Trapped in Spam: My Days in a Post-Monty Python World

My heroes…As I write this I am wearing a t-shirt from TeeFury that has the black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail fighting Darth Vader. (I believe we can all guess how such an mind-blowing awesome encounter would end.)

…Also, as I write this my ringtone on my phone is the King Arthur theme from Holy Grail. So a call not only makes me run to the phone but also consider grabbing one or two coconuts (without African swallows to hold them up).

When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.

…I own every episode of the series (including the German episodes), a bunch of documentaries, the movies (of course), the live show, CDs, and a pile of books on the history. To be able to talk to me for more than an hour it is almost required that you have a smattering of Monty Python in your vocabulary to draw from because, oh yes, I quote them all the time. More than Shakespeare (and that is a lot, usually with a poor British accent), more than song lyrics, more than anything. They are lodged permanently in my brain, and most times when I think of them they are in drag (maybe I should see a doctor).

However the strange fact of this is that for a large majority of my life I have lived in a non-Monty Python world. My life around these comedy heroes has been filled with side projects and the yearly hint of some kind of a reunion.

  • I loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits, and Brazil, but it is not Monty Python.
  • Michael Palin’s journeys around the world are fun, but it is not Monty Python.
  • The second season of Fawlty Towers is gold, but it is not Monty Python.
  • I’ve even seen Eric Idle’s stage shows where he performs live Monty Python skits… but even that is not Monty Python (but damn closer than the others listed).

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the pope, and nice red uniforms. Oh damn!

…The funny thing is that the remaining members (Graham Chapman, our King Arthur and Brian, sadly died in the 80’s) know of the fan base’s desire for more work from them and have blatantly mocked us for it!

For example, on the Monty Python and the Meaning of Life DVD they created a “virtual” reunion, which involved the members walking around a green screen as if they were all in the same room. Cruel, so very cruel… But we still want more. We never get the hint. And while the Python tease us, the entertainment world likes to stir us up, with the occasional story that something is in the work. And it happens all of the time.

I can’t imagine how much the former members must hate being interviewed because of it.

I think I’d better come clean with you about this. It’s not a virus, I’m afraid. You see, a virus is what we doctors call ‘very, very small’. So small, it could not possibly have made off with the whole leg. What we’re looking for here for is, I think — and this is no more than an educated guess, I’d like to make that clear — is some multicellular life form with stripes, huge razor-sharp teeth, about eleven feet long, and of the genus felis horribilis — what we doctors, in fact, call a tiger.

…The funny thing is we have had “almost” reunions for years!

In the 1990’s, Terry Jones had a live-action/musical movie version of The Wind in the Willows (which in the USA is called Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, referring oddly to the Disneyland ride), and in 2012 there was an animated re-creation of Graham’s Chapman’s memoir in which cast members supplied voices for some of the scenes (Liar’s Autobiography). Then there was Eric Idle’s opera of Life of Brian on DVD (Not the Messiah, He’s a Very Naughty Boy) where you had appearances from Eric, both Terrys and Michael.

Of course the closest we have gotten to a full-scale, real deal reunion was in 1999 for “Monty Python Night” in which the remaining cast members got together to film new skits (including the amazing Eddie Izzard as well). And while it was fun to see them together again like that (as it always is) it still wasn’t the same.

I cut down trees, I skip and jump
I like to press wildflowers
I put on women’s clothing
And hang around in bars.

…We want the magic to be recaptured, the genie back in the bottle, the spam back in the can.

Yet, as much of a cheerleader as I am for the show (or a cult leader if you will, join us!), to be honest, I am not surprised that Monty Python has moved on and mainly that is because of a series of diaries by Michael Palin.

Michael Palin—am I allowed to say he is my favorite Python? I have an autographed book of his on my bookshelf!—has been releasing his diaries, mainly focused on that time in his life; for example, Diaries 1969-1979, The Python Years. And while I will always sit down and watch or read any documentary on this great team, there is little I need after his books from the period. They said more than any remembrance could.

I understand completely now why things ended and why they won’t be happening again.

Those diaries (especially the one listed) gives you an eye-opening idea what it was like living through the Python experience, the eye of the storm. From financial issues, distribution fights, and then just dealing with the different personalities in the group (and they were all strong individuals with strong opinions), it left me feeling exhausted for them. And when Meaning of Life was coming around they were all happy to make a goodbye, which for them would be a large blinking sign shouting “Piss Off.”

So for me, as I fight back any excitement of something happening in the future, I am perfectly happy with it being done. They had a great run. If they want to take the dead parrots and leave, they should be able to. Heck, it could be argued that they did it a long time ago, we just didn’t notice the door slamming in our faces yet.

Why can’t we as a culture let our idols go? When Superman dies he has to come back to life; we were all hoping for some kind of a Beatles reunion right up to the death of George Harrison; and when a show ends on TV, we all begin to wonder when the movie version will be coming out (Buffy? Firefly? Arrested Development? Hello!).

All stories come to end, all heroes have to retire, all curtains must close.  And, yes, the animated big foot has to slam down from time to time.

So what do I do to get through this accepted silence now? Frankly, I take comfort in the anticipation of showing the films and shows to my kids for the first time….They are going to love the Holy Grail.

Oh, there is my phone again!

For life is quite absurd
And death’s the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin, give the audience a grin
Enjoy it, it’s your last chance anyhow.

A Jane Austen DaydreamIf you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream,  Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous DareMy Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here. Thanks for reading!

Need an editor? Dream of finishing that book but need some help? Learn about my editing services by visiting this page on my site. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and request to work with me by clicking the image below.

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19 responses

  1. Great post! I think the Pythons, even without a reunion, will live on forever. I remember the teacher playing “The Galaxy Song” for us when we were in grade four (not the video- I don’t think fourth graders would like that).

  2. Sometimes I skim. But I can’t skim your posts. You, Tom Stronach, J.W. Manus, Marina’s zombie posts on Must Love Fiction. Interesting.

  3. I was introduced to the group via PBS when I was 12. In the late 70’s PBS ran re-runs of the show. I first saw Monty Python & The Holy Grail. I had never seen anything like it. The group changed my pre-teen ideas about comedy. I have been a fan ever since. I introduced my son to them; after my divorce many years ago I remain leary of dating someone who is unfamiliar with their work.
    Having said that, it would be difficult for me to watch them now (if we could magically get them back together) as not only have they changed and aged, so have I. I’m not sure I would appreciate a New Monty Python with as much enthusiasm as I did when we both were younger and less jaded.

  4. I loved watching Monty Python. I’ve tried for years, without success, to find anything that could compare. Nobody has ever found that perfect mix of wit and complete irreverence. Pure genius!
    BTW, I want that shirt. Where did you find it?

  5. As a fellow cult member, I too throw out random bits of Python in conversation. One of my favorite memories was seeing Graham Chapman on his lecture tour in the early 80s–I left school for a “doctor’s appointment” to attend! I even got him to autograph several things, including my absence slip (after all, he WAS a doctor). I still marvel at the sheer genius of the writing in much of their work…

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  8. As you probably know, John Cleese wasn’t part of the fourth half-season of the show. His argument was that he thought the group had started repeating itself, and he wanted to move on to more original work. (In his case, this meant FAWLTY TOWERS and industrial videos, among other things.) Although I have argued (and will likely always argue) that Python is the pinnacle of sketch comedy, the heights to which ever other group should aspire (the one I belonged to certainly did, and they influence my writing to this day), I respect and admire the decision to end it before it became a parody of itself.

  9. Pingback: The Posts of an Anglophile | The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

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