Silliness used as a teaching method

Archive Magazine, September 26, 1983 Vol. 20 No. 13

From the beginning of 1971, John Cleese’s silly walks were used, amongst other sketches, in business training movies. The movies were used by the likes of IBM, Gulf Oil and Hilton Hotels amongst others.

“If the audience is laughing at someone doing it wrong, then the next time they start doing it wrong themselves, that starts a little bell ringing in the back of their minds.”
- John Cleese, Archive Magazine, 1983

A grand example of two wrongs making a right, and error and humour being used as a teaching tool.

Designing the Walk

silly walks

A very important inspiration for my thesis project is John Cleese’s Ministry of Silly Walks. He takes the serious context of the business man in suit, bowler hat and briefcase, and hacks our expectations of how he should behave. In designing a new walk he creates several things:

  1. 1. A performance that alters a passerby’s daily experience and a system of humour.
  2. 2. A system of thought that starts with an error of expectation >> conflict >> surprise >> makes us laugh >> stored in memory >> alters perception. And the next time we look at a business man our memory kicks in and we get a smile from our imagination.