Friday 14 November 2008

"Joined the choir invisible"

Dead Parrot sketch is 1,600 years old
It's long been held that the old jokes are the best jokes - and Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch is no different.

Monty Python's 'Dead Parrot sketch' - which featured John Cleese and Michael Palin - is some 1,600 years old.

A classic scholar has proved the point, by unearthing a Greek version of the world-famous piece that is some 1,600 years old.
A comedy duo called Hierocles and Philagrius told the original version, only rather than a parrot they used a slave.
It concerns a man who complains to his friend that he was sold a slave who dies in his service.
His companion replies: "When he was with me, he never did any such thing!"
The joke was discovered in a collection of 265 jokes called Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, which dates from the fourth century AD.
Hierocles had gone to meet his maker, and Philagrius had certainly ceased to be, long before John Cleese and Michael Palin reinvented the yarn in 1969.
Their version featured Cleese as an exasperated customer trying to get his money back from Palin's stubborn pet salesman.
Cleese's character becomes increasingly frustrated as he fails to convince the shopkeeper that the 'Norwegian Blue' is dead.
The manuscripts from the Greek joke book have now been published in an online book,, featuring former Bullseye presenter and comic Jim Bowen presenting them to a modern audience.
Mr Bowen said: "One or two of them are jokes I've seen in people's acts nowadays, slightly updated.
"They put in a motor car instead of a chariot - some of them are Tommy Cooper-esque."
Jokes about wives, it seems, have always been fair game.
One joke goes: "A man tells a well-known wit: 'I had your wife, without paying a penny'. The husband replies: "It's my duty as a husband to couple with such a monstrosity. What made you do it?"
The book was translated by William Berg, an American classics professor.

Article from today's Daily Telegraph and read some more of the jokes in more detail here. Nice to know that humour goes back to the dawn of time...

"- When the over-talkative barber asks him, 'How shall I cut your hair?,' a quick wit answers, 'Silently.'"


Nota Bene said...

So glad you blogged this...I read it on the Beeb yesterday, bookmarked the Philogelas link ready to read at the weekend

ADDY said...

I can just picture the ancient Greek in the middle of the amphitheatre saying "Once there was an Abyssinian, a Roman and an Eygptian. The Abyssinian said......"

You can just imagine it can't you!!!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi Nota Bene (do love your name for obvious reasons!)...and Rosiero, thanks for leaving comments. (Sometimes I post things and think - it would be nice if I get a few comments...not thinking that I would get any!!) I heard the item on Radio 4's Today programme this morning and I just had to check it out. are inspired! The thing is that you could be right and I am sure you are!

Troy said...

Oh dear, I was rather hoping that old Greek joke book would remain out of print - its where I get all my material from.

Ladybird World Mother said...

Brilliant! How extraordianry it is that I find it odd that people had a good old laugh back then, whenever 'then' was. Must read the article. Thanks for post... love it.

Tim Atkinson said...

But at the time, it wasn't a joke!

virtualjourney said...

Had to laugh about this - and had to call in as I've a son named Hadrian - after the wall.

We get up North to see it when we're passing, and I've painted Cawfields in the past - love to do more.

French Fancy... said...

I don't have much of a laughter gene really. I know everyone loved Python but they never made me laugh. Most 'funny' things leave me a bit cold but the strangest things can start me off and then I go into hysterics. Maybe if I'd been in the Roman amphitheatre and saw everyone laughing I'd have begun as well though, just in case I ended up in the arena with a lion or two.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Very good, Troy, very good!

It has been the author, Lindsay Davis, who has reignited my passion for the old Roman days (plus the stones themselves), LWM, I don't see why folk were any different from us fact I'm intrigued by that thought...

Yes, The Dotterel, I think I see what you mean...

Hello and welcome, Julie VV, what does the VV stand for? - if you don't mind me asking! Wow! "Hadrian"...another living and breathing one. That is quite something. I like to think that my ancestry goes all the way back to the Romans but obviously there can be no way of proving that.

We often go up to Cawfields. Lovely spot just up the road. I wish I could paint well. I can draw maybe I should just practise it more.

Hello French Fancy, I think with "Monty Python" you either love it or hate it. One side of the family adores it...the other side just switches off. Besides it wasn't all wonderful could be hit or miss. I reckon the Pythons would own up to that as well.

MarkG said...

I've been enjoying reading through your blog entries relating to the Wall. I walked it in June this year, so must have passed by you somewhere.

You can see our photos of the walk at


Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thanks, Mark, glad you've enjoyed reading the posts. Very glad that you enjoyed walking the Wall. Ah! It's beautiful around here..isn't it! Have linked your wonderful blog to mine (under Hadriana's local links). Hope you don't mind!

MarkG said...

Thanks for the link - and your lovely comments to our blogs and guestbooks. I plan to come back up to spend more time around the central section and visit a wider area. No idea when that will be though - still so many long distance paths to walk!

And yes - we walked the Pennine Way in 2006. Eventually there'll be photos and a report online.