Monty Python: Find the fish

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life: Copyright Universal Pictures

In the Monty Python film: The Meaning of Life there is a scene called ‘Find the Fish’.  As Graham Chapman appears in drag and Terry Jones as some mustache man with long arms, alongside a green elephant butler.

I could be describing a drug trip, which is arguably one of the most bizarre, surreal pieces of comedy ever produced.

Monty Python – The Meaning of Life: The middle of the film

A-fish, a-fish, a-fish, a-fishy, ooooh.

What the hell is ‘find the fish’ sketch about anyway?

When I first saw this I really had no idea what this was about, except the literal view of ‘Can you see the fish?’

Upon repeat viewings I began to think of the fish representing something deeper.  The film is called the Meaning of Life, was this something clever relating to the title?  Or was I over thinking and this was just Python doing something a bit more absurd than normal?

find the fish
Copyright Universal Pictures

Thanks to the power of the Internet I found various discussion on different interpretations on the scenes meaning.

After watching the film again recently, I noted another sketch in the film, which may come to explain the meaning of this bizarre sketch.

People aren’t wearing enough hats

In this scene the execs are discussing two things in the meeting.  The first a tedious, trivial point about people not wearing enough hats.  The second a rather philosophical view on the meaning of life.

“Matter is energy. In the universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person’s soul. However, this “soul” does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to man’s unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.”

Copyright Universal Pictures

“But isn’t this a blog about self-improvement?  Why are you going on about a comedy film?”

Well reader, who I have just imagined asking this question.  I think this scene relates perfectly to the problems encountered with self-improvement.

The joke is that one of the other execs completely ignores point two and is more intrigued about not enough people wearing hats.  He does not think about the impactful view just delivered by his colleague.

When you reflect on the various discussion about find the fish (which I have now added to).  The ‘hats’ scene could be a reference to the ‘fish’ scene.

In this case the audience is distracted from achieving something great because they are too obsessed with creating meaning from things that don’t matter.  In this case working out what the ‘fish’ scene was about.

Therefore the soul (aka our ability to self-improve) does not develop because we are always seeking the next trivial item to distract us, such as thinking about a scene from a sketch comedy film.

There is an irony that I have disrupted you the reader with this trivial theory about this scene as well as my own time.  But I feel it offers an important lesson:

  • For our soul to exist we need to forget about the ‘fish’.
  • To have a soul we need to get on with life and do something useful.
  • However… As people are we doomed not to develop because we keep finding these distractions?

Or perhaps I’m just wrong and it turns out the fish was hidden in the green elephants cocktail glass?…

<<If you enjoyed this post then you might like What Does Stand by Me Teach You About Life?>>

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6 thoughts on “Monty Python: Find the fish

  1. I came to the same conclusion! The viewer is expected to ignore the funny looking people and the control room in the background and just look for a fish. Such a great movie!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ernest once made an allegory of nations with giant fish tanks. it was at his book nations and nationalism


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