Monday, July 21, 2014

Monty Python is an Ex-Comedy Troupe

Yesterday, I sat in a third-full theater in Las Vegas, watching the live screening of Monty Python's (supposedly) final performance. It was an emotional experience for me. Despite the fact that Python made their name well before I was born, I have long felt a very deep attachment to the group. I know I'm not alone in this, as the array of comedy stars who cite them as a primary source of inspiration is so long it would be easier to list all the comedians not influenced by Python. Those of you who have seen my favorite movies list will know that I count Holy Grail and Life of Brian amongst my favorite films of all time. Those of you who have glimpsed my television watching habits will know that I have re-watched every episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus so many times I've lost count.

Be it documentaries, autobiographies, performances, interviews, card games, even their own brand of beer: if it has the Monty Python label I am likely to hunt it down and consume it. I even have a massive book with the complete screenplay for every episode of the show. When people claim, as Weird Al once did in song-form, that they can recite Holy Grail, I get annoyed. This is not because I want to keep Python all to myself or any such nonsense; I get annoyed because I can point out every mistake they're making and tell you what the line was actually supposed to be.

Basically, you could call me a fan.

Python came into my life at just the right age, too. I was old enough to feel like I understood it, but young enough that I really didn't. It was able to help inform my identity, as our interests always do, but as my own formal education advanced I was able to grow into it, constantly uncovering new layers. I could keep going back, year after year, and see a little deeper. Characters, sketches, and even entire themes took on the nature of old familiar friends. Over time I laughed less, but I appreciated
more. And as I developed this increasingly intimate understanding of their work, I found that I felt connected to these men, however fictitiously, in their own rights. In Graham Chapman, I found a brilliant, passionate, troubled man who died before his time yet with his short life truly moved me. In John Cleese, I saw a towering comedic master with an attitude that admirably cut straight through the crap. In Terry Jones, there was the sparkling genius that understood a bigger picture than others could comprehend. Terry Gilliam tapped into my anarchic fire, calling forth for freedom. Michael Palin, the soft-spoken friend to everyone, showed me that a gentle and caring soul can still have a sharp wit and a sharp tongue. And Eric Idol, along with his musical sensibilities, brought an inspiring grasp of the true range of capabilities to be found in our beloved English language. As individuals, they each intrigue and inspire me to this day (though admittedly some more so than others). As a group, their relationships to one another became almost as interesting as they were individually. Creatively, their complementary personalities and skills formed a fascinating web of originality, brilliance, humor, and truth.

Even though their best work all came before I was alive, and even though I've never found myself
sitting around waiting for new Python episodes or a new Python movie, the group was still out there and alive. In that sense, this felt like the end of a magnificent chapter. The old shows and movies will
be there to delight, entertain, provoke, and influence long after they have passed on and long after I have as well. But I was part of a momentous event. I sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" along with everyone in the theater, the hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world watching at that same moment, and the Pythons themselves. I sat and watched, clapping with a great smile on my face, as Monty Python took their final bow, knowing that for that exact moment I was joining in with like-minded people across the globe in one unified gesture of appreciation for the men who had brought so much thought and joy into our lives. And as the closing credits rolled, the theater emptied until only I remained. With a grin on my face and a nod to the heavens, I gave my silent salute to Graham Chapman. Then, still smiling and full of warmth, I took one last look across the empty theater as I said goodbye and thank-you to Monty Python.

1 comment: