And now for something completely different… A Michigan family is lightening up lockdown with a neighborhood project inspired by the Monty Python.
Karl and Liz Koto of Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., love — love! — Monty Python, the iconic British troupe founded by John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and the late Graham Chapman and Terry Jones. The group, colloquially called the “Beatles of comedy,” is responsible for nearly five decades’ worth of classic comic moments.
Earlier this month, the Kotos installed a sign on their front lawn instructing neighbors to perform a silly walk as they pass. “You have now entered the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Silly Walks. Commence silly walking immediately,” reads the homemade sign.
The project was inspired by the “Ministry of Funny Walks” sketch in the 1970s “Flying Circus” series, featuring Cleese as a government worker approving grants to develop ridiculous walks.
The bit has become entrenched in the zeitgeist ever since. In 2014, the sketch was parodied with a traffic sign in Norway and more recently highlighted by Dartmouth University researchers in a paper examining flaws in the academic peer-review procedure. And in 2019, hundreds participated in a “silly walk” parade in Hungary on April Fool’s Day.
To the Koto’s, who record people on their Nest cam (there is a social media disclaimer on the sign) and upload the footage to the Yorkshire.Silly.Walks Instagram page, observing creativity unfold is levity.
“People either understand [the sign] right away or pull out their phones to look up the meaning,” Karl tells Yahoo Life, adding that aside from neighbors, it was “hysterical” to see the first complete stranger attempt a silly walk.
The Kotos’ camera has recorded a family performing a synchronized swimming routine, another doing the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” dance and respectable efforts from a pizza delivery worker and even a pet dog. The Kotos get repeat visitors and say parents have joyously embarrassed their children with their walks. “People have great fun with it,” says Karl.
The walks are filmed at a distance to obscure the faces of participants. Sometimes the Koto’s two children, ages 8 and 11, sit outside and cheer people on. And in the evenings, the couple reviews footage, edits and brainstorms the video captions.
Karl says “branch [ministry] offices” have been opened in California and countries like England, France and Kenya. “As long as it gives people joy,” he says, “We’ll keep the sign up as long as we can.”
And above all, the Kotos have gotten the ultimate endorsement. Cleese himself has tweeted his seal of approval, saying that the family’s goofy call to action has “made me so happy to see.”