Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
The short answer would be, “It’s like a sketch Franz Kafka never wrote for Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It’s called ‘Tinned Kipper Shop’.”
And when you ask me to elaborate on that answer, I’d say, “It’s like this…”
Michael Palin opens his pantry cupboard and discovers that he is out of kippers. He gives the camera inside the cupboard an expertly subtle exaggerated frown and then exits his flat, walking to the grocery store in a gloomy downpour, muttering mathematical problems to himself. His umbrella is filled with holes.
He arrives at a shop specializing in tinned kippers. The back wall seems to stretch a mile wide and mile high with nothing but tins of kippers. And there you have John Cleese, wearing a thick mustache, large Coke-bottle glasses, and industrial rubber gloves, standing behind the counter.
“Hello, my good sir,” says Cleese. “Might I interest you in a tin of fresh kippers?”
And Palin replies, “Yes, I’d like to purchase a single tin of kippers. I’ve recently run out of kippers and would like a new tin of kippers.”
“Which one?” asks Cleese.
“Pardon?” asks Palin.
CLEESE: Point at the kippers you’d like, my fine fine friend.
PALIN: Oh. Those. That one.
CLEESE: This one?
PALIN: Ah. No. That one.
CLEESE: Very well, very well.
CLEESE produces a clipboard with forms attached to it.
PALIN: What’s this, then?
CLEESE: Just some paperwork, sir. Formalities and the like, you know how it is. Please sign here, here, here, and here, and initial here, and sign here.
PALIN: (signs the paperwork) And then I can have a tin of kippers?
CLEESE: Oh, not at all.
PALIN: But then why…?
CLEESE: We will keep this paperwork on file and let you know if we would like to sell you a tin of kippers in the future.
PALIN: But I need the tin of kippers now.
CLEESE: My my, a greedy little bugger, aren’t you? I’m sorry you cannot have the kippers now. But we will consider your application and decide whether or not you are deserving of the can of kippers you seek. We are, after all, experiencing a kipper shortage at current.
PALIN: Are you serious? Look at that wall behind you! There’s kippers from here to Swindon.
CLEESE: Sir, continue this and I will decide that you are never to receive any kippers at all.
CLEESE: Very well. (He rips up the paperwork.) Sorry. Next please!
(Eric Idle, in a raggedy dress and grey fright wig, pushes his way to the counter.)
IDLE: One tin of kippers for me and my auntie June, guv’nor!
CLEESE: (pulls a tin of kippers from the wall and hands it to Idle) Right away, mum.
IDLE: What’s it owe you?
CLEESE: Compliments of the house, madame! Good day.
PALIN: What? But? What?
CLEESE: Hello, sir, can I help you? Would you like a tin of kippers?
PALIN: I was just here. Yes. I would like a tin of kippers.
CLEESE: (produces a new clipboard and paperwork) Very well, if you will please just sign here, here, and here, finish the crossword puzzle on Form 6b, and lick the tab of hallucinogenic material on the last page, we’ll get you your kippers straight away.
CLEESE: Of course seriously, you can’t fill this out silly, now can you?
PALIN: (follows the instructions) Excellent, then. I’d like a tin of kippers please.
CLEESE: Which one?
PALIN: That one.
CLEESE: This one?
PALIN: No, that one. I truly don’t see as it matters.
CLEESE: Oh. Oh my dear darling duck. Oh it does matter. Oh it does. This one, you said?
PALIN: Yes, that one.
CLEESE: I am sorry, sir, that tin of kippers has already been sold.
PALIN: Are you mad? It’s right there on the shelf this instant!
CLEESE: I’m sorry sir, we cannot sell you that tin of kippers. (He rips up the paperwork.) Next, please!
(Graham Chapman walks up to the counter.)
CHAPMAN: Excuse me, is this the haberdasher?
CLEESE: No sir, this is kippers. Haberdasher’s down the street, make a left, down the street and another left.
CHAPMAN: Right-o, my mistake. Thank you for your time.
CLEESE: Say, wait, aren’t you old Bruce’s nephew?
CHAPMAN: I am.
CLEESE: Well, good to see you! Tell the old salt I miss his stories, wot? Here. Take a tin of kippers for the road then.
(He tosses Chapman a tin of kippers. Chapman exits.)
PALIN: Now see here, sir!
CLEESE: Hello there, how can I help you? May I interest you in–
PALIN: –Yes! Yes you may! You may interest me in kippers I am very interested in kippers! Please by all that’s holy will you sell me a bloody tin of bloody kippers! I’ll sign your paperwork right now I will! I’ll sign whatever you want me to sign! Just sell me a tin of kippers, just this once, sir, just this once I am interested in purchasing a tin of kippers!
CLEESE: I’m sorry, haven’t you been here before?
PALIN: I’ve been here the whole time!
CLEESE: Then we should have you on file, yes indeed. No need for you to fill all that rubbish out again.
PALIN: Oh. Well, then. I suppose, if…
CLEESE: Which tin are you looking for?
PALIN: That one. Please.
CLEESE: Right away. Might I ask why you are qualified to consume these kippers?
CLEESE: (draws another clipboard and makes notations) Do you have a working mouth, sir? All teeth, tongue, tonsils functioning properly? No history of choking to death on kippers?
PALIN: Ah…yes. And no. That is, yes to the first, no to the second.
CLEESE: And you enjoy kippers?
PALIN: Well that’s why I’m bloody buying them, innit?
CLEESE: And you are capable of digesting and later excreting the waste product of consuming said kippers?
CLEESE: Well. I’m sorry sir, but we cannot sell you this tin of kippers.
CLEESE: Yes. Very sad. You have all necessary qualifications to purchase this tin of kippers but otherwise lack an intangible quality which we will never explain to you, making it impossible for us to sell you this tin of kippers. Very sorry. (He rips up the survey on the clipboard.) Next!
(Terry Jones, in a large nebulous mass of a costume, floats up to the counter.)
CLEESE: Ah, welcome back, giant amoeba! Your usual, then?
(He tosses a tin of kippers at the amoeba. The amoeba exits.)
PALIN: Listen. Please. Is there nothing I can do that will get me a single tin of kippers?
CLEESE: Comrade, a tin of kippers is a great and terrible responsibility and we cannot simply give a tin of kippers to everybody who walks in off the street. How will you ever learn your place, proletariat swine?
PALIN: All I want is a simple tin of kippers. I wasn’t expecting a sort of Spanish Inquisition.
(Nobody does, of course. Segue into next sketch.)
And that’s the long answer. The question, incidentally, is:
“How’s the job hunt going?”