And Now for Something Completely Different.

Growing up during the '70s and '80s, me and my friends became great fans of "Monty Python". Although the television series was first aired in 1969, and came to an end after 45 episodes and four series in 1974, the BBC always showed repeats of the programme throughout this time. We had probably never seen anything like "Monty Python's Flying Circus" before, and were enthralled by its surreal, anarchic humour. Indeed, I still think that it's perhaps the funniest thing to have been aired on British television to this day (perhaps with the exception of Chris Morris' brilliantly subversive satire on the news, "The Day Today").
The Python Team. Back Row: Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam. Front Row: Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin.

The Python team of Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Michael Palin seemed to appeal to our own teenage unruliness. The Pythons were different somehow from other, either safer, or downright prejudiced, comedy of the time, and it was the cleverness of the Python team which perhaps sealed my own emphatic approval. I'll never forget, for example, the sketch involving "the footballing philosophers", in which the Germans were pitted against the Greeks, and when the referee blows his whistle for the game to start the players simply walk around, scratching their beards. It is only after a few minutes that one of them has an idea, and begins to kick the ball.
Although the Pythons, to us, appeared alone in such absurdist wit, they were not without their influences, among them The Goons, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and in particular, I think, Spike Milligan and his show "Q5". Milligan's show seemed to have similarities to the Python's own groundbreaking material, particularly in terms of its surreal style, with Milligan often giving up on sketches halfway through, wandering off set muttering, "Did I write this?" But, the Python's seemed to go further, linking each sketch together into a surreal stream-of-consciousness.
And, of course, we all seem to have our favourite Python sketch. Whether it be the "Dead Parrot", "The Lumberjack Song", "The Spanish Inquisition", "The Ministry of Silly Walks", "Upper Class Twit of the Year", or "Four Yorkshiremen", there always seems to be something from Python which sticks in our memories. Indeed, the Python team became so popular that it spawned touring stage shows, films (including the brilliant "Life of Brian" which contains the immortal line, "He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"), albums, books and even a stage musical, launching each member into individual stardom and ensuring that the word "Pythonesque" appeared in the OED. In 2010 the commercial space company, SpaceX, even launched a wheel of cheese into low earth orbit and returned it to earth, allegedly in homage to Monty Python and, presumably, their "Cheese Shop" sketch. You could say, then, that Monty Python became something of a comedic institution, which seemed to go against their own anti-establishment ethic.
Indeed, I think I remember John Cleese once talking about "Python bores". The sort of people who go on endlessly talking about, or acting out, their favourite Python sketch. So, to avoid the risk of becoming one of them, perhaps next time I'll try to write something completely different.

Comments

klahanie said…
Dear David,
Ah yes, Monty Python. I was thinking about the influence the Goon Show had on the Python team. And there you go, you mentioned that.
Monty Python has a cult following in North America and all their films were viewed with much interest and bewilderment over there.
Good to note you will not be acting out your favourite skit. So, with a silly walk, I end this comment with the sound of that famous tune, 'Always look on the shite side of life', ringing through my mixed up mind. Oops, did I get the title of that song wrong?
Must go now and watch the snow, you know...
With kind wishes your way, Gary
David said…
Dear Gray,
Ah yes indeedy, it's Monty Python. As I say, I was a great fan of their's when growing up, and still am really.
And no, I will not be acting out my favourite sketch, becoming a "Python bore".
Anyway, Gary, I do hope you're still looking on the BRIGHT side of life. But then again, life is a piece of shit, when you look at it!
All that remains is for me to offer many silly walks, your way.
Very Best Wishes,
David.
bazza said…
I agree with all of your sentiments here David. John Cleese has said that it was never their intention to be subversive or ground-breaking but just to be as funny as possible. I guess we have to say they achieved all of those things, intentional or not!
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Dear bazza,
Good to have you back commenting and blogging after what seems to have been a brief break.
Anyway, it seems from your comment that you may be a bit of a fan, too. So, I wish many silly walks and much surreal fun, your way.
Very Best Wishes,
David.

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