Two men immerge from the mist, galloping. One of them is bangin’ two halves of an empty coconut together. Genius! At that moment Monty Python, who was not a person though I kinda like to imagine and in some ways Monty is the love child of six incredible Pythons, defined comedy for me. My journey with Monty Python begun and I watched everything I could in the country that hardly knew or cared about Monty Python. I had to go to a “specialists” video store, which for those of you who don’t know videos were book sized cassettes with a magnetic ribbon that you put inside a machine called a video recorder and was connected to your television and a fuzzy image of a film or a TV show would play on your tiny screen. One could also record stuff of the telly and… anyway, “specialists”, not that kind of “specialists” you filthy readers, video store and they ordered a selection of Monty Python’s Flying Circus episodes with no subtitles!
And so, from sketches about silly walks and dead parrots, The Life of Brian and Meaning of Life, Spanish Inquisitions all the way to songs about spam and the fish slapping dance, Graham, Michael, Eric, John, Terry J and Terry G, were silly, ridiculous, random, daring, insane and a trove treasure of oh so wonderful comedy, who had a huge hand in cementing comedy into my heart. The Pythons eventually went their separate ways, Graham Chapman sadly passed away, ceased to exist, bit the dust, was no more etc. and whatever the Pythons did from then on, together or separately, brilliant (Fawlty Towers, GBH, Terry Gilliam’s film career) or dreadful (Cleese’s commercials, Suddenly Susan), whatever drama was reported about their private lives, the Monty Python graduates were and still are immune in my eyes. They have shaped comedy, nothing else matters.
It is very easy to be cynical about Monty Python’s recent reunion, they have occasionally reuninoned before, to celebrate some big anniversary or, as is the case in the recent show One Down Five to Go, to save one or all of them from financial disaster due to law suits, divorces or whatnot. They are old and they are tired, John Cleese can barely raise an eyebrow, not to mention his voice as one would expect from him, or do a silly walk, and Terry Jones can barely remember his lines. Most of them did not want to be there, the only one who was enjoying himself on that stage with all his heart was Terry Gilliam, but everyone else has moved on. And yet, seeing the remaining Pythons on stage was to me like what I imagine it would have been to see the Beatles live or seeing Laurence Olivier performing Shakespeare, better yet, it was like seeing Shakespeare himself in one of his own plays. And as time passes and the show is farther behind my awe and gusto only grow.
Even with all the wrong decision, why, for example, was the Silly Walks sketch replaced with a jazzed up song and dance routine that made the whole point of the sketch redundant, clearly Cleese can no longer do a silly walk, they should have just let it go, or why nudge nudge, wink wink, became a disturbing autotune, is beyond me. but even with all of that and despite the general plaintiveness that comes with a show that chooses to put death in its heart and in its title, Palin, Cleese, Jones, Gilliam and Idle were full of gratitude for allowing them to be ridiculous, to be insane, to be joyous and to be incredibly funny and wonderful and for a fleeting moment they suddenly were Monty Python again and it was magical!