Spam (Monty Python)

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Terry Jones (behind counter), Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and the Vikings in the Monty Python sketch "Spam"

"Spam" is a popular Monty Python sketch, first televised in 1970. In the sketch, two customers are in a greasy spoon café trying to order a breakfast from a menu that includes Spam in almost every dish. The term spam in the context of electronic communications is derived from this sketch.[1] The sketch was written by Terry Jones and Michael Palin.

It features Terry Jones as The Waitress, Eric Idle as Mr. Bun and Graham Chapman as Mrs. Bun. The televised sketch also featured John Cleese as The Hungarian and Michael Palin as a historian, but this part was left out of audio recordings of the sketch.

Sketch[edit]

Only three and a half minutes long, it builds up into a semi-argument between the waitress who has a menu limited to having Spam in just about everything (among them, "Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and a fried egg on top and Spam"), and Mrs Bun, who is the only one in the room who does not want Spam. She asks for an item with the Spam removed (despite there already being some items mentioned that do not actually include Spam), much to the amazement of her Spam-loving husband. The waitress responds to this request with great disgust. Eventually, Mrs Bun resorts to screaming, "I don't like Spam!"

At several points, a group of Vikings in the restaurant (referred to as the Green Midget Café in Bromley) interrupt conversation by loudly singing "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam." They are ordered to "shut up" by the irate waitress several times, but they resume singing more and more loudly. Then a Hungarian tourist comes to the counter, trying to order by using a wholly inaccurate Hungarian/English phrasebook (a reference to a previous sketch). He is rapidly escorted away by a police constable.

The sketch abruptly cuts to a historian in a television studio talking about the Vikings. As he goes on, he begins to uncontrollably insert the word 'spam' into everything he says ("...and Spam selecting a Spam particular Spam item from the Spam menu, would Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam..."), and the backdrop is lifted to reveal the restaurant set behind. The historian joins the Vikings, Mr. and Mrs. Bun are lifted by wires out of the scene and the singing continues on and on...

It premiered on 15 December 1970 as the final sketch of the 25th show of Monty Python's Flying Circus, and the following end credits were changed so every member of the crew has either Spam or some other food item from the menu added to their names. (Spam Terry Jones, Michael Spam Palin, John Spam John Spam John Spam Cleese, Graham Spam Spam Spam Chapman, Eric Spam Egg and Chips Idle, Terry Spam Sausage Spam Egg Spam Gilliam, etc.) The sketch became immensely popular. The word Spam is uttered at least 132 times.

This sketch has also been featured in several Monty Python videos including Parrot Sketch Not Included - 20 Years of Monty Python. A lead sheet for the song appears in Monty Python's Big Red Book.

The DVD release of the sketch contains a deliberate subtitling error. When the Hungarian tries to order food, his words are "My lower intestine is full of Spam, Egg, Spam, Bacon, Spam, Tomatoes, Spam." Yet the subtitles read "Your intestine is full of Sperm." This is a continuation of the "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" sketch, earlier in the episode. The subtitles are a continuation to an argument some Python fans have waged over whether the Hungarian is saying "Spam" (which would be logical) or "Sperm" (which would tie in better with the Hungarian phrasebook's wording).

The audio version of the sketch, since the Hungarian and historian are not featured, instead has the Vikings reaching an operatic climax. The waitress, resigned to these disruptions, mutters, in iconic British fashion, "Bloody Vikings!"

Spam was a popular food during World War II in the UK. Although rationed, it was generally easily available and not subject to supply shortages, as with other meats. Thanks to its wartime ubiquity, the British grew heartily tired of it, hence the sketch.[2]

Menu[edit]

Impact[edit]

The phenomenon, some years later, of marketers drowning out discourse by flooding Usenet newsgroups and individuals' email with junk mail advertising messages was named spamming, due to some early internet users that flooded forums with the word spam[3] recounting the repetitive and unwanted presence of spam in the sketch. This phenomenon has been reported in court decisions handed down in lawsuits against spammers – see, for example, CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc., 962 F.Supp. 1015, n. 1 (S.D.Ohio 1997). The term also is used to refer to mass marketing using junk phone calls or text messages, and has since entered video gaming lingo as a term to refer to producing a large quantity of something, such as rocket-spamming or grenade-spamming.

The Python programming language, named after Monty Python, prefers to use spam, ham, and eggs as metasyntactic variables, instead of the traditional foo, bar, and baz.

Hormel's response[edit]

Spam makers Hormel, while never happy with the use of the word spam for junk email, have been supportive of Monty Python and their sketch. Hormel issued a special tin of Spam for the Broadway premiere of Eric Idle's Spamalot, a musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The sketch is part of the company's Spam museum in Austin, Minnesota, United States, and also mentioned in Spam's on-can advertisements for the product's 70th anniversary in 2007 - although the date of the Python sketch was incorrectly stated to be 1971 instead of 1970.

In 2007 the Hormel company decided that such publicity was part of their corporate image, possibly for the better, and sponsored a game where their product is strongly associated with Monty Python,[4] even featuring a product with "Stinky French Garlic" as part of the promotion of Spamalot.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Spam – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  2. ^ How We Lived Then: A History of Everyday Life in the Second World War, Norman Longmate, Arrow Books, 1971, pp 142, 159
  3. ^ "Origin of the term "spam" to mean net abuse". Templetons.com. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "SPAM® - Monty Python's SPAMALOT™ - Play this very silly catapult game for fun!". Spamspamspamspam.co.uk. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 

External links[edit]