September 09, 2005

Happy Birthday, Cardinal Richelieu


Today is the birthday (in 1585) of Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Richelieu. Think I'm going to pass up this opportunity? Not bloody likely!

Counsel: Call Cardinal Richelieu.
Judge: Oh, you're just trying to string this case out. Cardinal Richelieu?
Counsel: A character witness m'lud.
Fanfare of trumpets. Cardinal Richelieu enters witness box in beautiful robes.
Cardinal: 'Allo everyone, it's wonderful to be 'ere y'know, I just love your country. London is so beautiful at this time of year.
Counsel: Er, you are Cardinal Armand du Piessis de Richelieu, First Minister of Louis XIII?
Cardinal: Oui.
Counsel: Cardinal, would it be fair to say that you not only built up the centralized monarchy in France but also perpetuated the religious schism in Europe?
Cardinal: (modestly) That's what they say.
Counsel: Did you persecute the Huguenots?
Cardinal: Oui.
Counsel: And did you take even sterner measures against the great Catholic nobles who made common cause with foreign foes in defence of their feudal independence?
Cardinal: I sure did that thing.
Counsel: Cardinal. Are you acquainted with the defendant, Harold Larch?
Cardinal: Since I was so high (indicated how high).
Counsel: Speaking as a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, as First Minister of Louis XIII, and as one of the architects of the modern world already - would you say that Harold Larch was a man of good character?
Cardinal: Listen. Harry is a very wonderful human being.
Counsel: M'lud. In view of the impeccable nature of this character witness may I plead for clemency.
Judge: Oh but it's only thirty shillings.
Enter Inspector Dim.
Dim: Not so fast!
Prisoner: Why not?
Dim: (momentarily thrown) None of your smart answers ... you think you're so clever. Well, I'm Dim.
A caption appears on the screen 'DIM OF THE YARD'
Omnes: (in unison) Dim! Consternation! Uproar!
Dim: Yes, and I've a few questions I'd like to ask Cardinal so-called Richelieu.
Cardinal: Bonjour, Monsieur Dim.
Dim: So-called Cardinal, I put it to you that you died in December 1642.
Cardinal: That is correct.
Dim: Ah ha! He fell for my little trap.
Court applauds and the Cardinal looks dismayed.
Cardinal: Curse you Inspector Dim. You are too clever for us naughty people.
Dim: And furthermore I suggest that you are none other than Ron Higgins, professional Cardinal Richelieu impersonator.
Cardinal: It's a fair cop.
Counsel: My you're clever Dim. He'd certainly taken me in.
Dim: It's all in a day's work.

Now you can call me a geek if you want [Ed. -like they haven't before?], but one of the many things about this sketch that's always cracked me up is its accuracy - John Cleese, as the counsel, taps the bullet points that any person with a reasonable European history education would know about Cardinal Richelieu. I love it when that kind of thing gets worked in - to me, such intelligent writing compliments and enhances the other elements that make the piece so funny.

Posted by Robert at September 9, 2005 02:19 PM | TrackBack

A lot of the Pythons' sketches had that sort of oddball historical depth. The Surrealist Brothers, the "Summarize Proust" Competition, and the skit (can't remember its name) where Eric Idle rebels against his poet father to become a coalminer--all rely on the audience knowing something about the topics. It's hard to think of any other comedy troupe that risked having a joke fall flat because the viewers wouldn't get it, which is one of many things that made the Pythons unique.

Posted by: utron at September 9, 2005 03:31 PM

Exactly! Some of my other favorites are the Victorian poetry reading, the Oscar Wilde sketch and that one where the porn-chasing vice squad inspector suddenly finds himself in Elizabethan England.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at September 9, 2005 04:02 PM

The entire episode that includes the Victorian poetry reading is one of my all-time favorites. And the moment when Keats gets up and starts raving about anteaters is definitely one of its high points. Dang, I miss those guys.

Posted by: utron at September 9, 2005 04:21 PM

I have to say, I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

Posted by: rbj at September 9, 2005 04:46 PM

Y'know, that raises an interesting topic in itself. I've always thought that the Pythons' record version of the Spanish Inquisition was much, much better than the tee vee one. I've sometimes thought of posting on that - which of their skits work best on film, on a live stage, on record, etc.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at September 9, 2005 05:01 PM

Socrat3s scores, got a beautiful cross from Archimedes. The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside.

Posted by: Derek at September 9, 2005 07:28 PM

Your filter considers Socrat3s-with-an-e "questionable content".

Posted by: Derek at September 9, 2005 07:30 PM

"Your majesty is like a stream of bat piss."


"It was one of Wilde's."

"No, it wasn't. It was Shaw's."

(Shaw, with heavy Irish accent)

"I merely meant, your Majesty, that you shine out light a shaft of gold, when all about is dark."

Posted by: The Colossus at September 10, 2005 12:07 AM
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