I don’t really remember the first time I ever watched them. I think it was when I was around 20, in a glamorous place that me and my mates used to go, which we called ‘Jack’s shed’ (It’s was at Jack’s house, but in fairness it was more of a posh garage than a shed). We were doing the usual thing of getting a crate of ale and sticking the tele on whatever channel was the least shit. What was on that night, however, changed the way I watched TV for the rest of my life. Changed the way I laughed. Changed what I laughed at.
It was Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
In the 7-ish years that have passed since that glorious day, I have watched all of their films, seen their TV show and watched all of them crap documentaries that you get on UK Gold at Christmas, and every time I see them, the Pythons, I’m made to feel massively happy but also slightly sad. I’m slightly sad in the knowledge that we’re never going to see anything like them again. And that’s a fact that should make everybody weep.
Monty Python (John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliham, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle) occupy that rarest of cultural spaces that needs no introduction. From what I remember, I was never told who these gentlemen were, nor, I imagine, were you. It’s almost like they just exist in our social consciousness: the Python’s just are.
The comedy of today is for the most part at least, pretty pants. For every Gavin and Stacy you have Horne and Corden. For every Peep Show you have That Mitchell and Webb Look. And for each of them, you have Magicians and Lesbian Vampire Killers (both are a) actual things and b) actually crap.) It seems that as soon as you become stars in your own right, the ability to actually write anything consistently funny becomes something of an impossibility. But for John Cleese and co, it just went from good, to great, to better. And all in the name of silliness.
Being silly and being funny are two separate things, and more to the point they’re two things that aren’t often compatible when making quality TV. Yet, for this motley crew of geniuses, their brilliance was the way they bound together clear intelligence with half-wit stupidity and made it work. Made it work bloody brilliantly. Intelligence is at its best when it isn’t being shouted off the rooftops or emblazoned on the end of your nose. It is at its best when it’s in the form of a really fat man being sick into a bucket until he explodes.
Educated in Oxbridge and turned off by the formal rules of the BBC, the lads of Python found a way to squeeze through the cracks like putty in the middle of a clenched fist, and overflow their insane ideas into the world of light entertainment. And from the very start, there was nothing that could stop them. Inspired by a clear distaste for the social hierarchy, Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a Tour de Force of fantastically idiotic humour with charm and a level of timelessness that rarely shines through in sketch comedy. From the dead parrot scene, to summarising Proust, from the rebellious grannies and upper-class twit of the year, the British sextet have continued to liven up TV screens the world over, and given wide-eyed idiots like me a delicious dose of Dr Python’s marvellous medicine. Because after all, being gloriously silly should never truly be cured.
Now read this....