Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down And Five To Go
As the 70s began, the United States was beset with war; the conflict in the South Asian nation of Vietnam dividing the country into two along socioeconomic lines. Our nation itself was similarly divided the result of the widening generation gap. The news so overwhelmed by death and the structured what was desperately needed something that could take our minds off it, something silly to counterbalance the images on the evening news. In short we needed something completely different. Thanks to a series that made its way over the pond from Britain, largely thanks to PBS had exactly that; ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’. Quickly embraced especially by the youth of this country quickly embraced, especially by the youth of the country, this comedy series rapidly became an extremely important aspect in popular culture. The original series would run from 1969 to 1983 with the assistance of revivals, Monty Python movies and guest appearances by several of the principal players, the effects of Monty Python are still being felt in modern comedy. The original cast that remained together throughout the run, consisted of; Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin. In addition to these men who would become quickly recognizable was another Python responsible for uniquely stylistic and often bizarre animations that became one of the most defining characteristics of the comedy troupe in this series, Terry Jones. On July 1, 2014 a packed house filled the O2 Arena in London. It took a mere 43 seconds or the theater to run out of available seating for all 10 performances. The attraction that had people rushing to ticket outlets was a reunion live show by Monty Python. Actually, the full name of the show was; ‘Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to go’. This will be at work early show was denied to the passing of one of the founding members, Graham Chapman who died at the age of 48 in 1989. As a demonstration of the intelligence behind the unabashed silliness, Chapman had completed medical training and was a licensed physician.
There is a certain irony surrounding this comedy troupe that only a diehard aficionado of Monty Python can appreciate; fans hold this comedy is almost sacred. The most popular skits from the canon of Python and the performers are held in esteem above virtually every other comedian. The irony comes into play that such reverence is afforded to one of the most irreverent brands of comedy ever. There were few groups that are been spared from the gleefully wicked eyes of the Python’s wickedly comedic attention. While some of the main focal points are decidedly Anglo centric satirizing the British attitudes towards warfare, bureaucracy and the native cultures of foreign lands, the Pythons have never felt the need to restrict the scope to their homeland. Religion, especially the Roman Catholic Church, is frequently lampooned. Another rich source of material for them is how older women have the tendency to form special interest groups are frequently lampooned along with the tendency for older women perform special interest groups. As a life estate in the theater and all eyes were riveted onto the stage no one could tell exactly what was going to happen, but all would agree it would be magnificent. As you place this disc into your home player prepare yourself for departure from everything you consider normal. The minds of these men of wonderfully twisted and convoluted. The foundation for the human transcends the surrealistic and becomes excellent example of what has been known as the theater of the absurd. At some point, the players while in character will realize this has gotten out of hand and someone will come on stage to inform them that have gotten too silly in the state appears to be without an end. Then abruptly move on to the sketch in the rapid fire set list.
The methods of Monty Python unnaturally older and somewhat greater and girth than we remember them, but lamentably, so are we. What has not diminished one iota is it impeccable sense of comic timing and the camaraderie of an ensemble cast that allows them to create and live, together in their own surrealistic world. John Cleese may no longer be able to do the Ministry of Silly Walks but when he performances famous ‘Pet Shop’, or the ‘Argument Clinic’ with a cast mate Such As Michael Palin, the chemistry is still there. In the first sketch, Mr. Cleese perfectly embodies an irate customer returning his African Blue parrot. He has every right since the bird is dead but the shop owner, ever calmly played by Mr. Palin assures him the bird is just resting. The other sketch has both men are going but for different reasons. It happens to be the job of Cleese but Palin contends he paid for an argument but receives contradiction. In almost all cases of the vignettes there is an underlying message ridiculing some aspect of our society such as consumerism in the above cases. But permeates all the humor of Monty Python’s and intelligence factor that has to be appreciated to be able to fully get there comedy. Offering this is what drew us to them back in the 70s, the silliness was sufficient to get you to laugh but something deeper was indelibly left behind your mind. The foolishness would ramble around in your mind like a song you cannot get out of your head. By the next time you consciously thought of it you would understand it and laughed even harder.
One thing that the Monty Python troupe remains well known for is their songs. When absurdity is expertly blended with satire in place to the cadence of a catchy tune the results are genius, at least in the hands of these gentlemen. The song was considered among the funniest of those written and performed by Eric idle. One of his better ones performed here is from their existential 1983 film comedy, ‘Monty Python's The Meaning of Life’, The Galaxy Song’. Although criticized for inconsistencies in the facts and figures presented, it should be noted that you really do not have very strong argument if you expect to get accurate science from a source such as this. Another one of his songs that has become somewhat of anthem for fans of Monty Python is blissfully performed here, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. Was essentially a simple songs originally were transformed into incredible production numbers with a full crew of singers and dancers. Both genders are represented which allows them to expand upon the song ‘Penis’ (Not the Noel Coward Song), to include verses pertaining to vaginas anybody thought held in common, buttocks. The energetic young singers/dancers give these numbers are completely new energy, or shall we say turn them into something completely different. The message in your remains much the same but to watch these bawdy songs performed with the elaborate stage work of Broadway musical only reignites the love you’ve already had for this band of comedians.
In a fast collaboration of the television style your senses are fully engaged with what could best be called a constantly changing reality. You can go from a group of men sitting on the veranda discussing their youth in the sketch ‘Four Yorkshire men’ to exceptionally strange animation in a moment. The sketch just mentioned is one of my favorite favorites where very rich and well-to-do men argue over who had the roughest childhood. When one notes, "we live in a shoebox", another of the cadre replies you had a shoebox? We lived in a crack in the sidewalk.’ In most cases the animation was what was created for the original series by Terry Jones. With sound effects emulating crew of bodily noises in a giant foot coming out of nowhere to crush things, nostalgia was never quite so funny. While watching this did not try to get any sense of reality it will be quickly ripped from your grasp. There’s a song devoted completely to llamas followed by a dance number of people slapping each other with fish. One of their most famous video segments is presented, ‘The Philosophers Football Match’. The game is played with various famous philosophers on the field representing Germany and Greece in Olympic event. Archimedes (John Cleese), Socrates (Eric Idle), take the field against Hegel (Graham Chapman) and Nietzsche (Michael Palin), as proper commentary is provided. Already two of the funniest and most well-loved sketches are performed; Spanish Inquisition the exceptionally disturbing yet humorous, Lumberjack Song. Although originally presented as a major song and dance routines, irreverent and sacrilegious ‘Every Sperm Is Sacred’ is imbued with a fresh extravagance with the addition of the chorus utilized here. Although everything ever loved about Monty Python is represented here this is not just a best of compilation. There is a sense of freshness to the energy of the reworking of the stage productions and songs that carries over even to the vintage video clips. If you’re returned on PBS specifically to watch this show is a no-brainer, get it. For those of us with adult children this is the perfect way to expose them to the comedy of our youth. In a few weeks my daughter and her fiancé are coming for the annual visit. This will certainly be on the list of movies you watch.