Penguins / BBC Programme Planners

(Cut to stock film of penguins.)


(Cut to presenter at desk.)

Presenter (John Cleese): Penguins, yes, penguins. What relevance do penguins have to the furtherance of medical science? Well, strangely enough quite a lot, a major breakthrough, maybe. It was from such an unlikely beginning as an unwanted fungus accidentally growing on a sterile plate that Sir Alexander Fleming gave the world penicillin. James Watt watched an ordinary household kettle boiling and conceived the potentiality of steam power. Would Albert Einstein ever have hit upon the theory of relativity if he hadn't been clever? All these tremendous leaps forward have been taken in the dark. Would Rutherford ever have split the atom if he hadn't tried? Could Marconi have invented the radio if he hadn't by pure chance spent years working at the problem? Are these amazing breakthroughs ever achieved except by years and years of unremitting study? Of course not. What I said earlier about accidental discoveries must have been wrong. Nevertheless scientists believe that these penguins, these comic flightless web-footed little bastards may finally unwittingly help man to fathom the uncharted depths of the human mind. Professor Rosewall of the Laver Institute.

(A scientist with tennis courts in the background. He wears a white coat.)


Scientist (GC): (Australian accent) Hello. Here at the Institute Professor Charles Pasarell, Dr. Peaches Bartkowicz and myself have been working on the theory originally postulated by the late Dr Kramer that the penguin is intrinsically more intelligent than the human being.

(He moves over to a large diagram which is being held by two tennis players in full tennis kit but wean'ng the brown coats of ordinary laboratory technicians. The diagram shows a penguin and a man in correct proportional size with their comparative brain capanative marked out clearly showing the man's to be much larger than the penguin's.)

Scientist: The first thing that Dr Kramer came up with was that the penguin has a much smaller brain than the man. This postulate formed the fundamental basis of all of his thinking and remained with him until his death.

(Flash cut of elderly man in tennis shirt and green eye shade getting an arrow in the head. Cut back to the scientist now with diagram behind him. It shows a man and a six foot penguin.)

Scientist: Now we've taken this theory one stage further. If we increase the size of the penguin until it is the same height as the man and then compare the relative brain sizes, we now find that the penguin's brain is still smaller. But, and this is the point, it is larger than it was.

(Very quick cut of tennis crowd going 'oh' and applauding. Dr Peaches Bartkowicz standing by tennis net.)


Peaches (Michael Palin): For a penguin to have the same size of brain as a man the penguin would have to be over sixty-six feet high.

(She moves to the left and comes upon a cubout of the lower visible part of a sixty-six feet high penguin. She looks up at it. Cut back to the scientist.)

Scientist: This theory has become known as the waste of time theory and was abandoned in 1956. (slight edit with jump visible) Hello again. Standard IQ tests gave the following results. The penguins scored badly when compared with primitive human sub-groups like the bushmen of the Kalahari but better than BBC program planners. (he refers to graph decorated with little racquets which shows bushmen with 23, penguins with 13 and BBC planners' with 8) The BBC program planners surprisingly high total here can be explained away as being within the ordinary limits of statistical error. One particularly dim program planner can cock the whole thing up.


(Cut to a tennis player in a changing room taking off his gym shoes. In the background two other players discuss shots.)


Hoad (Eric Idle): These IQ tests were thought to contain an unfair cultural bias against the penguin. For example, it didn't take into account the penguins extremely poor educational system. To devise a fairer system of test, a team of our researchers spent eighteen months in Antarctica living like penguins, and subsequently dying like penguins - only quicker - proving that the penguin is a clever little sod in his own environment.

(Cut to the scientist.)

Scientist: Therefore we devised tests to be given to the penguins in the fourth set... I do beg your pardon, in their own environment.

Voice: Net!

Scientist: Shh!

(Cut to a professor and team surrounding penguins standing in a pool)

Professor (Terry Jones): What is the next number in this sequence - 2, 4, 6?

(A penguin squawks.)

Professor: Did he say eight? (sighs) What is...

(Cut back to the scientist.)

Scientist: The environmental barrier had been removed but we'd hit another: the language barrier. The penguins could not speak English and were therefore unable to give the answers. This problem was removed in the next series of experiments by asking the same questions to the penguins and to a random group of non-English-speaking humans in the same conditions.

(Cut to the professor and his team now surrounding a group of foreigners who are standing in a pool looking bewildered.)

Professor: What is the next number? 2, 4, 6? (pause)

Swedish Person: Hello?

(Cut back to the scientist.)

Scientist: The results of these tests were most illuminating. The penguins scores were consistently equal to those of the non-English-speaking group.

(Cut to the foreigners having fish thrown at them, which they try to catch in their mouths, and a penguin with a menu at a candlelit table with a woman in evening dress and a waiter trying to take an order.)

(Cut to Dr Hoad taking a shower.)

Hoad: These enquiries led to certain changes at the BBC...

(Cut to the boardroom of BBC. Penguins sit at a table with signs saying 'Program Controller', 'Head of Planning', 'Director General'. Noise of penguins squawking. Cut to the penguin pool Hoad's voice ever.)

Hoad: ...while attendances at zoos boomed.

(The camera pans across to a sign reading 'The program planners are to be fed at 3 o'clock'.)

Voice Over: Soon these feathery little hustlers were infiltrating important positions everywhere.

(Animation showing penguins infiltrating important positions everywhere.)

Continue to the next sketch... Unexploded Scotsmen