How important is music to Monty Python? It’s the only sketch comedy group we can think of that not only incorporated several songs into nearly every episode of its TV shows but created an entire Broadway musical, Spamalot, around its comic tunes as well. Which Python ditties are the most dang delightful? Here’s a ranking of our favorite 22 Monty Python songs from the beginning of time until now…
This latter-day Python number, penned by John Cleese, is a history lesson about British statesman Cromwell spoken/sung over an old Chopin composition. Not exactly hummable, and only funny in the way that “no one expected this!” is funny. For completists only.
Never Be Rude to an Arab
Let’s call “Never Be Rude to an Arab” what it is — an excuse to get cheap laughs by throwing around racial slurs, then hiding behind goofy lyrics that tell you not to do the same.
The Philosopher Song
Python songs, at their best, combine the intellectual with the supremely silly. A song about philosophers and their ability to chug alcohol would seem to qualify. But this one is long, hard to sing and the joke stops being funny after the first Immanuel Kant reference.
More of a storytelling device than a stand-alone funny song, this sea chant about number-crunching sailors adrift on the accountant-sea concludes the short film that precedes Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Amusing enough, but likely not one you’re going to spin up on Spotify as you embark on a road trip.
Medical Love Song
If a long list of sexually transmitted diseases is your thing, have we got the song for you! It’s a one-joke premise and a disgusting joke at that.
Imagine “Medical Love Song,” but instead of a laundry list of STDs, it’s a compilation of different currencies. Its brevity is an advantage here — one minute of singing the praises of cash generates a few chuckles, two minutes would have you moving on to the next track.
This loving ode to Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State was likely funnier back in the 1970s and 1980s when Kissinger was a notorious world figure. Fast-forward 40 years and it’s a curiosity — humorous enough but without any of the satirical bite it might have had when the diplomat was a fixture on the nightly news.
Brave Sir Robin
Now we’re getting somewhere. “Brave Sir Robin” is funny on its own but serves a narrative purpose as well — mainly, explaining that Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s Sir Robin is a chickenshit. The song chronicles all of the things Sir Robin does not fear — having his eyes gouged out, his body burned, his limbs hacked and mangled, his bowels unplugged, his nostrils raped — before describing his extremely brave retreat from such dangers.
The Liberty Bell
This John Philip Sousa march was chosen to be the theme for Monty Python’s Flying Circus because, well, it was in the public domain. Sousa’s version is not especially funny, but add a giant animated foot stomping down along with some SPLAT! sound effects and you got yourself a knee-slapper.
A loving travelogue celebrating the country often denigrated as “a poor second to Belgium.” Don’t use this song as an excuse to make vacation plans, however. Some of Finland’s supposed attributes, like “your mountains so lofty,” don’t really exist.
I’m So Worried
A song about existential angst that has aged remarkably well. It’s not hard to imagine Sam Smith crooning a modern hit with lyrics like, “I’m so worried about this very next verse, it isn’t the best that I’ve got. And I’m so worried about whether I should go on, or whether I should just stop.” Very forward-looking, Python!
All Things Dull and Ugly
It’s at this point in our rankings that we start to ask, “How many Monty Python songs are simply long lists around a given topic?” Drunk philosophers, types of currency, STDs, the ways Sir Robin can die — it’s a funny little trick, but perhaps overdone, fellas. This one’s a rundown of all of God’s gruesome creatures, from nasty little hornets to beastly little squids. It’s enough to squelch one’s faith in the Divine.
Camelot (Knights of the Round Table)
It’s hard to separate the song “Camelot” from the bouncy production number in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so we won’t even try. With destructive can-can dances, medieval pratfalls and chained dungeon dwellers clapping along, it’s a friggin’ delight.
Sit On My Face
Combine the charm of an old-timey barbershop quartet with the naughty schoolyard references to oral sex, and you get an all-time Python classic. The bare asses in the Live at the Hollywood Bowl version are the perfect butt-on on the joke.
Christmas in Heaven
“Christmas in Heaven” reunites all the disparate characters in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life for a holiday celebration, complete with bare-breasted angels shaking it in their peekaboo Santa outfits. At this point in Python’s movie career, the crew could afford lavish Busby Berkeley-style production numbers, made all the more funny when this overblown song is abruptly cut short so the movie can reveal the meaning of life and roll the credits.
The Lumberjack Song
Maybe the first Python song to get schoolyard-famous, it appeared in the ninth-ever episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It was later recorded and released as a single in the U.K., produced by ex-Beatle George Harrison. The song has been repurposed several times over the years on TV, film and stage, each time beginning with a man in an unsatisfying career (barber, pet shop owner, weatherman) dreaming cross-dressing lumberjack dreams.
Size isn’t everything, and in the case of “The Penis Song,” brevity is beautiful. Sure, it’s another list as a comedy device, but juxtapose its male-member euphemisms with Meaning of Life’s posh nightclub stylings and you have comedy gold.
Here, the Pythons take a break from scatological comedy to gawk at the wonders of the universe. This recitation of astronomical facts is surprisingly accurate, delivering the wisdom that we are both infinitesimally small and freaking miracles.
I’ve Got Two Legs
Monty Python pioneered the comedy technique of “dropping the cow”: Basically, when the group didn’t know how to end a sketch, it would simply drop a cow from the rafters onto someone’s head and move on to the next bit. While “I’ve Got Two Legs” doesn’t feature an actual bovine, the comedy principle is still at play — rather than coming up with a satisfying end to this silly song, our crooner is killed so the show can move on. Funny and efficient.
Every Sperm Is Sacred
Catholic sexual doctrine set to song, with a children’s choir to push it over the top.
The Spam Song
“Spam” lands near the top of this list not only for its celebration of salty canned meats but for its obvious cultural influence. When early online marketers began flooding our inboxes with unwanted email, this Python song was repurposed to express our frustration. The actual makers of Spam, a product ridiculed in the original tune, have decided to embrace their place in comedy lore, issuing special Python-themed cans and sponsoring the Broadway musical Spamalot.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
An obvious choice for number one, not only a very funny melody in its own right but downright inspirational as well. The song actually reached #3 on the U.K. singles charts in 1991, a remarkable achievement for a comedy song. (Not even Weird Al has landed so high.) A testament to its legacy? Eric Idle performed it as part of the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Summer Olympics. Not bad for a tune originally performed by a whistling Jesus.