Wednesday 27 November 2013


That the world has gone mad we need not doubt; each day's 'news' brings further proof of it. However, even I - hardened as I am to all this - was mildly stunned by Monday's news that tickets for the first Monty Python reunion show had sold out in 43.5 seconds. Yes, 43.5 seconds. Clearly there are millions of people out there who have been waiting for this moment - the chance to see five smug old men totter and mug their way through 40-year-old comedy routines that the audience already know by heart (and that don't even adapt well to the stage).
  Let us recapitulate. Monty Python's Flying Circus was a TV comedy show that ran from 1969 to 1974 (by which time it was some way past its best). At the time it had us all in thrall - yes, myself included - because of its genuine and extraordinary formal innovations: television comedy had never
looked like this before, with sketches flowing into and out of each other (and through the 'fourth wall'), interspersed with surreally styled animations. It felt fresh and new - it was. But the trouble with originality is that it so soon becomes commonplace convention, especially in a fast-moving medium like TV. Nothing dates faster than le dernier cri, and Monty Python dated very fast. By the time the first repeats came around, I was already beginning to wonder quite what I'd seen in it - and now to watch it again makes for painful viewing. Yes, there were funny sketches, but the shows were very patchy indeed, the comedy was often laboured, and the prevailing tone - of cleverclogs undergraduate comedy, with nasty undertones of social snobbery and misogyny - seems pretty repellent now.
  It's notable that when John Cleese later moved on to make the traditionally structured sitcom Fawlty Towers - panned at the time as hopelessly old-fashioned - he and Connie Booth created a classic. Coming across episodes of that again, for the nth time, I always find it impossible not to laugh; it is perhaps the most expertly precision-crafted comedy that's ever made made for British television. By contrast, to watch Python again is to pay an embarrassing revisit to one's impressionable youth - unless of course you are one of the millions who, it seems, are firmly convinced that it remains what is seemed all those years ago: comedy genius.


  1. The old saying about Python: 70% of it was complete crap. But the 30% that wasn't is some of the greatest television ever made. And that's a good trade-off.

  2. I can't believe I'm the only person who never found the Dead Parrot sketch remotely funny in the first place.

    1. you needn't, as you are not.