OF JOHN CLEESE, OBAMA, AND THE DEAD PARROT
When, in Monty Python’s famous parrot sketch, John Cleese complains that the parrot he bought is dead, the shopkeeper tries to change the subject, saying: “Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn’it, ay? Beautiful plumage!”
Yes, says Cleese. The plumage is lovely. But it’s dead.
A customer enters a pet shop.
Mr. Praline: ‘Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
(The owner does not respond.)
Mr. Praline: ‘Ello, Miss?
Owner: What do you mean “miss”?
Mr. Praline: I’m sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
Owner: We’re closin’ for lunch.
Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue…What’s,uh…What’s wrong with it?
Mr. Praline: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. ‘E’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!
Owner: No, no, ‘e’s uh,…he’s resting.
Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now.
Owner: No no he’s not dead, he’s, he’s restin’! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn’it, ay? Beautiful plumage!
Mr. Praline: The plumage don’t enter into it. It’s stone dead.
Owner: Nononono, no, no! ‘E’s resting!
Mr. Praline: 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
(owner hits the cage)
Owner: There, he moved!
Mr. Praline: No, he didn’t, that was you hitting the cage!
Owner: I never!!
Mr. Praline: Yes, you did!
Owner: I never, never did anything…
Mr. Praline: (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.)
Mr. Praline: Now that’s what I call a dead parrot.
Owner: No, no…..No, ‘e’s stunned!
Mr. Praline: STUNNED?!?
Owner: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin’ up! Norwegian Blues stun easily, major.
Mr. Praline: Um…now look…now 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.
Owner: Well, he’s…he’s, ah…probably pining for the fjords.
Mr. Praline: 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?
Owner: The Norwegian Blue prefers keepin’ on it’s back! Remarkable bird, id’nit, squire? Lovely plumage!
Mr. Praline: 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.
Owner: 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
Mr. Praline: “VOOM”?!? Mate, this bird wouldn’t “voom” if you put four million volts through it! ‘E’s bleedin’ demised!
Owner: No no! ‘E’s pining!
Mr. Praline: ‘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!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!
For years, complaints that President Obama is a failure have been met both with reminders that he is an inspiring man who can make a damn good speech, and with requests for patience. Worry not about the unemployment numbers, we have been assured, for he is just about to revive the economy — this summer, or next summer, or maybe the one after that . . . Whether with Obamacare, the unemployment figures, or the stimulus, the president always seems to be just one pivotal oration away from convincing the electorate that his policies are attractive to them. He shares the conceit: When asked what his biggest mistake was, he answered that he had not communicated well enough.
There is a teeny-tiny problem with this: It’s not true. Barack Obama can make precisely one speech, and he has been making it for years now. He can make a speech in which — playing the youthful and exuberant outsider — he asks to be elected president in order to fix America’s problems — problems that have ostensibly been caused by a combination of minarchist Republicans, ubiquitous straw men, and the cynical nature of a politics that he somehow transcends. So well practiced is this speech that at the beginning of every sentence last night, those who follow such things knew precisely what was coming next, cadence and volume changes included.
Sadly for the president, however, all situations are not equal. The consequence of this has been that his speech has become gradually less effective throughout his tenure — to the point at which it is now flat, tired and, worst of all, downright inappropriate. Obama cannot reasonably be billed as the plucky young challenger when he is very much the establishment. While this seems to have gone amiss on him, it has not gone amiss on the assembled media, whose attempts to cover for his failure have been nothing short of heroic.
In the parrot sketch, when Cleese asks the shopkeeper why the parrot is lying motionless on his back, he is told that “the Norwegian Blue prefers kippin’ on its back!” Look, Cleese replies, “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.” Last night, even the president’s supporters could not spin away the weariness. The nails have come away.
It must be a crushing realization for his devotees, but the president’s plumage is no longer beautiful. He is, further to paraphrase our desperate shopkeeper, “tired and shagged out after a prolonged squawk.” A one-trick parrot, he is pining for the fjords of Chicago. It’s time to send him back there.