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The Funniest Joke in the World

The cast:

VOICE OVER
Eric Idle
COMMENTATOR
Terry Jones
INSPECTOR
Graham Chapman
COLONEL
Graham Chapman
CORPORAL
Terry Jones
NAZI
John Cleese
OFFICER
Michael Palin
OTTO
Graham Chapman
GERMAN JOKER
Eric Idle
GERMAN GUARD
Terry Gilliam
GERMAN GENERAL
Terry Jones

The sketch:

(Opening Scene: A suburban house in a boring looking street. Zoom into upstairs window. Serious documentary music. Interior of small room. A bent figure (Michael Palin) huddles over a table, writing. He is surrounded by bits of paper. The camera is situated facing the man as he writes with immense concentration lining his unshaven face.)

Voice Over : This man is Ernest Scribbler... writer of jokes. In a few moments, he will have written the funniest joke in the world... and, as a consequence, he will die ... laughing.

(Ernest stops writing, pauses to look at what he has written... a smile slowly spreads across his face, turning very, very slowly to uncontrolled hysterical laughter... he staggers to his feet and reels across room helpless with mounting mirth and eventually collapses and dies on the floor.)

Voice Over: It was obvious that this joke was lethal... no one could read it and live ...

(Ernest's mother (Eric Idle in drag) enters. She sees him dead, she gives a little cry of horror and bends over his body, weeping. Brokenly she notices the piece of paper in his hand and picks it up and reads it between her sobs. Immediately she breaks out into hysterical laughter, leaps three feet into the air, and falls down dead without more ado. Cut to news type shot of commentator standing in front of the house.)

Commentator: This morning, shortly after eleven o'clock, comedy struck this little house in Dibley Road. Sudden ...violent ... comedy. Police have sealed off the area, and Scotland Yard's crack inspector is with me now.

Inspector: I shall enter the house and attempt to remove the joke.

(About now an upstairs window in the house is flung open and a doctor, rears his head out, hysterical with laughter, and dies hanging over the windowsill. The commentator and the inspector look up and then continue as if they are used to such sights.)

Inspector: I shall be aided by the sound of somber music, played on gramophone records, and also by the chanting of laments by the men of Q Division ... (Inspector points to a group of dour looking policemen standing nearby) The atmosphere thus created should protect me in the eventuality of me reading the joke. He gives a signal. The group of policemen start groaning and chanting biblical laments. The Dead March is heard. The inspector squares his shoulders and bravely starts walking into the house.

Commentator: There goes a brave man. Whether he comes out alive or not, this will surely be remembered as one of the most courageous and gallant acts in police history.

(The inspector suddenly appears at the door, helpless with laughter, holding the joke aloft. He collapses and dies. Cut to film of army vans driving along dark roads.)

Voice Over: It was not long before the Army became interested in the military potential of the Killer Joke. Under top security, the joke was hurried to a meeting of Allied Commanders at the Ministry of War.

(Cut to door at Ham House: Soldier on guard comes to attention as dispatch rider hurries in carrying armored box. (Notice on door: 'Conference. No Admittance'.) Dispatch rider rushes in. A door opens for him and closes behind him. We hear a mighty roar of laughter... series of oomphs as the commanders hit the floor or table. Soldier outside does not move a muscle.)

(Cut to a pillbox on the Salisbury Plain. Track in to slit to see mustachioed top brass peering anxiously out.)

Voice Over: Top brass were impressed. Tests on Salisbury Plain confirmed the joke's devastating effectiveness at a range of up to fifty yards.

(Cut to shot looking out of slit in pillbox. Camera zooms through slit to distance where a solitary figure is standing on the windswept plain. He is a bespectacled, weedy lance-corporal (Terry Jones) looking cold and miserable. Pan across to fifty yards away where two helmeted soldiers are at their positions beside a blackboard on an easel covered with a cloth.

Cut in to corporal's face - registering complete lack of comprehension as well as stupidly. Man on top of pillbox waves flag. The soldiers reveal the joke to the corporal. He peers at it, thinks about its meaning, sniggers, and dies. Two watching generals are very impressed.)

Generals: Fantastic.

Cut to a Colonel talking to camera.

Colonel: All through the winter of '43 we had translators working, in joke-proof conditions, to try and produce a German version of the joke. They worked on one word each for greater safety. One of them saw two words of the joke and spent several weeks in hospital· But apart from that things went pretty quickly, and we soon had the joke by January, in a form which our troops couldn't understand but which the Germans could.

(Cut to a trench in the Ardennes· Members of the joke brigade are crouched holding pieces of paper with the joke on them.)

Voice Over: So, on July 8th, I944, the joke was first told to the enemy in the Ardennes...

Commanding NCO: Tell the ... joke.

Joke Brigade: (together) Wenn ist das Nunstrück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! ... Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!

(Pan out of the British trench across war-torn landscape and come to rest where presumably the German trench is. There is a pause and then a group of Germans rear up in hysterics.)

Voice Over: It was a fantastic success. Over sixty thousand times as powerful as Britain's great pre-war joke ...Cut to a film of Chamberlain brandishing the 'Peace in our time' bit of paper ... and one which Hitler just couldn't match.

Film of Hitler rally. Hitler speaks; subtitles are superimposed.

SUBTITLE: 'MY DOG'S GOT NO NOSE'
A young soldier responds:
SUBTITLE: HOW DOES HE SMELL?
Hitler speaks:
SUBTITLE: 'AWFUL'

Voice Over: In action it was deadly.

(Cut to a small squad with rifles making their way through forest. Suddenly one of them sees something and gives signal at which they all dive for cover. From the cover of a tree he reads out joke.)

Corporal: Wenn ist das Nunstrück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! .. Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!

(Sniper falls laughing out of tree.)

Joke Brigade: (charging) Wenn ist das Nunstrück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! ... Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput.

(They chant the joke. Germans are put to fight laughing, some dropping to ground.)

Voice Over: The German casualties were appalling.

(Cut to a German hospital and a ward full of casualties still laughing hysterically.
Cut to Nazi interrogation room. An officer from the joke brigade has a light shining in his face. A Gestapo officer is interrogating him; another stands behind him.)

Nazi: Vott is the big joke?

Officer: I can only give you name, rank, and why did the chicken cross the road?

Nazi: That's not funny! (slaps him) I vant to know the joke.

Officer: All right. How do you make a Nazi cross?

Nazi: (momentarily fooled) I don't know ... how do you make a Nazi cross?

Officer: Tread on his corns. (does so; the Nazi hops in pain)

Nazi: Gott in Himell; that's not funny! (mimes cuffing him while the other Nazi claps his hands to provide the sound effect) Now if you don't tell me the joke, I shall hit you properly.

Officer: I can stand physical pain, you know.

Nazi: Ah... you're no fun. All right, Otto.

(Otto starts tickling the officer who starts laughing,)

Officer: Oh no - anything but that please no, all right I'll tell you.

(They stop tickling him)

Nazi: Quick Otto. The typewriter.

(Otto goes to the typewriter and they wait expectantly. The officer produces piece of paper out of his breast pocket and reads.)

Officer: Wenn ist das Nunstrück git und Slotermeyer? Ja!... Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput.

(Otto at the typewriter explodes with laughter and dies.)

Nazi: Ach! Zat iss not funny!

(Nazi bursts into laughter and dies. A German guard bursts in with machine gun, The British officer leaps on the table.)

Officer: (lightning speed) Wenn ist das Nunstrück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! .. Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput.

(The guard reels back and collapses laughing. British officer makes his escape. Cut to a film of German scientists working in laboratories.)

Voice Over: But at Peenemunde in the Autumn of '44, the Germans were working on a joke of their own.

(A German general is seated at an imposing desk. Behind him stands Otto, labeled 'A Different Gestapo Officer'. Bespectacled German scientist/joke writer enters room. He clears his throat and reads from card.)

German Joker: Die ist ein Kinnerhunder und zwei Mackel über und der bitte schön ist den Wunderhaus sprechensie. 'Nein' sprecht der Herren 'Ist aufern borger mit zveitingen'.

He finishes and looks hopeful.

Otto: We let you know.

(He shoots him.
More stock film of German scientists.)

Voice Over: But by December their joke was ready, and Hitler gave the order for the German V-Joke to be broadcast in English.

(Cut to 1940's wartime radio set with couple anxiously listening to it.)

Radio: (crackly German voice) Der ver zwei peanuts, valking down der strasse, and von vas... assaulted! peanut. Ho-ho-ho-ho.

(Radio bunts into 'Deutschland Über Alles'. The couple look at each other and then in blank amazement at the radio. Cut to modern BBC 2 interview. The commentator in a woodland glade.)

Commentator (Eric Idle): In 1945 Peace broke out. It was the end of the Joke. Joke warfare was banned at a special session of the Geneva Convention, and in 1950 the last remaining copy of the joke was laid to rest here in the Berkshire countryside, never to be told again.

(He walks away revealing a monument on which is written: 'To the unknown Joke'.

Camera pulls away slowly through idyllic setting. Patriotic music reaches crescendo.)

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