Nobody expects … the Ministry of Silly Walks in Elkins Park or Phoenixville.

Then again, nobody expected 2020, either (its chief weapon was surprise … surprise and fear!).

But when the going gets tough, sometimes the tough have to get silly. And so they did in these suburban Philadelphia towns, where residents have turned the sidewalks in front of their homes over to the jurisdiction of one of England’s most absurd governmental bodies — the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Inspired by the classic 1970 Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese plays a rubber-legged minister (or cabinet head) in the fictional British government agency, Cindy Appelbaum of Elkins Park and Alden Krausse, “First Minister of Phoenixville,” have placed signs in front of their homes, alerting passersby: “YOU HAVE NOW ENTERED THE JURISDICTION OF THE MINISTRY OF SILLY WALKS. COMMENCE SILLY WALKING IMMEDIATELY!”

And both women are sharing the silly walks captured by their home surveillance cameras on Instagram, under the handles @elkinspark.sillywalks and @phoenixvillesillywalks.

The two Python fans, who do not know each other, are part of a larger silly walks movement that’s spreading across the world like a drunk giraffe on stilts during the coronavirus era.

It’s hard to tell where the absurd movement began — there are dozens, if not hundreds, of Silly Walk Instagram accounts from Sheboygan Falls, Wis., to Toronto, Canada — but many, including Krausse and Appelbaum, cite an account out of Yorkshire, England, which began in early April, as their inspiration.

When the stay-at-home orders went into effect, instead of sitting at home and pining for the fjords or contemplating the meaning of life, Appelbaum and Krausse put the silly walks signs on the sidewalks in front of their homes and turned on their doorbell cameras.

Krausse, 31, who lives on Northridge Court in Phoenixville’s Northridge Village neighborhood, said she actually got her doorbell camera specifically for this project.

“Phoenixville is known for being a little quirky and cool, so I thought it was a good idea to spread a little cheer and have a little fun,” she said. “My neighborhood has been fantastic about participating."

Although every walk is sacred, every walk is great, Krausse said her favorites have included a silly walking family of three and a man who did a complete flip — without even suffering a flesh wound.

Alden Krausse, First Minister of Silly Walks in Phoenxville, identified this as a "topsy turvy silly walk."
Courtesy of Alden Krausse
Alden Krausse, First Minister of Silly Walks in Phoenxville, identified this as a "topsy turvy silly walk."

“We have a couple of regulars who are constantly stepping up their game each time they go by,” she said. “There are still a few people who are holding out on silly walking, but I’m sure that at some point they will give in and have some fun too!”

Krausse even gets into character writing the captions for her Instagram videos.

“This little lady gave us a little jig as she was taking an evening stroll with this non-complaint man,” she captioned one video. “The ministry is looking into finding residents who don’t follow jurisdiction laws. The bill is likely to fail.”

Over on High School Road in Elkins Park, Appelbaum said she’s seen dads explain her silly walks sign to their kids and then do it together with them.

“It’s really fun to see it without people knowing your watching,” she said. “Everybody knows how to walk silly.”

But if Appelbaum is within eyesight when people see her signs, she said they’re less likely to participate. And there are some people who walk by her house everyday who openly flout the jurisdiction’s orders.

“I’ve actually seen people cross the street to avoid being in the silly walk zone,” she said.

While Appelbaum doesn’t have a favorite walk yet, she did point out that her camera captured two deer walking very silly through the jurisdiction one day.

While the search for the Holy Grail of silly walks continues, Krausse’s and Appelbaum’s projects are a reminder to always look on the bright side of life.

And when this is all over, who knows, perhaps the Batley Townswomen’s Guild will present us with their reenactment of humanity’s battle against the coronavirus.