Sketch Comedy Saturday: Monty Python's Flying Circus
by Annie Wu, posted Jul 11th 2009 2:05PM
I was going to save this extra-classic show, Monty Python's Flying Circus, for the later part of the Sketch Comedy Saturday series, but I just had to do this in light of recent, super-exciting news. As I hope most of you know, Monty Python will be having a reunion. Sure, John Cleese and Graham Chapman won't be there (for two, completely different reasons) but it will still be nice to see Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam get back together, right? Magic always happens when there's more than one Python guy around. Except that time John Cleese and Michael Palin tried to do "The Parrot Sketch" on Saturday Night Live a few years ago. That was just weird.
Believe it or not, the show originally aired 40 years ago, which is why the gang is going to be celebrating with a special stage performance this year. Something I really love about Flying Circus is how ridiculously timeless it is. Granted, some of the more topical jokes and weird animations of Chairman Mao as a fish aren't quite as hilarious as they must have been when the news was directly relevant, but Monty Python has never lost an audience.
I was born well after members of the troupe had gone on to completely different projects and I didn't discover the group until I was in middle school, but I didn't find out about them by stumbling across a box of their records in their attic or something. My friends, the same age as me, would talk about Monty Python. And just for point of reference, boy bands were just getting hot then. Yeah, I was very late to the game.
So while girls would think about Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, I would secretly hate Carol Cleveland for getting to hang out with such cool guys. Hell, there was even an extended period of time in 7th grade when I would come home everyday from school and watch my crappy VHS of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That year, I also infamously did an English project in which my friends and I performed several small Flying Circus skits modified to pertain to John Steinbeck's short story, The Pearl. It was awesome.
But I digress.
My point is that the complete insanity and well-timed surreality of the show will always appeal. Not necessarily everyone will enjoy it, because Monty Python is definitely an acquired taste, but there's always going to be that core group of people that suddenly stumble across the show and think "I can't believe Oxford and Cambridge-educated adults made this" and fall in love.
Flying Circus was a strange mix of comedy playing off physical ridiculousness and thesaurus-y wordiness, combined with beautifully crafted animation and lots of screeching guys in frumpy drag. There were also recurring characters that became iconic through the decades but plenty of standalone sketches became classics.
I could easily run through a list of words and each one would trigger the thought of a very specific, very memorable sketch. Spam. Bishop. Albatross. Argument. Twit. Really, I could go on all day. But I won't. There are videos to watch.
Those are just a few favorites that I feel like are a good example of what to expect from the show. Not all of them are really the most popular/recognizable choices but they really embody the spirit of the program. Your homework for tonight is to watch those videos and study Monty Python's history if you're terribly unfamiliar with them and, if you're already a fan, inform at least five newbies and dress them up as Gumby. Get to it.