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Yes, we get it, the bloody parrot is dead.
July 3, 2014 4:07 AM   Subscribe

"The slickness, the cosiness, the lack of spontaneity, the inevitable gallery-playing, Eric Idle's bloody songs (just what we needed, a slightly edgier Richard Stilgoe)... this is the kind of schlock they once stood up against, and worse, it will just compound the modern perception of Python as something unthreatening and whimsical, a posh boys' lark, an "icon of Britishness", a zany figleaf for the humourless and the deeply conventional, like brightly-patterned socks." On the back of mixed reviews on the Python reunion, Taylor Parkes looks at the other side of Monty Python.
posted by mippy (97 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
As ever, it's all Eric Idle's fault.
posted by dng at 4:23 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Obligatory (also man, that's an old one)
posted by Twain Device at 4:25 AM on July 3


Pretentious vinegar pissing piffle.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:26 AM on July 3 [9 favorites]


I enjoyed this article a great deal, particularly as someone for whom Python was ruined before they got chance to experience it. I was a teenager in the 90s - years beyond the broadcast of the shows and release of the films when parodying Jesus was too controversial for cinema never mind Channel 4; years before the easy access to pop culture that YouTube, Amazon and the falling prices of DVDs allowed us. So for years, my only experience of Python was second-hand, through the slightly-off recitations of others. I felt that not only had I heard all the best 'jokes' ad nauseum, but that people clung to it as a shorthand for a sense of whimsy and humour, as something you were into like a religion if you were nerdy and liked silly jokes.

There was a certain type of guy I knew a lot growing up - a guy who liked Queen and Meatloaf and called rap 'crap', who read sci-fi and mocked arts students as bound for nothing more lofty than a five-star McDonalds badge, who had recently realised that religion possibly wasn't all it was cracked up to be, who shunned sport and any comedy involving actual women ('women aren't funny!') rather than middle-class men in flouncy dresses. These were the kind of people who were really, really into Monty Python. I knew I would never be able to watch the films or sketches on their own terms. (And I'm entirely sure that Red Dwarf - which I was really, really into as a ten year old - might have had a hardcore nerdist offputter faction of their own.)

It's not really their fault, I know. I love The Rutles enough that I've seen it multiple times, once with a friend of a friend who inexplicably did not know who John Lennon was, most recently in a hotel room in Paris where the French subtitles translated Bolton as 'le banlieue', and could probably sing along with the soundtrack word for word still. I'm pretty sure that everything Rik Mayall did, for example, particularly The Young Ones episodes that I was watching fifteen years after broadcast and quoting on my exercise book covers, could be traced back to Python like a bloodline. The article makes me wish that I could take their work out of the context that my experience has put it into and discover it as a new thing, just as I did with All You Need Is Cash.

But seeing the reunion show will do nothing to help me be amused by them on their own terms. Especially with the knowledge that John Cleese is almost certainly doing it not out of love but out of the necessity of keeping his ex-wives in the manner to which they are accustomed.
posted by mippy at 4:27 AM on July 3 [35 favorites]


Young people and old people find different things funny, news at 11.
posted by empath at 4:31 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


This article has the classic symptoms of the author not understanding that bands and ensembles, like all lifeforms, have lifespans in which they are born, live ragged childhoods, endure mawkish adolescence, then become self-important teens, hapless adults, tiresome middle-aged cranks, and then become crusty elders with the potential for either wry wisdom or inexplicable irascibility (often manifest simultaneously), and either die or just get stuck in an unending loop of recycling ideas for income (see also: The Rolling Stones) before the end.

Writers, too, have a lifespan, and this one seems to be at the age in which he believes that pointing out the obvious in florid, withering prose makes him a great social critic, instead of just someone who feels betrayed by the fact that all things change, even magical super impossible great world-altering things that just aren't ever going to measure up to the arbitrary perfection of nostalgia.

He loved them while they were still cool, and don't we know it.
posted by sonascope at 4:31 AM on July 3 [47 favorites]


Taylor Parkes was a Melody Maker critic in the early 90s - not sure he was quite old enough to have liked them at the time.

The Rolling Stones have always been a veteran band to me, so I can't get exercised by their constant touring. I'm more upset by the success of contemporary-to-me indie-lad musical-ebola Scouting For Girls. Given the choice between them and the aging Jagger, I know which I'd cross the street to see.

Comedy seems a bit different, thoughbut - somehow it's easier to feel cynical about a comedy behemoth's farewell tour. I'm not sure why. Because you can't cover it, or get session comedians in so you can do either the physical or the verbal stuff as you can't do both anymore? It's not surprising to me that they've done an arena stint given the trajectory of the industry in the UK - even moderate comedians now doing enormous arena shows so that they have a DVD to market at the end of it.
posted by mippy at 4:41 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I'm glad I got to experience Python when they were still subversive and iconoclastic as well as well as absurd. It's true, their material has been diluted by over-exposure & mimicry over the years and they themselves are responsible for quite a bit of that dilution, and I can understand why all these years later their work doesn't have the impact it once did, out of context. The article does discuss the context of the times in which Python was set & why it was so subversive then, and I hope that the legacy of why it was ground-breaking then doesn't get utterly buried by the dilution.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:44 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


There was a certain type of guy I knew a lot growing up - a guy who liked Queen and Meatloaf and called rap 'crap', who read sci-fi and mocked arts students as bound for nothing more lofty than a five-star McDonalds badge, who had recently realised that religion possibly wasn't all it was cracked up to be, who shunned sport and any comedy involving actual women ('women aren't funny!') rather than middle-class men in flouncy dresses. These were the kind of people who were really, really into Monty Python.

That would describe myself and my high school friends, although without the negative aspects, really (we didn't mock art students--we had some of our best times in art class, actually--and didn't shun comedy with women in it; in fact, we came of age while the original Saturday Night live cast was still on). Yes, there's some truth to this, but there are worse things to bond over. I think that we've all moved on since then, though, and I'm a little baffled that Parkes is so dismayed that the group is getting a bit threadbare when they haven't even done a new movie for, what, more than thirty years now? It's the sort of well-I'm-so-over-this-group piece that you write when you can't help but be bitter that "hours of vintage Python material rots in the vaults", as if there might not be a reason why they haven't released it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:50 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


Pretentious vinegar pissing piffle.

Dribble cheeked hand shandy with a chaser of oh my gosh.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:53 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I didn't really think it was a bitter article. It was a celebration, hung limply on the reunion as a relevant frame of reference.
posted by dng at 4:54 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


Are you guys reading the same article as I am? The author clearly likes and admires Python for what they did "back in the day": "It's absolutely remarkable that so much of it is so phenomenally good." It's just the reunion show and other recent developments he's objecting to.
posted by drlith at 5:00 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


I never thought I'd see the phrase Hand-Shandy on Mefi, it is such a Britishism.

The problem with Python is that in 1970 they mocked and ridiculed the establishment, now they are part of it. This is always the way - its hard to be an angry young man all your life, especially when you are old, rich and comfortable.

And lets be totally honest - much as they mocked the establishment, they were all solidly children of it.
posted by marienbad at 5:03 AM on July 3 [7 favorites]


> He loved them while they were still cool, and don't we know it.

It's not that, I never get a sense the author professes he's hipper-than-thou. I don't think he's wrong, but I don't exactly agree with him either.

I didn't get to see any Monty Python TV episodes until the eighties, although I'd been intrigued by mentions and glimpses (and those albums!) since the mid-seventies. And I never saw all the episodes until the late nineties. But I still have the vague memories that most Python fans have -- a warm feeling of a particular time in front of the TV when amazing things happened. Even though the material was anywhere upwards of 30 years old when I saw it.

By the eighties, the Pythons were the subject of affection by people who would endlessly invoke their routines and call back to punchlines and in-jokes. It was more annoying than edgy even then, kind of in the way some people latch onto web memes a little more tenaciously than the memes merit. Now that there's an accumulated forty-plus years of time for the same dense and intense, but small, pool of comedy to have repeatedly been watched for the first time by people, at this point at total remove from the cultural and political landscape it was created in, all that's really left are the few bits that have become timeless.

The material that made the Pythons subversive are inextricably joined to what eventually made them institutions, but there's never been an obligation on anybody's part to love all of Monty Python's work or none of it; sketch comedy doesn't work that way. In fact, the ebb and flow of the original TV shows invites the viewer to pick and choose what to remember. Each episode might only work as an intact unit, but it's not designed to be remembered that way.

So. I dunno. Cherry picking Pythons material from the shows means missing out on the genius of the slow burn and world building they indulged in. And that's one of the points of the essay. But it also means enduring a lot of downtime in a world that's had thirty years to adapt to quick edits and rapid-fire punchlines, and for most adults fully appreciating the original TV shows would mean doing background research to understand some of the things they're making jokes about. So I can't tell people who like certain things that they're liking them wrong.

The Pythons are now the age of -- or older than -- the institutional guardians they once threw tomatoes at. They still have an edge, and in fact at times these days they sound as as angry as they ever were, but they've had to change their aim, because they're not twenty and thirty years old any more. And frankly it's going to be easier to wring jokes out of evergreen material like dead parrots and penguins on televisions rather than try to research what kids think is wrong with the world these days. To act as if they haven't individually developed and matured would be discomforting and make for some weak-ass comedy.

So if the reunion show is going to be a greatest hits performance for a few crowds of people who want them, I don't see anything wrong with that. I think a lot of people would be happy just to attend public Q&A sessions with the surviving Pythons as to watch them do routines. I know I would. But more than two shows of that would be even more tiresome and annoying to the guys than performing sketches. So sketches it is.
posted by ardgedee at 5:04 AM on July 3 [10 favorites]


And lets be totally honest - much as they mocked the establishment, they were all solidly children of it.

This is why they're so much more popular in the US than in England, where the signals about class and privilege are less likely to get picked up on. They are basically irrelevant in the UK now.

Frankie Boyle is your man if you want class war edge.
posted by colie at 5:08 AM on July 3


". In fact, the ebb and flow of the original TV shows invites the viewer to pick and choose what to remember. Each episode might only work as an intact unit, but it's not designed to be remembered that way.

So. I dunno. Cherry picking Pythons material from the shows means missing out on the genius of the slow burn and world building they indulged in.
"

The way they used (abused) continuity in the tv shows is awesome, as are the running gags.
posted by marienbad at 5:11 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I prefer Stewart Lee to Frankie Boyle, if only because I tired of his tooedgy4u schtick when he was on the TV panel game Mock The Week. There's no real satirical value in mocking Katie Price.
posted by mippy at 5:14 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


The problem with Python is that in 1970 they mocked and ridiculed the establishment
They sneered at the working class with the best of them though.
posted by fullerine at 5:15 AM on July 3 [9 favorites]


If they had done a show with nothing but new material and NO Eric Idle songs, we'd all be pissing and moaning about THAT over our Watney's Red Barrel.

Personally, I am willing to look at this as the swan song it was meant to be and nothing more. I have my ticket for the broadcast of the last performance and will probably sit there and cry the whole time because it really is the end of an era.
posted by briank at 5:16 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


That article is spot-on, at least as far as this Python fan's concerned. Go and watch the original shows. They are nearly fifty years old (just think what comedy was like fifty years before that...), they're uneven, they have attitudes and cultural artifacts that feel really uncomfortable today, and they are genius-level weird. Also, sometimes, they are shockingly funny.

After that? Well, the culture absorbed and softened that spirit, as it always does. You can go on being a punk all your life, but you can't go on being that punk at that time when it all mattered. Even if you keep at it without compromise, you'll make what change you can early on and then you'll be politely ignored. I feel Gilliam's tired disappointment at how the Python brand has been detached from what it used to mean - indeed, placed in direct opposition, as the article points out - and I really don't care what Idle and Cleese get up to. Palin is just lovely to experience, Jones is a pleasant side-show, and I love Chapman's recent work to bits.

None of this dulls my love of the original stuff. Knowing when to stop paying in that emotional investment is a good trick to learn for an ageing fan.
posted by Devonian at 5:16 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I love Chapman's recent work to bits.

Personally, I prefer his pre-1989 work.
posted by fairmettle at 5:24 AM on July 3 [29 favorites]


The problem with Python is that in 1970 they mocked and ridiculed the establishment, now they are part of it

Python is Oxbridge to the core; they were always part of the establishment.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:25 AM on July 3 [7 favorites]


I don't see why these shows are a bad thing even if they are, you know, bad. There's something wonderful about having a time and a place to say "Hey, your work meant something to me during my life and, before you die, I want you all to know that I care this much money to say so."

It's a funeral before they are all dead. What's more fucking Pythonesque than that?
posted by inturnaround at 5:38 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


Anyone who thinks that Monty Python is "humourless" is pretentious and shriveled. Your inner child is dead.

Fart jokes have been funny since the dawn of time, and they will continue to be funny until the last days of humanity.
Monty Python is classic slap-stick comedy.
posted by Flood at 5:44 AM on July 3


He didn't go to the show, but he's essentially writing a review of the show as it would happen in his head. This is pretentious. It also sounds like more of that "you're ruining my childhood" argument that is ubiquitous nowadays. They shouldn't be allowed to perform because he doesn't like the idea? What a jackass.
posted by GrapeApiary at 5:52 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


Or...maybe they have different tastes? One can not enjoy Monty Python and yet fully enjoy an episode of South Park about queefing.

I find Some Mothers Do Ave Em actually uncomfortable to watch - not because it's shite, but because I'm dyspraxic and found people laughing at me falling over to be humiliating. Yet Bottom, which is essentially two grown men acting out a cartoon fight whilst questioning each others' virginity? Never not funny.
posted by mippy at 5:56 AM on July 3


As ever, it's all Eric Idle's fault.

Well... for the longest time, I thought I just didn't like Monty Python since there was always something about it that left a bad taste in my mouth. Then the group's individual projects started appearing on U.S. shores and about the time I went to see Splitting Heirs (god, remember?) I realized that no, actually, it was Eric Idle who ruined it all for me. Cleese is an absurd delight! Palin is a joy! Gilliam is a visionary! The others I'm sure I could have opinions about! But oh man, Idle makes me wince.
posted by psoas at 5:57 AM on July 3


There's no real satirical value in mocking Katie Price.

But by the same token, there's not much critical value in saying these sorts of things about Monty Python, when people have been saying pretty much the same thing for about thirty years (about the Hollywood Bowl concert; post Meaning of Life; especially about the Contractual Obligation Album), and the participants have been saying (or at least heavily hinting) very similar things since the shows were announced. A bunch of septuagenarian comedians fail to live up to the mythologies and expectations that an ex-music journalist brings to them? Gosh.

What I find interesting, and quite nice really, about these reunion concerts is the way that the people who have gone and enjoyed them, have openly accepted that it's just a greatest hits show, and that it's a sort of communion and appreciation of their heroes, not really cutting edge comedy (or, possibly, comedy at all in any real, functional way), but a collossal group hug. That's a nice thing, isn't it? People who like something all liking it together? Python were the first people to experience (and comment incredulously on) the phenomenon of audiences going to a show to cheer the sketches they enjoyed and not necessarily laugh, and these shows seem to be a culmination of that phenomenon.

It doesn't surprise me that he's a music journalist from the early 90s, because music journalists were so heavily invested in the Street Cred bullshit that permeated and stifled popular culture for such a long time. But it is bullshit.
posted by Grangousier at 5:57 AM on July 3 [11 favorites]


briank: "we'd all be pissing and moaning about THAT over our Watney's Red Barrel."

I believe that's BLEEDING Watney's Red Barrel.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:05 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I was one of those people who endlessly recited Monty Python sketches in a British accent.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

If it makes it any better, I have been punished for it. I've been on the Internet since 1993, mostly on nerd-related sites. I've played RPG and board games with other geeks. Boy howdy have I been repaid in full by people who seem to have a mental list of trigger words that inspire -- no, necessitate -- Quoting the Canon, usually in full.

Again, I'm sorry. I continue to suffer for my sins.
posted by Legomancer at 6:14 AM on July 3 [13 favorites]


He does make a good point here:
Spend any time browsing Monty Python clips on YouTube and you'll soon come across some well-meaning LOLster announcing to the world that this or that sketch is "random". The whole point, in fact, is that it isn't random. All those ideas have been chosen incredibly carefully, so that when they're placed together, the combination is explosive (or as Terry Jones used to say, quoting Browning: "You take two ideas and combine them, and produce not a third idea but a star").
It was indeed the specificity of some of their gags that gags that made them shine. There's a story I've heard about the writing of the Parrot Sketch - Cleese and Chapman were writing partners usually, and it was Cleese who wrote it up and was reading it to Chapman - only when he first wrote it, it was about a non-working toaster rather than a parrot.

So Cleese was reading it to Chapman, and Chapman was just sitting there puffing away on a pipe and not reacting. And when Cleese was done, and Chapman hadn't reacted, he then launched into a tirade about "why aren't you saying anything" or whatever, and Chapman still just sat, puffing on his pipe, until Cleese's tantrum blew out - and then Chapman finally said only, "Make it a parrot instead." And the rest is history.

But he was absolutely right - somehow a parrot was the exact thing that made that sketch transcendent. Making it about a broken toaster would have still been funny, but a parrot...that just kicked it up to the next level.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:15 AM on July 3 [9 favorites]


There was a certain type of guy I knew a lot growing up

I think Monty Python skits and movies are funny (less so now than when I first saw them in the mid/late eighties, but still ok), but when I meet one of those people who can, and frequently does, quote long sections of their stuff, I know we are not going to be best friends. At this point I see that as a mark of being a bit stunted in your humor and often attitudes towards women, much like being a Benny Hill fanatic. That's not universally true, but it is often enough to have noticed it.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:18 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


He loved them while they were still cool, and don't we know it.

I really don't think that's his point. All he's saying is that they've become what they once would have parodied, and so he's not going to see the shows. He accepts it, and says the've earned it, it's just not for him, and explains why to a generation who probably has only heard the Parrot Sketch or seen Spamalot. It's not unreasonable to explain to the younger crowd what the TV shows were like.

I pretty much agree with ardegee, these shows don't mean much, it would be way more fun just to sit and listen to them reminisce.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:20 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


The thing about this reunion tour is that while I have no problem with them taking their nth victory lap, do they actually have anything new to say this time around? As others have noted, the problem with old Python sketches is not that they weren't funny but that they've been burned out by repetition and familiarity. That Overquoting Guy didn't grasp that the humor was partly in the words but more in the delivery and the context, neither of which is the same now.

But then again, even victory laps can still singe some. A high school where I have some family is blocking students from performing Spamalot for "questionable content", particularly its homosexual wedding. Clearly there remains work to be done.
posted by delfin at 6:21 AM on July 3


I don't know if this has made it to the US, but the misuse of 'random' to refer to 'anything that isn't logical/mainstream' really winds me up. 'So you bumped into George today? Random!' 'This side-street is so random!' 'Oh, what are you reading? A book about Helen Keller? That is SO RANDOM!'.

Said LOLsters are probably applying the word as a great comedic compliment, as the success of The Mighty Boosh pretty much dovetailed with the rise of the word 'random' to denote anything even vaguely out of the ordinary.
posted by mippy at 6:34 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


Well-written article about what makes Monty Python special, but the seeming notion that gosh they were the last real honest-to-God frontier of anarchic humor and of lancing the boil of the bourgeoisie and holy cow where has all of that gone is a bit much. When was the last time that anyone thought that Monty Python was actually doing any of the things that this guy excoriates them for not doing anymore, or, indeed, for doing the exact opposite? 1979?

I don't know if this has made it to the US, but the misuse of 'random' to refer to 'anything that isn't logical/mainstream' really winds me up.

It has, in a tidal wave, and it grinds my gears too.
posted by blucevalo at 6:36 AM on July 3


I, too, have my tickets for the simulcast of the final show, and I'm looking forward to it in the same way that one can genuinely, honestly look forward to attending a wake. The entity/phenomenon known as Monty Python is dead, and has been for a very long time; it predeceased even Graham Chapman. This production, in addition to being a moneymaker, is a tribute to its memory, presented by the people who knew it best. We'll laugh at the old jokes we used to share, we'll remember the good times, we'll join together for an intercontinental singalong of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and we'll say goodbye.

How could anyone begrudge that?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:36 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


You know what's really hard about being a fan of an artist's body of work? It's hard when the artist(s) grow and change over time and you expect them to be exactly the same.

Also the notion that Python's greatest gift was comedic juxtaposition is narrow. Yes, they were good at it, but they were also good at being silly for the sake of being silly - hence the whole point of Chapman's Colonel who was used as a device for getting out of sketches that were too silly.

Which is silly.
posted by plinth at 6:55 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


My 20-something kids love Python. So, there.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:59 AM on July 3


I remember reading Metafilter articles when it was part of the late 90's early 00's nutty Internet counterculture finding the bits of and occasional poke at what itself was a part of but before it became a source for articles on Newser and the Daily Mail. Now everyone everywhere is so hip and glib at the same time that, for now, it's not something completely different..
posted by dukes909 at 7:03 AM on July 3


... the misuse of 'random' to refer to 'anything that isn't logical/mainstream' really winds me up.

It drives me mental, natch.

Seriously, sometimes I think Britain should have their License to Speak English revoked.
posted by General Tonic at 7:06 AM on July 3


There was a certain type of guy I knew a lot growing up - a guy who liked Queen and Meatloaf and called rap 'crap', who read sci-fi and mocked arts students as bound for nothing more lofty than a five-star McDonalds badge, who had recently realised that religion possibly wasn't all it was cracked up to be, who shunned sport and any comedy involving actual women ('women aren't funny!') rather than middle-class men in flouncy dresses. These were the kind of people who were really, really into Monty Python. I knew I would never be able to watch the films or sketches on their own terms. (And I'm entirely sure that Red Dwarf - which I was really, really into as a ten year old - might have had a hardcore nerdist offputter faction of their own.)

Oh shit, mippy, I think you met and unfortunately understood my 13-year-old self, with a few of those bad tendencies thankfully excepted but the whole pretty well captured. I lament my lack of perspective at that age, but I still enjoy the memory of laughing until I cried when I watched MP for the first time.

But seeing the reunion show will do nothing to help me be amused by them on their own terms. Especially with the knowledge that John Cleese is almost certainly doing it not out of love but out of the necessity of keeping his ex-wives in the manner to which they are accustomed.

This makes me feel a bit sad, and not just because I'm not at all sure that you're wrong about Cleese. It seems, in the contemporary era, that fans of all sorts of art are bound to eventually become disenchanted or repudiate the objects of their former appreciation, simply because of the way we can so effortlessly re-watch shows of our youth, songs we used to listen to, film; and because there's probably more cultural criticism being generated now around objects of popular culture than ever before, the expectation seems to be constant appraisal and re-appraisal, both of the art and the artist.

I don't mean that other people are ruining things I used to like for me. It just seems sort of unfortunate that only artists who consistently produce excellent things basically well into old age and who are practically saintly in their private lives can avoid being judged, dismissed, or repudiated by people who used to love their work. as well as others. Of course, people who behave in an awful way or produce awful work, especially if it's merely for pecuniary reasons, don't deserve respect just because they used to do good work; but sometimes this aspect of the modern culture of aesthetic appreciation is dispiriting.
posted by clockzero at 7:21 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Speaking of random, I was exposed to Python at an early age and so was my son. I'm trying now to give him the benefit of my wisdom and explain to him that there's actually meaning behind most of the jokes and that random-for-the-sake-of-random isn't as funny as he thinks it is.

Gawd, I must have been insufferable. Sorry, Dad!
posted by whuppy at 7:25 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


lets be totally honest - much as they mocked the establishment, they were all solidly children of it.

Heck, Cleese made business training films with Video Arts for much longer than he worked with Monty Python. (They were great films, though. One former employer of mine showed us one that had not only Cleese and French and Saunders, but Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry as well.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:30 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Huh. I'm a woman who loved Monty Python when it first came out, and can quote chunks of it. I like it because it's funny, silly, nasty, witty, and enjoyable, and the wordplay is delightful. Apparently that's why I don't recognize that Monty Python fans are somehow repellent?
posted by Peach at 7:36 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Sour cheesecake wafting loo-spinning graboulous twaddle.

Here's the problem: this kind of arena-sized, singalong, book-on-your-credit-card, buy-the-T-shirt blow-out is the antithesis of everything good or worthwhile about Monty Python, everything that made it matter.

Shut yer festering gob you tit! Ohhh oh everything was so very and now it's all this! Well then revisit your rectal memories with giddy abandon over there, you're dribbling all over the Interweb. And by-the-by your avant garde comedy troupe, The Pallid Wrigglers, was sh*t.

The reunion tour has nothing to do with any of the farty garbage of this article's idiot premise.

They invented a language. They carried a genre for decades and we want to sing along with them and buy a ceremonial frock to be thusly resplendent in! To whine about the appearance or lack thereof of new material is to miss the entire point that it's a religious service of a beautifully absurd sort.

"Ehh sure the walking on water bit was terriffic but now where is he? Dead for three days and then whoops I'm off to be God again and that's it? Bollocks. Mewh. Things aren't great."

Oh! . . . Oh dear and he's signed his name again.
posted by petebest at 7:37 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


Cleese started a film company that produced a series-long exegesis of Milton Friedman? Aw, man.
posted by forgetful snow at 7:37 AM on July 3


I think of this and try to relate it to classical music. We have no problem with other people playing Mozart, sure we quibble over technique etc, but it is still "Mozart". Comedians, modern musicians, comic troupes, film actors, and even Broadway actors are essentially one and done. No one can be Monty Python except Monty Python. No one can be Johnny Cash except Johnny Cash. So enjoy Python while you can you cloth eared bints.
posted by Gungho at 7:38 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I think I saw one of those on a trainign course - Peter Capaldi as a man who needed to be taught to act assertively.

Peach - #notallfans. There are plenty of things I like which have their own fandom stereotypes (and I hope I'm not secretly one of them). Every fandom has their own problematic fan traits - especially sports.
posted by mippy at 7:39 AM on July 3


Peter Capaldi as a man who needed to be taught to act assertively.

Holy cow I've got to see these, they were obviously super effective.
posted by forgetful snow at 7:41 AM on July 3 [9 favorites]


A certain conspiratorial part of my brain wants to believe that all of these articles about how the old Pythons are stodgy, greedy sell-outs are some sort of subversive anti-campaign from the Pythons themselves. They have always been the first to take the piss out of themselves.

Putting that aside, however, my main reaction is so what? The phenomenon described by this and other articles is nothing other than the passage of time. What was once subversive later becomes commonplace. What was fresh and unexpected is later committed to memory like catechism and, with enough repetition, becomes incorruptible and stale.

The Who's sentiment of "hope I die before I get old" is laughable now that they are in their 70s, but no one (well, almost no one) begrudges them their fans or their tours. No one spends $250 on a Paul McCartney concert to hear him play "My Brave Face" - they want to hear Beatles songs. Which, like Python bits, went from being utterly unexpected to being rotely canonical in 40 years.

My point is, things change. Why not simply enjoy the classic stuff for what it was and this new set of performances for what they are?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:41 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


'Bint' is a really horrible word. Plz no.
posted by mippy at 7:41 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


The whole fixation on how subversive things are or how much they mock the establishment seems to me to be one more peculiar leftover of baby boomer automythology, because you can be perfectly hilarious without setting flags aflame or perfectly boring whilst hardy-har-har-ing in textbook coolest-kid-in-the-room postpostmodern Socratic irony.

Python happened a long time ago, alas, and it happened to me about ten years late, on PBS, and in a culture in which pepperpot women, certified public accountants, and the British upper class were as exotic and alien as jelly babies from Gallifrey, and it still made me laugh insanely hard, insanely long.

THERE'S A LIVE CAT STICKING OUT OF THE WALL, PAWS A'FLAIL, FOR NO REASON!

My best friend and I died laughing, were reincarnated, and died again every time we pointed out, to each other, the mere notion of the existence of that cat.

BRING IN THE COMFY CHAIR!

Yep, we'd scarcely touched upon the Spanish Inquisition in a suburban American middle school, but got-doubledy-damn if that wasn't the funniest thing ever in 1980.

Humor needs no politics, untamed youth, or rebellion—just actual funniness in its context.
posted by sonascope at 7:46 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


This is what Monty Python looks like these days. Spoiler: not popular.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:46 AM on July 3


The whole fixation on how subversive things are or how much they mock the establishment seems to me to be one more peculiar leftover of baby boomer automythology, because you can be perfectly hilarious without setting flags aflame or perfectly boring whilst hardy-har-har-ing in textbook coolest-kid-in-the-room postpostmodern Socratic irony.

That's a really good point. A reflexive boomer thought of "If the Pythons are old and stuffy and no longer subversive, that must mean I am too. NOOOOOOOO!!!"
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:48 AM on July 3


The problem with Python is that in 1970 they mocked and ridiculed the establishment, now they are part of it. This is always the way - its hard to be an angry young man all your life, especially when you are old, rich and comfortable.

As Laraine Newman once said of Saturday Night Live, "You can only be avant-garde for so long before you become garde."
posted by jonp72 at 7:48 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


You know, it just popped into my head that when I saw the Pythons live when I was thirteen the show was called their "First Annual Farewell Tour."

I don't begrudge them this.
posted by Trochanter at 7:51 AM on July 3


Dear Sirs,

I have not read the article by the writer who did not see the performance, but based on everything I've read and fear, I have to report I don't like it.

Sincerely,

Brigadier Admiral Cyrus T. Loincloth (deceased)
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:54 AM on July 3 [24 favorites]


I rarely bring up Monty Python in conversation with people I am not good friends with because there are two possible outcomes:

1) "Monty Python are OK,"
2) "NI!" [recitation and reminiscence of favorite lines/scenes]

I've encountered the first outcome once or twice, but the second outcome? My god. And if you happen to be at a game store playing with a bunch of strangers you just pray you don't accidentally mutter any MP trigger words or the whole table explodes and it's going to take three goddamn hours to finish a game of Power Grid.
posted by Tevin at 8:01 AM on July 3 [8 favorites]


mippy: 'B***' is a really horrible word. Plz no.

Not saying this is what happened here, but it's a rite of passage for American Python fans to be embarrassed at some point in their lives by not fully grasping the relative offensiveness of the various disparaging terms one learns while watching Monty Python. I believe mine was calling someone a "twat" within earshot of my elderly grandfather.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:02 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Rock Steady off-topic but relevant: it wasn't until I was 21 years old when I learned 'twat' was a dirty word and not the sound a spitwad makes when it hits the wall. Ooopsies!
posted by Tevin at 8:05 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I (British) called someone a twat very loudly in class as a kid. The (young, cool, female) teacher called me to the front, looked me up and down appraisingly, and said "You have no idea what that means, do you?"
"Uhhh... like a twit?"
"No. Sit down."
posted by forgetful snow at 8:13 AM on July 3 [7 favorites]


They are nearly fifty years old (just think what comedy was like fifty years before that...),

Hilarious.

Particularly Leonard, Adolph, Julius, Moses, Louis, Jerome, and of course, Bill.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:31 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


it's a rite of passage for American Python fans to be embarrassed at some point in their lives by not fully grasping the relative offensiveness of the various disparaging terms one learns while watching Monty Python.

Score 1 for slight embarrassment.
Score 2 for high.
Score 3 for hello!


See also: Randy Scouse Git.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:33 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


it's a rite of passage for American Python fans to be embarrassed at some point in their lives by not fully grasping the relative offensiveness of the various disparaging terms one learns while watching Monty Python.

Related: one of the fringe benefits of watching UK folk turn up on Inside the Actors Studio is when they get around to the "what's your favorite curse word" section, and seeing the GLEE on their faces if their favorite curse word is something that they know is a cuss in the UK but isn't here, and so "I get to say this and it won't get bleeped, HOORAY!"

Daniel Radcliffe seemed to have especial fun with this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


All I had to hear was "bint" paired with "moistened" and that put me off forever in using it. "Twat", believe it or not (because I'm from the US Midwest of the 1970s), I had already known was a bad word, so when Python said it, my eyes widened and I put my hand over my mouth in 8 year old shock, but I was laughing underneath those hands.

It's a rare thing when I go to see a nostalgia act, and I'm disinclined to do so, even one as beloved to me as Python. I think about them vs. various music acts, and I wonder what constitutes nostalgia for me, I guess. Bowie can go out there, do his hits and a few new songs and it doesn't feel like a nostalgia act. Kraftwerk should, by any reasonable lights due to their current line-up and playlist, be working a side tent at state fair, and yet when they show up, it's an event and they headline EDM festivals. But when I saw Hall and Oates two years ago, no matter how supple Daryl's voice still was, it totally felt like a nostalgia act. Some element was missing for me in making them seem relevant now. It's probably why I haven't been to the KITH or Mr. Show reunions either, or to the Depeche Mode or Duran Duran concerts my friends were badgering me to come to with them over the last year or so. I'm not young, but I'm not who I was at 8, 12, 22, 35, and I much as I can still like the arts of my youth, I can't keep revisiting them or I get bored.

I say this because yesterday, I saw two teaser videos for the Python shows, and it totally hit me as nostalgia, even Eric's new song about work and money (him, sing about money? Go on!) It felt like so much rehashed schtick. I adore Python so, though; they were the foundation of my sense of humor, but I honestly was of two minds about having missed the buying window to see the simulcast here in New York. Who knows if they'll ever go round again, but if it's just going to be the 5 of them rolled out and propped up in Mountie uniforms, I've gotta take a pass. I mean, heck, I think even the Hollywood Bowl shows were at root nostalgia, and that was almost 40 years ago now.
posted by droplet at 8:41 AM on July 3


I saw MP at City Center in NYC in '76, and it was great to see the bits done live. (I particularly remember the audience's reaction to Carol Cleveland's "Would you like a blowjob?" at the beginning of "The Argument Sketch."). But even then, they were well-familiar. Guys in my homeroom class in high school had been repeating the Python sketches in class since the day after the second episode aired—Ground Zero for Python nerddom.

So, it was more the thrill of seeing them in person than the pleasure of encountering the material for the first time even then. (I had previously received a coconut from Cleese himself in the lobby of the movie theater on 3rd Avenue when Holy Grail premiered, so I was totally in the tank, as you might imagine. Kept that coconut for years.)

And sitting in a theater hearing people around me anticipate the laughs, if not call out the lines, I could've done without. (I understand the same syndrome took hold at Firesign Theatre performances.). So, this is material that has been overly familiar since about a week after it was new on these shores.
posted by the sobsister at 8:43 AM on July 3


Fun fact: 'bint' is unacceptable in TV advertising in the UK.

Metafilter taught me that the c-word is a very gendered swearword in the US - it really isn't here.
posted by mippy at 8:44 AM on July 3


I imagine the live show experience will be a bit like the Quote-A-Long events the rep cinema in Leicester Square does here. Doing it with friends at home when watching 30 Rock or I'm Alan Partridge is fun; doing it with strangers would probably make me want to chew my own hand off.

I'm also not a fan of audience participation and it's entirely possible that I am a grumpy sod.
posted by mippy at 8:46 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I've always found that monty python is hilarious when someone quotes the skit to you... and then when you go to see the skit yourself it is just lacklustre lame. I only laughed ONCE during holy grail (when the bunny attacked).

A friend was telling me about the burning the witch scene and I was crying laughing... until I saw the scene itself.... zzzzzzz..... so boring.....

try it for yourselves.....

Sir Bedevere: There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
Peasant 1: Are there? Oh well, tell us.
Sir Bedevere: Tell me. What do you do with witches?
Peasant 1: Burn them.
Sir Bedevere: And what do you burn, apart from witches?
Peasant 1: More witches.
Peasant 2: Wood.
Sir Bedevere: Good. Now, why do witches burn?
Peasant 3: ...because they're made of... wood?
Sir Bedevere: Good. So how do you tell whether she is made of wood?
Peasant 1: Build a bridge out of her.
Sir Bedevere: But can you not also build bridges out of stone?
Peasant 1: Oh yeah.
Sir Bedevere: Does wood sink in water?
Peasant 1: No, no, it floats!... It floats! Throw her into the pond!
Sir Bedevere: No, no. What else floats in water?
Peasant 1: Bread.
Peasant 2: Apples.
Peasant 3: Very small rocks.
Peasant 1: Cider.
Peasant 2: Gravy.
Peasant 3: Cherries.
Peasant 1: Mud.
Peasant 2: Churches.
Peasant 3: Lead! Lead!
King Arthur: A Duck.
Sir Bedevere: ...Exactly. So, logically...
Peasant 1: If she weighed the same as a duck... she's made of wood.
Sir Bedevere: And therefore...
Peasant 2: ...A witch!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:47 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I don't know if this has made it to the US, but the misuse of 'random' to refer to 'anything that isn't logical/mainstream' really winds me up.

This usage was all the rage among MIT undergrads of my acquaintance in the late '90s.

No one spends $250 on a Paul McCartney concert to hear him play "My Brave Face" - they want to hear Beatles songs.

Bite your tongue! I'd damn well rather hear any of the Costello/McCartney co-writes over "Hey Jude" for the rest of my life.
posted by mykescipark at 8:49 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I would pay $250 to see Paul McCartney if he only played Coming Up thirty-two times.
posted by mippy at 8:50 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I don't begrudge them this.

Hmm, upon reading the article, I notice Parkes uses that exact phrase.

Just the sort blinkered philistine pig ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage.
posted by Trochanter at 8:52 AM on July 3


I will only see Paul McCartney if he plays "Spies Like Us" 32 times.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:03 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


'My Brave Face' is the closest Paul has ever dared go to rewriting an early Beatles song anyway.
posted by colie at 9:16 AM on July 3


OK, "My Brave Face" was a bad example - it was the most recent Paul McCartney song I could name off the top of my head, even though it's probably 20 years old at this point. What I meant was that people go to see classic artists in order to hear the classics. (I would love an entire night of "Coming Up", though.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:22 AM on July 3


I've never enjoyed a quote for quotes's sake - Anchorman was ruined really fast that way - but a well-placed, contextually relevant reference still works for me.
posted by troika at 9:24 AM on July 3


mippy: Taylor Parkes was a Melody Maker critic in the early 90s - not sure he was quite old enough to have liked them at the time.

Python was on the TV in the 80s and 90s, so he was old enough.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:31 AM on July 3


NONE SHALL PASS
posted by Riton at 9:32 AM on July 3


I will only see Paul McCartney if he plays "Wonderful Christmastime" once, but for 90 minutes.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:35 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


"Wonderful Christmastime" once, but for 90 minutes.

So, the radio edit?
posted by Trochanter at 9:39 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


The Who's sentiment of "hope I die before I get old" is laughable now that they are in their 70s

The Who does not exist. There are two old men who steer a human jukebox that makes Who-like noises.
posted by thelonius at 9:51 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I sometimes wonder if Douglas Adams was somehow taking the piss out of this sort of 'quoting for cred' when, in Fit 6, he has Arthur wittily quote The Book to absolutely no appreciation at all:

BOOK: The Haggunennons . . . will quite frequently evolve several times over lunch. . . . if, sitting at table, they are unable to reach a coffee spoon, they are liable without a moments consideration to mutate into something with far longer arms - but which is probably quite incapable of drinking the coffee. . . .

[a few moments later]

ZAPH: Hey, you know that’s a really neat chair. Could’ve been made for me.

TRIL: It was very uncomfortable. I prefer something with far longer arms.

ARTH: But which is probably quite incapable of drinking coffee.

ZAPH: [pause one beat] Hey, err, what did you say, Earthman?
 
posted by Herodios at 9:53 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Wonderful Christmastime, just the chorus, for 900 minutes. That would be a conceptual art installation.
posted by colie at 10:04 AM on July 3


I will only see Paul McCartney if he plays "Wonderful Christmastime" once, but for 90 minutes.

Just go to a grocery store in December.
posted by mykescipark at 10:04 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Paul's xmas song is better than John's tho.
posted by colie at 10:06 AM on July 3


ARTH: But which is probably quite incapable of drinking coffee.

We're getting pretty far afield at this point, but for me, Simon Jones' reading of this line suggested only that Arthur was absent-mindedly repeating what he had just heard, not trying to be witty.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:21 AM on July 3


Python was on the TV in the 80s and 90s, so he was old enough.

Not in the UK IME. Admittedly I was a child for a good chunk of that time and may have had to go to bed early, but it was entirely possible to live through both decades watching, y'know, 2.4 Children and The Fast Show. The Good Life and Citizen Smith were repeated when I was a kid, but I never remember sitting down to Flying Circus or even Fawlty Towers (the latter is almost as overquoted, especially when you remember the dullard British tendency to mock the Germans at any sporting event).

Even then, by the 90s it was knocking on for thirty years old. Benny Hill was never a cult comedy here as it seems to be in the US as it dated badly and even as early as the 80s was looking a bit sexist and embarrassing - I went to see Simon Munnery last night and many lolery was had at the fact David Cameron chose Yakety Sax as one of his Desert Island Discs - surely one would only do so if they secretly fantasised of being chased by a bevy of beauties?

I would posit that some of the things that made Python what it was might have looked equally so to younger eyes. I love Victoria Wood, but that;s because I grew up watching her shows, and find the absurdity of Acorn Antiques hilarious (I saw As Seen On TV a month or so ago and Julie Walters breaking character still does it for me). Someone half my age might not know what's being parodied, or doesn't see it as a novelty, or would prefer, I dunno, Russell Howard's Good News.
posted by mippy at 10:21 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Ben Trismegistus: "We're getting pretty far afield at this point, but for me, Simon Jones' reading of this line suggested only that Arthur was absent-mindedly repeating what he had just heard, not trying to be witty."

That seems a safe assumption for anything Arthur says.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:27 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


For me it was "bugger". I was using "bugger" and "buggering" for years until a kind British internet friend enlightened me.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:08 PM on July 3


Reunions gigs can be a double edged sword. While it is cool to see childhood mega-stars perform in a gig you had always wished were still happening when you were old enough to attend. The reality can be different, and you encounter people going though the motions to get that final pay check and do really notice a lack the people you are watching giving 110%.
I know this isn't comedy but what tainted it for me was seeing Black Sabbath Reunion last year, and really it seemed like the whole band was on stage for the pay check only. Yes I could hear the music, but I couldn't FEEL the music as such. I could have put on a CD really loud and got the same emotion from it. They just seemed to lack the feeling which you normally get in a live gig.. I too fear the same would apply seeing a Python reunion, sure I would hear the routines and gags that I could probably quote as they did them, but I wonder would you really FEEL the comedy from them too??
posted by Merlin The Happy Pig at 2:54 PM on July 3


I'd pay to see McCartney if he promised to perform only Thrillington. For several hours.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:08 PM on July 3


I've always found that monty python is hilarious when someone quotes the skit to you... and then when you go to see the skit yourself it is just lacklustre lame.

I hope to Christ you're kidding. I mean, you must be. Right? Because otherwise, I am backing away, slowly and carefully...
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:57 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Wonderful Christmastime, just the chorus, for 900 minutes. That would be a conceptual art installation.

Wish granted!
posted by zippy at 6:29 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


mippy: Taylor Parkes was a Melody Maker critic in the early 90s - not sure he was quite old enough to have liked them at the time.

We talked about Taylor Parkes in relation to his writing on BritPop. He wrote that essay as if he had been in his teens at the time - when he was in his thirties. But he is definitely in his formative years during the original showing of Python. Its just a shame he didn't feel able to actually attend their arena show so as to give a valid comparison.

Regarding the recitation of Python sketches I'm reminded of a recent Economist article about the German sense of Humour:
Germans can often be observed laughing, uproariously. And they try hard. “They cannot produce good humour, but they can consume it,” says James Parsons, an Englishman teaching business English in Leipzig. He once rented a theatre and got students, including Mrs Ullmann, to act out Monty Python skits, which they did with enthusiasm. The trouble, he says, is that whereas the English wait deadpan for the penny to drop, Germans invariably explain their punchline.
posted by rongorongo at 5:27 AM on July 4


^ for an example of this, one need only think back to the German war researchers' output in their attempt to compete with The Funniest Joke In The World:

"Der ver zwei peanuts, valking down der strasse, and von vas . . . assaulted! peanut."
posted by fairmettle at 10:39 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


I think I'd ruther be a Systems Analyst.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 4:56 PM on July 26


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