Monty Python's "Norwegian Blue" parrot really DID exist

Monty Python's classic 1969 "Dead Parrot" sketch was voted the greatest British comedy sketch in a poll in 2004.

John Cleese walks into a pet shop holding a cage with a dead parrot in it. He tries to tell the shop owner that his parrot is dead, but the shop owner refuses to believe him. Cleese even bangs the bird's head on the counter and throws it into the air to prove it is dead.

Cleese, getting increasingly angry, tells the shop owner that the parrot is "a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace". The shop owner also tries to give a "logical explanation" such as "it's tired following a prolonged squawk".

The absurd thing about the whole scene was that the bird came from Scandinavia, even though they are a tropical breed.

But scientists have discovered a real life Norwegian Blue - but it lived 55 million years ago....

Norwegian Blue parrot really DID exist - but now they are all 'stiff, bereft of life and ex-parrots'

15th May 2008
Daily Mail

When John Cleese tried to return a dead Norwegian Blue parrot to pet shop owner Michael Palin, it became an instant comedy classic.

Adding to the absurdity of the scene - in which Cleese complained 'It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace' - was the fact the birds are a tropical breed and couldn't come from Scandinavia.

But it turns out the Monty Python team were right all along.

A fossil expert has discovered that parrots not only lived in the region 55million years ago but probably evolved there before spreading to the Southern Hemisphere.

"It's probably pining for the fjords, sir": The famous "dead parrot" sketch in Monty Python first aired in 1969

The discovery was based on a single preserved wing bone of a previously unknown species, now nicknamed the Norwegian Blue.

Dr David Waterhouse said: "I specialise in bird fossils and am also a Python fan, so I have lived with jokes about dead parrots for years.

"Obviously, we were dealing with a bird that is bereft of life but the tricky bit was establishing it was a parrot."

A fossil expert has discovered that parrots not only lived in the region 55million years ago but probably evolved there before spreading to the Southern Hemisphere

Dr Waterhouse was studying for a phD in parrot evolution at the University of Dublin in 2005 when he visited a museum in Jutland.

He had heard the collection included bird remains found in a nearby opencast mine and spotted a fossilised two-inch long humerus - or funny bone.

Research has now confirmed it was part of an upper wing from a bird in the parrot family, given the scientific name Mopsitta Tanta.

Although the mine was in Denmark, the find means the birds almost certainly lived in neighbouring countries such as Norway at the time.

Dr Waterhouse added: "All that remained was a single upper wing bone but it contained characteristic features that showed it was clearly from a member of the parrot family, about the size of a Yellow-crested Cockatoo.

"It isn't as unbelievable as you might think that a parrot was found so far north. When Mopsitta was alive, most of northern Europe was experiencing a warm period, with a large shallow tropical lagoon covering much of Germany, south east England and Denmark.

"This was only ten million years after the dinosaurs were wiped out and some strange things were happening with animal life all over the planet. After the dinosaurs, lots of niches needed filling.

"No Southern Hemisphere fossil parrot has been found older than about 15million years, so this new evidence suggests parrots evolved here in the Northern Hemisphere before diversifying further south in the tropics later on."

Details have been published in the latest edition of Paleontology journal, under the distinctly Pythonesque title Two New Fossil Parrots (Psittaciformes) from the Lower Eocene Fur Formation.

The Pythons were wrong about one thing, however. The Norwegian Blue couldn't have pined for fjords - one of Palin's ludicrous excuses for the bird lying lifelessly on its back.

"This parrot shuffled off its mortal coil around 55million years ago but the fjords of Norway were formed during the last ice age and are less than a million years old," Dr Waterhouse added.

The dead parrot sketch, written by Cleese and Graham Chapman, was first aired in 1969.

Cleese played customer Eric Praline, who tries to convince shopkeeper Palin that the bird he had sold him is dead.

Cleese's character is shown banging the 'ex-parrot' on the counter, shouting at it and pointing out it had been nailed to its perch.

Palin assures him it is just resting or stunned, giving reasons such as it's 'tired following a prolonged squawk'.

It was voted Britain's favourite alternative comedy sketch in a Radio Times poll in 2004. Michael Palin chuckled when told about the discovery and said: "It just shows that nothing is original."
The Dead Parrot Sketch

Monty Python

The Pet Shoppe

A customer enters a pet shop.

Customer (John Cleese): 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
(The owner does not respond.)
C: 'Ello, Miss?
Owner (Michael Palin): What do you mean "miss"?
C: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
O: We're closin' for lunch.
C: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
O: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
C: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!
O: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.
C: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
O: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!
C: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.
O: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!
C: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up!
(shouting at the cage)
'Ello, Mister Polly Parrot! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if you show...(owner hits the cage)
O: There, he moved!
C: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!
O: I never!!
C: Yes, you did!
O: I never, never did anything...
C: (yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) 'ELLO POLLY!!!!!
Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!
(Takes parrot out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)
C: Now that's what I call a dead parrot.
O: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!
O: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Norwegian Blues stun easily, major.
C: look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.
O: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.
C: PININ' for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?
O: The Norwegian Blue prefers kippin' on it's back! Remarkable bird, id'nit, squire? Lovely plumage!
C: Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.
O: Well, o'course it was nailed there! If I hadn't nailed that bird down, it would have nuzzled up to those bars, bent 'em apart with its beak, and VOOM! Feeweeweewee!
C: "VOOM"?!? Mate, this bird wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'E's bleedin' demised!
O: No no! 'E's pining!
C: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker!
'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies!
'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig!
'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!!
O: Well, I'd better replace it, then.
(he takes a quick peek behind the counter)
O: Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh, we're right out of parrots.
C: I see. I see, I get the picture.
O: I got a slug.
C: (sweet as sugar) Pray, does it talk?
O: Nnnnot really.
O: Look, if you go to my brother's pet shop in Bolton, he'll replace the parrot for you.
C: Bolton, eh? Very well.
The customer leaves.
The customer enters the same pet shop. The owner is putting on a false moustache.
C: This is Bolton, is it?
O: (with a fake mustache) No, it's Ipswitch.
C: (looking at the camera) That's inter-city rail for you.
The customer goes to the train station.
He addresses a man standing behind a desk marked "Complaints".
C: I wish to complain, British-Railways Person.
C: I beg your pardon...?
A: I'm a qualified brain surgeon! I only do this job because I like being my own boss!
C: Excuse me, this is irrelevant, isn't it?
A: Yeah, well it's not easy to pad these python files out to 200 lines, you know.
C: Well, I wish to complain. I got on the Bolton train and found myself deposited here in Ipswitch.
A: No, this is Bolton.
C: (to the camera) The pet shop man's brother was lying!!
A: Can't blame British Rail for that.
C: In that case, I shall return to the pet shop!
He does.
C: I understand this IS Bolton.
O: (still with the fake mustache) Yes?
C: You told me it was Ipswitch!
O: ...It was a pun.
C: (pause) A PUN?!?
O: No, no...not a pun...What's that thing that spells the same backwards as forwards?
C: (Long pause) A palindrome...?
O: Yeah, that's it!
C: It's not a palindrome! The palindrome of "Bolton" would be "Notlob"!! It don't work!!
O: Well, what do you want?
C: I'm not prepared to pursue my line of inquiry any longer as I think this is getting too silly!
Sergeant-Major: Quite agree, quite agree, too silly, far too silly... (external - login to view)
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