"The Ministry of Silly Walks" is a sketch from the Monty Python comedy troupe's television show Monty Python's Flying Circus, season 2, episode 1, which is entitled "Face the Press". The episode first aired at some point in 1970. A shortened version of the sketch was performed for Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. This sketch involves John Cleese as a bowler-hatted civil servant in a fictitious British government ministry responsible for developing silly walks through grants. Cleese, throughout the sketch, walks in a variety of silly ways. It is these various silly walks, more than the dialogue, that has earned the sketch its popularity. Cleese has cited the physical comedy of Max Wall, probably in character as Professor Wallofski, as important to its conception.
The Ministry of Silly Walks Wikipedia
The sketch as originally depicted in the series begins with John Cleese playing a nameless civil servant who, after purchasing The Times from the newsagent in the previous sketch, walks through the streets of London (at the crossing of Thorpebank Road and Dunraven Road) in a very peculiar manner. He eventually arrives at his place of business: The Ministry of Silly Walks, on the northern end of Whitehall. In the hallway, he passes other employees all exhibiting their own silly walks before arriving at his office (the Hollywood Bowl performance omits this preamble). Once there, he finds Mr Putey (Michael Palin) waiting for him and apologizes for the delay, explaining that his walk has become particularly silly of late and it takes longer for him to reach his destination.
Putey explains that he has a silly walk he wishes to develop with grant money. He demonstrates his walk which, to Cleese's character, is not particularly silly ("The right leg isn't silly at all, and the left leg merely does a forward aerial half-turn every alternate step."). He tells Putey that he does not believe the ministry can help him, as Putey's walk is not silly enough and funding is short. The government, he explains, is supposed to give equally to Defence, Social Security, Health, Housing, Education, and Silly Walks, but recently spent less on Silly Walks than on national defence. After a visit by his secretary Mrs. Twolumps, Cleese shows Mr Putey a film on silly walks. (The segment is a parody of early 20th-century cinema, with Michael Palin dressed up as Little Tich; this film is also shown as part of the Hollywood Bowl performance of the sketch.) After tossing the projector offstage, Cleese offers Putey a grant that will allow him to work on the Anglo-French Silly Walk, La Marche Futile (a parody of Concorde's Anglo-French development), which is then demonstrated by a man (Terry Jones) dressed in a mixture of stereotypical English and French outfits, with a sped-up version of "La Marseillaise" playing.
Mrs. Twolumps, presumably the minister's secretary, makes a brief appearance, bringing in coffee with full silly walk. As she enters, the cups fall all over the tray, completely spilling their contents. The minister looks at the tray, says "Thank you, lovely" and she exits again, taking the tray with her, complete with upended cups. In the Hollywood Bowl version, Carol Cleveland plays Mrs. Twolumps, and spills some of the coffee on Cleese during the sketch.
As the years went by amid repeated requests to do the sketch, Cleese found it increasingly difficult to perform these walks. He would say, when told about a new Python tour, "I'm not doing silly walks." Accordingly, the sketch was not performed during Monty Python Live (Mostly), the troupe's 2014 reunion show. It was replaced by "The Silly Walks Song", which was performed by a group of (younger) dancers who mimicked Cleese's original walks while wearing bowler hats and carrying briefcases.
In the book The Pythons, members of the troupe indicated that they considered the whole scene nothing more than pure silliness. Cleese in particular seems disheartened that so many fans consider it the troupe's "best" sketch.
In 2005, the sketch was chosen in a poll taken by Channel 4 in Britain as the 15th greatest comedy sketch of all time (and one of five Monty Python sketches in the top 50).