Classic Comedy Moments: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The Moment: The Black Knight takes an ass-whupping (1975)

Starring: John Cleese, Graham Chapman,

Graham Chapman, as King Arthur, is negotiating the imposing twists and turns of the Black Forest on his quest to nab the big cup–the Holy Grail. As he approaches a narrow pass, he is blocked by a large, imposing knight (John Cleese) in black armor, who informs him, in a killer baritone, “None shall pass.” Chapman nervously informs the knight that he has no quarrel with him and again requests passage. The knight, his face and body completely obscured by his helmet, refuses. “None shall pass!” he repeats. Chapman informs the knight that he intends to ignore the warning. “Then you shall die!” comes the measured and forceful reply.

After a bit of swordplay, the much smaller Chapman cleanly hacks off Cleese’s right arm. Blood spurts comically from the stump. Clearly defeated for the first time ever, a puzzled Cleese stops, looks at the wound–and ignores it. He continues to fight. “But your arm’s off,” informs Chapman. In total denial, Cleese replies, “No it isn’t.”

The fighting resumes, and 10 seconds later, Chapman hacks off Cleese’s other arm. As it drops to the ground, Chapman falls to his knees, closes his eyes and begins to thank God for his victory, only to be interrupted by a foot to the head. “Chicken! Chicken!” taunts the armless Cleese, doing his best to save face by kicking Chapman. “Look you stupid b*st*rd, you’ve got no arms left,” Chapman points out. “What are you going to do? Bleed on me?” But Cleese won’t quit, and annoys Chapman so much that the good king chops off both his legs, leaving him a limbless trunk on the forest floor. “Come back here! I’ll bite your legs off!” screams the defeated–and embarrassed–Cleese. As a victorious Chapman rides off into the forest on an imaginary horse (hoof sound effects provided by two coconuts), you realize you’ve just witnessed comedy history.

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.