot Sketch

Among the many remembrances of Margaret Thatcher, who passed this morning aged 87, Matt Duss reminds us of this:


James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The most hilarious thing about that is that it is a skit performed with the rhythm of a SOTU.

  2. Paul L. says:

    The Pythons did not appreciate it.

    CLEESE: Maggie Thatcher’s foreign policy adviser, Brett Wood (ph) — he’s a friend. And I do know that at one point, Maggie Thatcher had a speech to make at the Conservative Party Conference. And she wanted to say that the third party, the liberal Democrats, were dead. So they rewrote for her the Dead Parrot Sketch. Yes. And, of course, she didn’t think it was the slightest bit funny. She didn’t even kind of realize it was comedy material. It could have been Mongolian to her. Then they had to teach her how to say, how to stress things, the cadences, and where to take the pauses.

    And they really coached her, because when she did it, it was absolutely terrible, because when you have someone with no sense of humor at all, they just can’t do it. So it did not-did not register very well.

    JONES: We did think about suing her for using our material, breach of copyright.

    CLEESE: Then we said to her-we figured that she was simply tired and shagged out.

  3. Franklin says:

    I hate to disagree with Cleese about comedy, but I think that her lack of humor is part of what makes it funny here. Her straight face is honest.

  4. JKB says:

    Cleese seems to have come around the Thatcher’s thinking however. He laments the loss of world he made is living denigrating, but he’s now rich enough to avoid all the unpleasantness his kind wrought.

    He said: “There were disadvantages to the old culture, it was a bit stuffy and it was more sexist and more racist. But it was an educated and middle-class culture. Now it’s a yob culture. The values are so strange.”

    He added that he preferred living in Bath to London because the capital no longer felt “English”.

  5. Rob in CT says:

    Heh, so Cleese got old and started telling kids to get off his lawn? Shocking. That’s so unusual.

  6. Gustopher says:

    It’s hard to find the right words for a moment like this, but luckily Elvis Costello has already done so.

    First the joy:

    Well I hope I don’t die too soon, I pray the lord my soul to save
    Oh I’ll be a good boy, Im trying so hard to behave
    Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live long enough to savour
    That’s when they finally put you in the ground
    I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

    And then the revulsion at one’s own joy:

    Well I hope you live long now, I pray the lord your soul to keep
    I think I’ll be going before we fold our arms and start to weep
    I never thought for a moment that human life could be so cheap
    Cos when they finally put you in the ground
    They’ll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down

    I haven’t quite gotten to the revulsion yet.

  7. DC Loser says:

    Is Cleese doing the Basil Fawlty routine nowadays?

  8. MBunge says:

    @Rob in CT: “Heh, so Cleese got old and started telling kids to get off his lawn? Shocking. That’s so unusual.”

    It is useful, however, to remember that sometimes those kids really should get off your lawn. That people have been wrongly complaining about society going to hell since forever should not obscure the fact that society has actually gone to hell on more than one occasion.


  9. DC Loser says:

    Well, the fact that you can’t get any decent fish n chips in Central London is a bloody disgrace 🙂

  10. Tsar Nicholas says:

    That was a pretty amazing partnership we had back in the 1980’s, with Thatcher and Reagan.

    Alas, while conservatives were busy bringing economies back from the brinks of FUBAR and to boot destroying without firing a shot what then was a worldwide virus of expansionist communism, the far left on both sides of the pond were busy obtaining teaching credentials, getting journalism degrees (back when newspapers and such still had audiences), infiltrating the bureaucratic apparatuses of local, state and federal politics, and obtaining tenure or getting on the tenure track at colleges and universities. The results are about as stark as inevitable.

    Britain is in such ghastly decline they can’t go even two years without posting at least one negative quarter of real GDP. The US of course is in such catastrophic decline for various key metrics (debt-GDP; deficit-GDP) we’ve already become a third-world banana republic.

    Thatcher once said that the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. She wasn’t just whistling dixie. History has proven that to be true, time and again. From Weimar, to South America, to Central America, and now to Europe and especially to PIIGS. And the US is next on the shit list.

    Thatcher and John Major didn’t get enough collective years in office to overcome the undertow of the lowest common denominators. Reagan would have needed to clone himself younger and then to serve four terms — with dead solid lock majorities in Congress — to overcome the rank disasters of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

    Now the prospects are as bleak as they’ve ever been. And getting worse almost literally by the day. A sad set of denouements for two of history’s greatest historical powers.

  11. Davebo says:

    That was a pretty amazing partnership we had back in the 1980′s, with Thatcher and Reagan.

    Yes Tsar. It was almost on par with Bush and Blair.

    Well, except for the fact that Bush/Blair didn’t break their own and international laws quite as brazenly.

    But I’m guessing you were no where near the Persian Gulf in 1984.

  12. That Other Mike says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: You really are a squawking idiot. I’m actually amazed you can breathe in and out without coaching.