The Fish-Slapping Dance

“If you had to come up with one question, the answer to which would determine whether or not you could be friends with a person you’ve just met, what would it be? What would the right answer be?”

“That’s a great question. Oddly comprehensive, yet a little intrusive at the same time.”

“I agree, but my usual ice breaker question is to ask people that I have just met what their ice breaker question is. So, what is it?”

“Did you want more coffee?”

“That’s your question?”

“No. Your cup is empty. Free refills, hon’.”

* * * *
The speed with which one can determine the depth or length of a friendship—somewhere between forever and not at all—is inequal to the facts of a friendship. How many reminiscence-conversations have you had with friends in which you have learned that either your memory of meeting a friend is faulty or that the friend did not like you on first encounter? I have had both types.

I hinted in a recent column, okay, I explicitly stated in a recent column that if you find the “Fish-Slapping Dance” funny, you and I will more than likely be friends for life.

It may be the Monty Python troupe’s quickest route to the biggest laugh. I wrote, “If you do not find the ‘Fish-Slapping Dance’ funny, it may be because you find the waste of intellectual effort offensive. Or perhaps fish jokes generally turn you right off. ‘How is this funny?’ becomes the same question as ‘Why is this funny?’ ‘Why is T H I S on my screen?’ The ‘Fish-Slapping Dance’ actually can be seen as a depiction of the ‘How is this funny?’ conversation. Michael Palin, the ‘little fishes,’ dances the question, and then John Cleese, the ‘big fish,’ delivers the only possible retort: ‘It is or it is not.’ Splash.”

I can over-intellectualize and explain how the bit does not work, but every attempt I make falters the moment Michael Palin hits the water, when I laugh, sometimes quietly and sometimes out loud, every time.

I knew approximately two things when I wrote this a couple of months ago: that my girlfriend, the closest friend I have, probably does not know much if any Monty Python material and that I do not know if we share a sense of humor, even though she and I laugh a lot at many of the same things and same comics. For instance, her response after listening to some recordings of my radio show was to say that it was nice hearing my voice and that I sounded like I was enjoying myself. It is a comedy show.

Thus, I was rather nervous when I posted the Monty Python video above, several weeks ago, as she might very well read what I wrote, view the classic bit of comedy, and then instant message a break-up with me. I did not know what I did not know, but I was going to learn sooner or later. Are we companions for life, based on one sixteen-second joke?

“I’ve been sitting in my office, laughing at that.” she wrote me that night. Thus, my belief that the Monty Python “Fish-Slapping Dance” is the litmus test of comedy, a proof of companionability, was sustained.

Kindergartners may have the most effective conversations for establishing a friendship: favorite color, up versus down, best food. Matters of eternal importance like those. I try to remember this and always keep track of what is important to me, just in case someone wants to know on the spot: Green, the number 4, the letter N, the word Yes.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 23 asks, “If you had to come up with one question, the answer to which would determine whether or not you could be friends with a person you’ve just met, what would it be? What would the right answer be?


    • Mark Aldrich · September 23, 2014


      And the expression on Spike’s face when he is not blowing cracks me up every time.

      Thanks for the addition to the pantheon. Spike Milligan, the Goon and pre-Python who was sometimes more Python than the six Pythons were.


      • groomsdaybook · September 23, 2014

        On the raspberry theme – does the line “oi! I want a word with you ?!” Mean any thing ?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. umanigith · September 23, 2014

    I think we can be friends. I laughed at that video 😉 Didn’t quite find it funny when the guy was hitting with the lil fish but when the big fish came out and bam!!!. I was like 😮 n then 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wscottling · September 23, 2014

    And now, for something completely different…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lifelessons · September 23, 2014


    Liked by 1 person

  4. abodyofhope · September 24, 2014

    Companionability! YES. Excellent word.
    And on Green we can agree. The fish dance is a humorous friendship litmus test.
    My husband and I are the same way. He is a tough sell on some things that I find funny. Oh well, he’s just missing out.
    Good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. treyzguy · October 5, 2014

    We are obviously friends, then….

    Liked by 1 person

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