Friday, June 15, 2012

PYTHON DISSECTED - Prologue, Part 2: "The Fellowship of the Thingie"

Right.  Where was I?

Oh yes, the middle of the interminable preface to my alleged project wherein I review and overanalyze all 45 episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus (plus the two German shows and whatever other ancillary nonsense I can dredge up), a preface that started as a quick couple of introductory paragraphs but quickly metastasized into a recap of information which anyone who would bother to read such a thing undoubtedly knew already tied loosely together by a pointless point-by-point defense of my notion that Monty Python are/were the Beatles of Comedy, as if that notion was a) stunningly original and unprecedented and b) really in need of defending in the first place, I mean you may as well mount an impassioned, florid speech in defense of a twenty-shilling parking ticket and have your barrister call a dead person and a professional Cardinal Richeleu impersonator to the stand as character witnesses, I mean what's the point of it all, I think they ought to send them back where they came from, I mean you've got to be cruel to be kind so Mrs. Harris said, so she said, she said, she said, the dead crab she said, she said. Well, her sister's gone to Rhodesia what with her womb and all, and her youngest, her youngest as thin as a filing cabinet, and the goldfish, the goldfish they've got whooping cough they keep spitting water all over their Bratbys, well, they do don't they, I mean you can't, can you, I mean they're not even married or anything, they're not even divorced, and he's in the KGB if you ask me, he says he's a tree surgeon but I don't like the sound of his liver, all that squeaking and banging every night till the small hours, his mother's been much better since she had her head off, yes she has, I said, don't you talk to me about bladders, I said...

Ahem.  Let's crack on, shall we?  Okay, Reasons Monty Python Are/Were the Beatles of Comedy, continued...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

PYTHON DISSECTED - Prologue, Part 1: "The Gathering of the Jibes"

Monty Python's Flying Circus debuted, with little fanfare, on BBC-1 on October 5, 1969, nine days after the Beatles released their final studio album, Abbey Road.  I mention this seemingly irrelevant piece of trivia because it's one of those serendipidous bits of timing that no major cultural sea change can exist without.  Much has been made about how the Fab Four's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show - the event that rocketed them to stardom in the U.S. and thus set their subsequent world domination in motion - came scant weeks after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a moment when America (whether it realized it or not) needed a cleansing blast of youthful exuberance.  We'll never know if the Beatles would have been the musical and cultural bellwether they turned out to be had things been different - given the talent and the personalities at hand, it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't have made some sort of splash - but it's hard to deny the power of that particular harmonic convergence.  So, too, with Python.  No less an authority than George Harrison would later claim that the spiritual energy that was fatally draining from his band at that moment transferred cleanly onto this other, (mostly) British combo, and history has borne him out: comedy underwent a revolution of form and function in the seventies every bit the equal of rock in the sixties, and it was Monty Python who fired the opening salvo.  (It's true that the fuse Python lit - if I may mix my revolutionary-weaponry metaphors a bit - was much slower-burning; comedy didn't truly become the new rock 'n' roll until the mid-decade premiere of Saturday Night Live, a show that provided the same tonic for a country traumatized by Watergate and Vietnam that the Beatles did post-Kennedy, and which owed its comic voice as much to the National Lampoon and Second City as it did MPFC.  But heavy strands of Python are in its DNA - reruns aired on Canadian television several years before it made it to America, heavily influencing a struggling writer/comedian named Lorne Michaels; several years later, he stood on line for the world premiere of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where he would meet the man who would become SNL's first breakout star [and probably the main reason the show wasn't cancelled after a few weeks], Chevy Chase.  Which means that it's only a matter of time before some crazed conspiracy theorist fanboy blames Python for Dan Harmon's ouster from Community, but let's keep shtum about that.)

More (much, much more) after the jump: