If you know me at all, you know I like Monty Python. It would not be far from the truth to say I was raised on a steady diet of Python (and, of course, Doctor Who. But that is off topic — GET BACK IN THE BLOODY BLUE BOX, TIMELORD!! It’s not your post!)
The result is that I have a zany, surreal sense of humor, and I tend to like my humor British. Despite the fact that I have lived most of my life in Texas. You can imagine the complications (the skits write themselves, don’t they?)
So… When I decided that I should write something funny for a change (instead of all this dark stuff I’ve been struggling to sell, as full of irony as it may be (i.e., “Teddy Bears and Tea Parties: A Horror Story”)), funny to me meant Monty Python.
This left me with quite a problem on my hands (and when I say problem, I mean a twenty-foot tall electric penguin with green tentacles shooting out.) So I did what any self-respecting only-child of two college professors WOULD do — I started studying.
I downed the whole Python series again in one go (doing my best to keep an eye on how things worked), and then all of the movies. This of course was not enough. I needed something I could analyze at a much more leisurely rate. Rather than driving my wife mad by rewinding skits and sketching out scripts for them, I dived into the written materials out there… (Pardon me while I elide time for convenience and pacing — if I had the skills, I would insert a Terry Gilliam-style animation, probably about monkeys using books as wings, but at some point turning into monkey-headed cherubic angels all shooting plungers off their harpstrings at each other, while a large, decapitated head of Graham Chapman (he’s dead already, he won’t mind) eats large parts of Parliament in the background. However, I do not have any animation skills whatsoever, so there is no animation, and you’ll just have to deal with it.
Ahem… I seem to be rambling. Let’s hope I keep it up, it’s a downsight more interesting that me actually saying anything.
Python then kicked me to the “Goon Show”, and the “Goon Show” to “Firesign Theater”, and then back to Python (Graham Chapman’s “Liar’s Autobiography”) who — with a sharp pass to Westminster Cathedral — sent me spinning under the feet of “At Last It’s the 1948” show, then to Kingsley Amis who gets the ball stolen from him by Cyril Connolly and book on Pythons and Philosophy — who shoots — and SCORES! GOOOAAAAL! And all the books and TV and radio series are all hugging each other now, in this, the first FIFA finals in untaming one man’s sense of humor.
It’s been quite an adventure so far, and I guess I will see if it pays off with the new novel, but the new novel is not what this post is about.
It’s about something I didn’t expect to find. Way down deep in the dank, cavernous mazes of Michael Palin’s Diaries (somewhere between the plastic skeletons chained to the wall and the fake rats squeaking and trying to nibble my toes off with their little rubber teeth) — and simultaneously in Graham Chapman’s “Liar’s Autobiography” — and simultaneously-again in “Monty Python Speaks” and again-again in the audio-commentary for the Monty Python Autobiography, I stumbled into a strange sort of perspective:
Success rarely happens in a day. It’s random. It is, in a way, luck.
These guys were good — really good — arguably the BEST at what they did, but they were still “lightly paid writer/performers” until one day… They just suddenly realized they weren’t. They didn’t expect it to happen. They were just plodding along, and then, all the sudden, they were hanging out with famous people, making a little more money, and then a LOT more money.
When I go back and look at “The Complete and Utter History of Britain” and “At Last the 1948 Show” and other things, I see that they were doing very Python-style stuff before Python. Not as extreme, no, not as experimental, not free from the constraints of format or punchline — but still very Pythonesque. In effect, Python was just another logical step in what they had been doing all along — and it went big.
…And this makes me think it can happen to anyone. Most of us work hard at our arts and never get noticed. But it CAN happen, and it does happen, and you don’t even realize it’s happening, usually, until — BOOOOM! — you’re being shot out of a cannon with a raving maniac shouting, “You better learn how to land, son, or this is really going to hurt!” up at you.
And that thought… Well, it gives me hope. (Not the cannon one, the one before that — oh, you know!!)
And now we come to the dream-portion of this post. Terry Gilliam once described several of the incredibly lucky events in his life as, “It was like I was willing them to happen.” That he knew such crazy strings of coincidences were possible, so he put himself out there in the way of big events, where they might be, and — well — they just hit him.
I want to be like that. I want to put myself out there in the middle of things, so this is my dream:
I’d like to meet all of these guys (the living ones, obviously.)
I know a lot of them are tired of Python. They’ve moved on (and rightly so!), done huge bodies of wonderful work — Terry Gilliam has some absolutely astounding and amazing movies, Terry Jones has his documentaries, Palin his innumerable series, Cleese as always is a genius, and heck, Eric Idle has even written a Science Fiction book called “The Road to Mars”!
But that’s my dream, to one day meet all of the living Pythons. Why? I really don’t know. They just seem like they’d be a blast to hang out with, really. Who could ask for more than that? That I’ve found their work hilarious, moving, and even inspiring may also enter into it.
The problem is, I don’t know these guys, they don’t know me, and, really, what chance does a minor-league-short-story-writer-wannabe-novelist really have of meeting (much less shaking hands with and sharing a pint of beer or a cup of tea) with mega-stars that live anywhere they want to live and do whatever they want, when they want?
Here comes the hard part, and if I don’t say it now I won’t ever say it:
I need your help — specifically, your brainpower, your voice, maybe a little bit of your time.
I want to meet these guys, and the way I grok it, the only way they’re going to want to meet me is if the situation fascinates them. So what I need is the crazy, the surreal, the absolutely impossible:
I need an internet movement.
Specifically, an “S. Boyd Taylor wants to meet Monty Python” movement. With buttons! Fliers! Silly goings on!
If you want to help — post a link to this, retweet it, talk about it at work, facebook it, tell your budgie, or call up John Cleese if you used to share a toothbrush with him at University and are still close, or even post YouTube videos of you in a Gumby outfit with a handkerchief on your head chanting, “S. Boyd Taylor wants to meet Monty Python.”
Anything harmless and humorous, really.
Then we’ll see if it works.
2 Replies to “A Fun Stylistic Analysis of Monty Python, and a Request for Help”
If you had to demonstrate what Monty Pyton was all about the ‘Can we ave your liver then’ sketch is probably the best.
Then again perhaps it’s the knight with no appendages.
I never got on with the series’ as well as with the films.