Monty Python on Auditors, Accountants, and Embezzlement

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If you love John Cleese, Michael Palin, and the rest of the gang from Monty Python as I do, and you are a Certified Public Accountant, Chartered Accountant, auditor, controller, accounting manager, or bookkeeper, then you will love this video and especially appreciate the amusing exchanges between this board of directors, which includes a member of the clergy, no less.  In case you have difficulty understanding "British", I include the script below: 

(A small board meeting. An Accountant stands up and reads…)
Accountant: Lady Chairman, sir, shareholders, ladies and gentlemen. I have great pleasure in announcing that owing to a cutback on surplus expenditure of twelve million Canadian dollars, plus a refund of seven and a half million Deutschmarks from the Swiss branch, and in addition adding the debenture preference stock of the three and three quarter million to the directors’ reserve currency account of seven and a half million, plus an upward expenditure margin of eleven and a half thousand lira, due to a rise in capital investment of ten million pounds, this firm last year made a complete profit of a shilling.

Chairman: A shilling Wilkins?

Accountant: Er, roughly, yes sir.

Chairman: Wilkins, I am the Chairman of a multi-million pound corporation and you are a very new chartered Accountant. Isn’t it possible there may have been some mistake?

Accountant: Well that’s very kind of you sir, but I don’t think I’m ready to be Chairman yet.

Board Member: Wilkins, Wilkins. This shilling, is it net or gross?

Accountant: It’s British sir.

Chairman: Yes, has tax been paid on it?

Accountant: Yes, this is after tax. Owing to the rigorous bite of the income tax five pence of a further sixpence was swallowed up in tax.

Board Member: Five pence of a further sixpence?

Accountant: (eagerly) Yes sir.

Chairman: Five pence of a further sixpence?

Accountant: That’s right sir.

Chairman: Then where is the other penny?

Accountant: … Er.

Board Member: That makes you a penny short Wilkins. Where is it?

Accountant: … Erm.

Chairman: Wilkins?

Accountant: (in tears) I embezzled it sir.

Chairman: What all of it?

Accountant: Yes all of it.

Board Member: You naughty person.

Accountant: It’s my first. Please be gentle with me.

Chairman: I’m afraid it’s my unpleasant duty to inform you that you’re fired.

Accountant: Oh please, please.

Chairman: No, out!

Accountant: (crying) Oh … (he leaves)

Chairman: Yes, there’s no place for sentiment in big business.

I love it!  But do we CPAs understand the British math here?  Recall the English coinage system from the days of public accounting before the American Revolution:

Crown=5 pounds
20 shillings/pound
12 pence/shilling
6 pence=1/40th of a pound
5 pence=shilling
penny=1/100th of a pound

What makes this somewhat confusing is that a 5 pence was for a time equal in value to a shilling, even though a shilling was worth 12 pence and a penny is not equivalent to a pence.  Leave it to the English to make coinage more complicated than it need be, even though they have been known to write simple songs and nursery rhymes, as "Sing a Song of Sixpence".  Imagine sitting for the CPA exam where all the questions are stated in English coinage.

Monty Python spoofs to the nth degree of absurdity the obsessive compulsiveness of accountants to detail, of which we as public accountants are so often guilty, in addition to everything else in life.  What is so delightful about their sketches is that nothing is sacred from their satire.  (Do you remember "The Life of Brian"?)  So for at least one nano second of your life, be a free spirit, lighten up, laugh at yourself, and remove those myopic glasses that we customarily wear in order to see the forest from the trees!  And for God's sake never steal pennies!  If you must be a crook and are determined to steal from your clients, company, family members, or the not-for-profit organization for which you serve as treasurer, then for heaven's sake, don't be a moron on top of being a scoundrel....Make it worth your while and steal big!

This article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to be construed as legal, accounting, or other professional advice.  For further information, please consult appropriate professional advice from your attorney and certified public accountant. 

Have a tax or an accounting question?  Please feel free to submit it to William Brighenti, Certified Public Accountant, Hartford CPA Accountants.  For information and assistance on any tax and accounting issue, please visit our website:  Accountants CPA Hartford.

If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose. The above tax advice was written to support the promotion or marketing of the accounting practice of the publisher and any transaction described herein. The taxpayer recipients of this offering memorandum should seek tax advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.


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