21 Jul

The last post continued: all hail the Pythons

So, in light of yesterday’s post, did the Monty Python boys manage to justify a three-hour show (I did say three and a half hours, originally, but it was three)?

In a word: yes.

I’d say there were about 20 minutes or so that were a bit of a let-down, or just slow (the Blackmail game show and a Science Today sketch), but the rest was – as usual – wonderfully absurd, insane, or just plain stupid.

John Cleese has always been my favourite Python (not least because I became obsessed with Fawlty Towers), largely for that manic glint in his eyes – he always looks on the edge of insanity, which I love. This could explain why he’s gone through four wives…
In Python mode, as he was last night – and despite now being 74 – you can still see that glint.

Eric Idle’s voice alone makes me laugh. Terry Gilliam is immensely talented in a number of ways (still love the Python artwork). Michael Palin has that wonderful sensible-exterior-repressing-a-lunatic veneer. Terry Jones, I never know what to say about … but the whole thing wouldn’t quite work without him.

Python humour isn’t for everyone, but I love that they take ridiculous ideas to the nth degree e.g the ‘marathon for those with incontinence’, where the leadership constantly changes as runners have to disappear into the bushes to take a leak.

I’d also call their brand of humour ‘intelligent slapstick / absurdism’. I don’t find modern slapstick funny. I think programmes like ‘Miranda’ are horrendous (I can see the jokes coming a mile off) and I sit there wondering how they got commissioned for TV.
The Python humour is a type of zany, slapstick, absurdist comedy that you won’t see today – not with any style or grace. It works for me, because I watch and think: ‘how on earth did they come up with that?’
This is particularly so in relation to the penis/vagina song, the song about Llamas, the bit about dancing teeth, the ‘have you come for an argument?’ sketch …. I could go on.

The best thing of all, though? It was just great to see that, beyond ‘we have to do this to pay large tax bills and John’s divorce settlements’ (and there was some p*ss-taking in relation to this and Michael Palin’s boring travel shows), they actually looked like they were enjoying each other’s company again.
There was a point where Terry Gilliam – dressed as a policeman – was sick into his hat (clearly tomato soup), was forced to put the hat on again, and the ‘sick’ dribbled down his face. John Cleese turned to look at him, started laughing, and completely lost his lines.
There was also some great ad-libbing during the classic ‘ dead parrot sketch’, with Michael Palin prompting John Cleese ‘do you remember this bit, coming up?’ and some cutting comments about the Daily Mail and editor, Paul Dacre.

The whole thing put a massive smile on my face – the kind that’s almost involuntary and you can feel it stretching your cheeks – and, of course, they rounded off the show with ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.

This kind of humour – this weird style of writing – won’t come round again. Everything just seems to be a spin-off of what was and/or comedy seems to have become a little sterile – too close to real life: no-one wants ‘mad’ any more. They just want things that relate to them and their world.

I suggest we hang on to these guys – their humour, at least – and squirrel away their DVDs, books etc, so that we can roll them out in 50 years or so and say ‘look kids, this is what humour was like’.

Well done Python boys: three hours well spent.


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