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Gumbys

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File:Gumbys-present-architects-sketch.jpg
Five of the Python team dressed as Gumbys (left to right: Jones, Idle, Cleese, Chapman, and Palin), introducing the Architects Sketch
File:Gumby.png
Terry Gilliam's cartoon representation of a "Gumby"

Gumbys are recurring characters in Monty Python's Flying Circus, characterised by a very distinctive appearance. Gumbys are portrayed with toothbrush moustaches, wear handkerchiefs, knotted at each corner, on their heads[1], wire-rimmed spectacles, braces, Fair Isle knitted sweater vests, 1950s shirts rolled up to the elbows (without the detachable collar), trousers rolled up above their knees, and gumboots. The characters usually hold their arms in an ape-like position, speak slowly and forcefully, and pronounce words syllable by syllable. Though created by John Cleese, the Gumbys were most often played by Michael Palin, although Graham Chapman, Terry Jones and Cleese also had noticeable solo turns as Gumbys. Palin's Gumby voice was used to announce the show title in series three.

On many occasions, a Gumby or group of Gumbys would appear in the series as a means of linking sketches. Their most prominent appearance was in "The Buzz Aldrin Show" episode in series two, in which they introduced separate sketches about architects, insurance and chemists, and the end of the show. They would sometimes briefly give their views on different topics in the Vox pop segments. A classic line from one of these is during a segment on taxation, where a Gumby (played by Cleese), standing ankle-deep in a river, says "I would put a tax... on all people... who stand... in water." He then shouts in alarm as he notices that he is standing in water. They also appeared in their own sketches, such as "Flower Arranging" and "Gumby Brain Surgery".

A popular Gumby catchphrase is "My brain hurts!", which was used in the "Brain Surgery" sketch. This is also heard in the trailer for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the crew is supposedly "looking" for someone to voice the trailer. While playing a clip of King Arthur knighting a peasant—which never made it into the final film—a Gumby, voiced by Michael Palin, auditions, and after being told to "Go away!" by the casting director, voiced by Eric Idle, comments, "What's wrong with my voice? My voice is fine, it's my brain that hurts..." Other recurring Gumby elements are a violent and oafish clumsiness, and enthusiasm for banging bricks together or against their heads.

In the Pythons' 30th Anniversary Special all the surviving Pythons played Gumbys; Chapman's role was filled by Eddie Izzard.

In Monty Python Live (Mostly), Terry Gilliam filled Palin's role of "D. P. Gumby" performing the "Flower Arranging" sketch.

Normally, no names were given for Gumbys—they invariably refer to each other as "Mr. Gumby"—but occasionally their names were listed in subtitles. Some of the names given for Gumbys were:

  • Prof. R. J. Gumby (played by Graham Chapman, later Michael Palin)
  • Prof. F. H. Gumby (played by Eric Idle)
  • Prof. L. R. Gumby (played by Graham Chapman)
  • Prof. Enid Gumby (played by John Cleese)
  • D. P. Gumby (played by Michael Palin, later Terry Gilliam)
  • T. F. Gumby (played by Michael Palin)

Gumbys also appear in two episodes of The Goodies: "Scatty Safari" and "The Goodies Rule – O.K.?". In the latter, The Goodies address them as John and Eric.

In popular culture[edit]

In his autobiography, Lonely Boy, Tales of a Sex Pistol, punk musician Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) attributed his stage act of wearing a white handkerchief on his head to watching the Gumbys in Monty Python's Flying Circus. [2]

Notes[edit]

  1. Darl Larsen (2003), Monty Python, Shakespeare, and English Renaissance drama, p. 156, ISBN 978-0-7864-1504-5
  2. Jones, Steve (10 January 2017). "Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol". Hachette Books. Retrieved 21 February 2019 – via Google Books.


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