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Monty Python's farewell a bawdy romp

July 22, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
There was no way to keep me from going to this one, I told The Boss.

“This one” was the final (most likely) show for the five surviving members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the Brit comedy troupe dating to 1969 who brought a generation or two of like-minded folks such easy-to-recognize words as “The Norwegian Blue,” “The Ministry of Silly Walks” and the tune “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

For a lot of people, it was the entree to the British sense of humor, admittedly out there on the far side at times, but hilarious.

That is, if you get it.

The Boss doesn’t get it. Watched the entire “Spanish Inquisition” sketch with her (wherein three red-clad medieval cardinals burst in anytime anyone says “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!”), and she never budged. Not a smile.

So, I was left to find like-minded friends, Jeff from childhood to old bald-guyhood and Craig from the Weirton side of the newsroom to head off to the live simulcast at the Cinemark Theaters in Monaca, which, according to any information I could find, was the place to go for the final show of the troupe’s final string of shows.

There were Broadway production numbers of their dirty little ditties (replete with a couple stage props that looked a bit too “Clockwork Orange” but were comical in context of the “Every Sperm is Important” song. Fear not, for after skewering Catholics, they skewered the sensibilities of the Protestants, too. Old British men in drag talking falsetto is still darned funny. As are Vikings singing about Spam.

During the first half were plenty of interspersed clips from the old TV show (cannot believe there were only 45 episodes from 1969 to 1974), working in their late fellow Python Graham Chapman and running quite a bit of a sketch I figure they couldn’t show too much on re-runs: Their spoof of the 1972 Munich Olympics, the mention of which calls to mind hostages and terrorism. But no, this was an hilarious spoof of the Olympics themselves, in any year (the Incontinence Marathon was my favorite, reducing me to a ball of laughing goo, while the old Philosophers Soccer match was darned funny, too.)

The troupe even managed to work physicist Stephen Hawking into the mix, having him come out in a filmed bit in his wheelchair to run down, Python style, a droning professor taking umbrage with “The Galaxy Song.”

After intermission came what many of us Python fans from when PBS was the only place to watch the show had come to see. It became a romp, a riff through the Argument Store to the Crunchy Frog candy to, yes, the Dead Parrot.

By the time the show got to the Dead Parrot, it had become, for me, like a kind of British Comedy Rat Pack thing, with the boys (now all in their 70s, thus the finality they attached to this string of 10 shows) riffing off their tried and true bits with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink, you know what I mean (yes, I’m channelling Eric Idle here). I cannot imagine being parrot-holed into these bits forever, but they handled them in a way that said, “Hey, we’re doing this for you, the fans, as one final salute.”

John Cleese brought the obviously stuffed Norwegian Blue back to the pet store to Michael Palin one final time, and really, really whacked that bird on the counter to prove its death. It got to the point where they simply were riffing, ad-libbing, cracking each other’s stiff British upper lip (that also happened during the Crunchy Frog sketch, again involving Cleese and Palin breaking each other up and Terry Gilliam simply trying to hold it all together while donning his British police hat full of barf. You have to get it or there’s no explaining it.)

In the lengthy speech using every slang term to define “dead” ever used in the Queen’s dialect, Cleese and Palin managed to work in a thumbs-up salute to Chapman, as well as a slam at the editor who gave them some bad reviews in London. (Seems the anus transplant rejected the editor, according to Palin. You readers cannot tell me you won’t be using that line someday…)

And after that, with the audience in side-splitting laugh cramps came the finale, getting the tens of thousands in the big arena in London and people all around the world in theaters to join in singing and whistling “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

That is the power of humor, the peaceful joining of a bunch of people to simply smile, and these five men have the gift that lies beyond diplomacy in droves.

Just as it started to settle on me that these men who came up with lines that many of my friends and I recited for decades (“Ni!”) were really calling it quits, the screen lit up in a gigantic Flying Circus graphic saying: “Piss Off!”

You had to smile instead of cry, and that’s how these talented showmen should be remembered.

I am glad in my world it’s funny when the penguin on top of your telly explodes.

Or maybe you don’t get it.

In which case you need Room 12, where the argument will take place. Or not.

 
 

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