Anthony's Film Review
Monty Python's Flying Circus
(TV Series, 1969-1974)
And now for something completely different and entertaining...
Monty Python's Flying Circus makes absolutely no sense. I mean this in a good way. It is a British TV sketch comedy show considered a classic among connoisseurs. The six members of the Monty Python troupe - John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam - make us laugh with a type of humor that you rarely see: nonsensical humor. Each episode is unstructured, eccentric, silly, chaotic, random, and surreal. But most importantly, it's funny. Think of the show as Surrealism and Dadaism crashing into your TV set.
If you watch the show expecting some kind of typical order, you won't understand the appeal. You have to think of the show as like a dream. How many times have you dreamt of something, recall it upon waking up, and laugh at how unrealistic and absurd it is? This is why the humor of Monty Python is best described as surrealistic humor. The concepts in the sketches make no sense in reality, yet they can be funny if you just go with the flow and see where it takes you. The sketches often transition smoothly from one to the next by little steps, like a train of thought. Sometimes, there's an abrupt change, which would be considered relatively unusual on the show. Hence, the catchphrase "And now for something completely different."
Consider, for example, the Argument Clinic sketch. Michael Palin goes to a place where he pays money just to argue with someone. Once he is in John Cleese's office, they argue about the definition of an argument. Now, this is clearly a nonsensical situation, but it's hilarious because you accept the scene as it is and just see how it plays out. Another great example is the Funniest Joke in the World. It involves a joke that is so funny that anyone reading or hearing it will laugh and die. It progresses from a police investigation to the militaristic use of the joke against the Germans. Another concept that won't happen in real life, but it's very funny when you just go with the flow.
The sketches make fun of everything. What's really amusing is how they tend to poke fun of the finer aspects of British culture and many historical figures. Expect to see Karl Marx in a discussion forum/quiz show, goofy members of the Spanish Inquisition, a scientist presenting a theory about the brontosaurus, a government agency for people who walk funny, Pablo Picasso in a bicycle race, and architects with models of dangerous buildings. Besides surreal, the humor of Monty Python can also be considered intellectual, because it ridicules but appeals to members of scholarly circles.
It doesn't mean that Monty Python only satirizes high society. They also make you laugh with anything that is totally ridiculous and over the top. You'll also enjoy a cafe that serves a lot of spam, a song by a transvestite lumberjack, a dead parrot that a pet shop owner still thinks is alive, a contest involving upper-class twits, pantomime horses in a James Bond spoof, a man with a tape recorder up his nose, impersonations by historical figures, old ladies reenacting the attack on Pearl Harbor in the form of mud wrestling, a karate class instructing on defense against fruit, and how not to be seen or else be killed. While we're at it, let's throw in some funny stop-motion animation sequences by Terry Gilliam, who is least seen in front of the camera but has contributed much to the animated portion of the show.
The debut sketch of a ragged old man struggling his way towards the camera just to say a single introduction word before the title sequence marks a milestone in the history of comedy. Many comedians and fans of comedy can say that Monty Python has changed the way people look at comedy. After seeing all of the episodes of this show, I can sort of see why. It can make you laugh in ways you don't expect. For me, I laughed really hard at many of the sketches. Some didn't really make me laugh much, but I can still appreciate their intelligent approach to humor, not to mention the actors' terrific performances in whatever role they play during every sketch. With all of this, viewing all of the episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus was a pleasure. Now I know why it's a classic among fans.
For more information about Monty Python's Flying Circus, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of the following:
Monty Python in Film
Monty Python on Television
- Monty Python's Flying Circus