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And Now for Something Completely 40

October 21, 2009

I must have been 7.3141529 years old, and was under the impression that the English had no sense of humor to speak of.  How could I not when the only British TV my parents ever seemed to watch were those period pieces of MASTERPIECE THEATRE, and network miniseries based on classic works of literature?  I was certain at that age that if I ever went overseas, I’d have a rotten time, because the English didn’t seem to have a sense of humor about anything.

That is until I saw this advertisement on WGBH.  It was a short advertisement for a TV show.  The clip featured this 6 foot 4 gentleman dressed in a 3 piece suit, having a conversation with another well-dressed gentleman.  The 6’4″ man stands up, and begins to walk around the office, which is no larger than my bathroom, in the most bizarre, and extraordinary manner I had ever seen.  The audience wwas exploding with laughter, and this strangely walking man, was English!

In case you haven’t guessed, this was the first time I ever saw the climax of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks skit.  This was my introduction to the wonderfully silly and anarchic world of Monty Python.  Even though I was too young to watch it back then (my parents would have had a fit if they caught me watching Monty Python at that age), I knew this was something I’d want to investigate and check out later.

Later came when I was about 15.  Two events joined forces to bring me into the Python legion of fans.  First, I made a friend who had moved into my hometown form Boston, and who happened to know almost every Python routine word-perfect.  He enjoyed trying to engage me in the routines, especially since he knew that, at the time, I had no idea what the hell he was talking about  The other thing that happened was that my folks had finally decided that I could start staying up later on Friday nights.  That meant that if I was lucky, I’d catch Monty Python on WGBH.  The first complete episode I ever got to see was the “Book at Bedtime/Kamikaze Highlanders” episode from the third series.

I could not have asked for a better episode to start with, because it gave me a clear idea of what they wanted the show to be.  I was seeing a fantastically series of surreal skits connected by Michael Palin and the gang trying to make sense of RED GAUNTLET by Sir Walter Scott.  I couldn’t wait to tell my friend about it.  Of course, he knew that episode backwards and forwards, but we still enjoyed a good laugh remembering it.  The second one I saw from the same series was Michael Palin starring as Reg Pither in the “Cycling Tour (“I’m just a jack-in-the-box/and whenever love pops, I’m gonna bounce up and down on my spring….”).  Absolutely hilarious.

I have since seen all 45 episodes.  After I saw most of them, I started seeking out the movies.  I think I actually saw them in the order they were made.  I recorded AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, and HOLY GRAIL.  I was able to rent LIFE OF BRIAN (which rreally is more about radicalism and terrorism than anything else, but that’s another column-please don’t start a holy war here, the People’s Front of Judea have been especdially hard hit by the recession).  The movie I had to shell out the most for was MEANING OF LIFE, because , at the time, it wasn’t available on video.  I didn’t get sick from the famous restaurant scene, but I don’t know what posessed me to eat lunch while watching it.

The highlight, for me thi=ough, was getting to see SPAMALOT in NYC the night before it won best musical.  I got to meet Chris Seiber, who’s currently playing Lord Farquaad in SHREK, and had my picture taken with Hank Azaria.  .  Unfortunately, Tim Curry didn’t come out to meet the audience, that would have been great.

So, now Monty Python turns 40.  It’s hard to believe that I am one year younger than this group, but have pretty much known who they were my whole life.  I’m really grateful for how this group has shaped and cultivated my sense of humor.  We Python fans a re a special group, a community, almost a family.  A very silly family that knows that Norwegian Blues have beautiful plumage, that cheese shops without cheese aren’t much of a cheese shop, a Gumby isn’t a green clay figurine, and that one wafer thin mint can cause a huge biohazard in a stuffy French restaurant.

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One comment

  1. For me it started with the phrase, “It’s The Bishop!” Thank heavens for Monty Python — they made this 41 year old’s life brighter by informing me a lumberjack might skip, jump and press wildflowers, that crunchy frog and spring surprise do not make palatable chocolate treats in a box, and that gigantic paper whales might just come lurching across an innocent cartoon and suddenly devour the unsuspecting. In fact, what’s that shadow darkening Astoria…? Oh my God, it’s a hedgehog of deviant size and it appears to be looking for…

    “… Dinsdale?”



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