October 5, 2019

PYTHON 50TH

Monty Python's Flying Circus made its TV debut 50 years ago on this day in 1969! The combination of these six talented writers/performers combusted in a cocktail of Goon-like silliness, satirical wit, astounding surrealist flights of imagination, and Beatle-like magic that was sheer genius. It's been all dead parrots, killer rabbits, silly walks, Spanish Inquisitions, and wink wink nudge nudge ever since. Like many kids in the US, my introduction to the group was a two-pronged invasion of hilarious comedy records and late night PBS. One of my fondest memories of childhood was watching my best friend Alec's dad, Strome Lamon (Director of corporate advertising at Simon and Schuster) sitting in his chair watching the family TV with tears streaming down his face in fits of ecstatic laughter. He really opened up the world of British comedy to me (thank you, Strome). It was great to have that kind of support from adults to learn about humor and to cultivate my curiosity. I had a copy of Python's Live at the Civic Center album and I'm pretty sure I forced to Alec memorize all the skits with me one summer so we could perform it verbatim (in accents) to his parents (thank you, Alec). My mom was also a supportive audience as I continued to pursue this newfound love of recitation. Little did I know Alec and I were joining a growing population (cult?) of kids who obsess over the Pythons and trade lines of dialog in darkened hallways like secret handshakes. I think knowledge of their brilliant skits and movie scenes became a kind of cultural currency. And I'm happy to report that even my current 9th graders say they know kids who still do that. There is hope! During my summer in the UK this year I was super lucky to see Michael Palin give a talk about his new book and an overview of his career (loved it!)- and amazingly caught up with him again at the National Archives for a talk about his travels during the end of the Soviet Union. I'm happy to say I've also been lucky to see John Cleese and Eric Idle a number of times in person and every experience has brought me right back to that fundamental love for the incredible intelligence, sense of humor, off the charts imagination, and deep humanity of this group of guys. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Monty Python, Spy Vibers can look forward to many new releases and cool events. The BFI have released two restored (and more complete) DVD sets of the great pre-Python series, At Last the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set, and UK distributer Network have put together a gigantic restored Blu-ray set of the original Flying Circus series -with tons of extras, including text by my friend Andrew Pixley. The Monty Python Sings album was released this week as a 2LP set. Folks who loved the Holy Grail and Life of Brian films can catch special screenings in theaters (check local listings). Spy Vibers in London should also check Python events happening at the BFI this fall (check at BFI). Carol Cleveland has done some Q&A events and just did a long radio interview about Python (check her news page for details). John Cleese is currently on tour (check his Facebook page for dates). Subscribers of Netflix can see just about everything via their streaming platform. And the Radio Times has just published a Python at 50 special edition. And there is even more because four of the Pythons just refuse to retire and keep spoiling us with new projects (bless them). More at Monty Python, Michael PalinEric IdleJohn CleeseTerry Gilliam, Carol Cleveland. Enjoy!


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