Fish-Slapping Dance from Monty Python filmed at Teddington Lock (1971)


Palin tumbled into the lock after being slapped by John Cleese with a giant halibut


                                                   WATCH THE WORLD-FAMOUS SKETCH FILMED IN TEDDINGTON IN 1971 HERE: t=4https://youtu.be/T8XeDvKqI4E

Author and TV presenter Sir Michael Palin reckons the famous ‘fish-slapping dance’ filmed at Teddington was the greatest achievement of the Monty Python comedy team.

He tells This Cultural Life that the summit of Python’s achievement was the 20-second sketch showing Palin slapping John Cleese around the face with two pilchards which is now famous all over the world and still hilarious.

Cleese produces a large pike and knocks Palin over and into the water in the lock.

Palin has said in the past:  “I’m very proud of the fish-slapping dance we did in Python. We rehearsed this silly dance where John Cleese hits me with a fish and I fall into Teddington Lock.

“We were so intent on getting the dance right that I didn’t notice the lock had cleared and instead of it being a 2ft drop into the water it was a 15ft drop. I’m very proud of doing that.”

A small circular, turquoise blue plaque, similar to a Heritage plaque, in the lock keeper’s quarters commemorates the famous sketch with the inscription MONTY PYTHON – FISH-SLAPPING DANCE SHOT HERE 1969 -1999. (see photo)

Commemorative plaque shows where the sketch was filmed in 1971


Lock keeper points out the plaque to curious tourists
Cleese and Palin signed photo for the lock keepers



A signed photo by the two Monty Python greats reads: “To The Lock keepers of Teddington – home of FISH-SLAPPING. Best Fishes.” (see photo)

The location has become famous the world over because of the sketch, which was also said to be the favourite of former Beatle George Harrison.

The sketch, filmed originally in 1971 at Teddington Lock, shows Cleese and Palin dressed in safari outfits and wearing pith helmets at the side of the lock with the Teddington sign clearly visible.

At first, both are facing each other and standing still and Palin then begins a ‘merry dance’ moving slowly towards Cleese gently slapping him across the face with two small pilchards and then returning to his standing position.

Palin repeats the move four times and then stands still with the expectation that his dance ‘partner’ Cleese will replicate the moves but, instead, the music stops and Cleese reveals his massive fish, a giant halibut and whacks Palin around the head knocking him into the canal several feet below.

The skit is only 20 seconds long does not receive as much recognition as other Python classics because it could not be performed live but it remains one of Palin’s favourites and, as he says, typifies what Monty Python was all about.

The accompanying music is called “Merrymakers Dance” from “Nell Gwyn suite” by British composer Sir Edward German (1862–1936).

Palin revisited the scene of the original sketch at Teddington Lock in 2008 where he explained the rules of the ‘global phenomenon’ of fish slapping in equally hilarious terms.







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