From 1969 to 1974, BBC aired 45 episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus- a television show featuring a unique blend of sketch- comedy and animation. Within those first 5 years, Monty Python or Pythons (as the serial’s protagonists were collectively called!) turned the comedy-world on its head and changed its equations forever.
Starting right from its totally nonsensical name- ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, this comedy-show was unlike anything presented before. It did away with traditional comic norms like the age-old ‘two men’ stand-up comedy acts; the reliance on punch-lines and the concept of a central theme linking the portrayals. The Python- sketches featured any crazy topic that came to their mind. Ranting politicians, boring TV-hosts, lunatic TV-guests, phony religionists, bored executives, mindless doctors, sly shop-keepers, disgruntled customers, gossiping housewives, mentally challenged people, sex-perverts, deranged killers- Monty Python lampooned everything under the sun and that, too in a never-before seen, no-holds-barred style.
The creators- Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin and Terry Jones- (all graduates from leading Universities!) wrote and portrayed a bevy of wacky characters in these sketches. They even played the female characters themselves as drag acts- only occasionally actresses like Carol Cleaveland and Connie Booth played the ‘real’ women, along with them! Each 40-minute Python-episode was a mosaic of unrelated comic sketches, interspersed by Terry Gilliam’s peculiar animation, which used cut-outs of distorted hand-drawn and photographed figures.
This brand new style of theme-less madcap, maniacal humor got branded as ‘Absurdist humor’. The conservative critics hated its risqué and ribald nature; but the general public got hooked on to its refreshingly original and zany approach. Unlike many other British comic acts, Monty Python Flying Circus succeeded in appealing to the US audiences as well- thereby becoming one of the most influential comedy-show ever. Their stardom also spiraled into a slew of Python- films, stage-shows, musicals, books and DVDs.
‘Monty Python’s personal best’ is a set of 5 DVDs, released in 2006 where the Pythons have chosen their best personal acts. Plus there is the added attraction of watching the living Pythons- Cleese, Idle, Jones, Palin and Gilliams (all in their late sixties!) still gamely plying their comic craft specifically for these DVDs. After watching the outrageously hilarious and almost surreal comic sketches like ‘Dead parrot’, ‘Cheese shop’, ‘Nudge nudge wink wink’, ‘Defence against fresh fruit’ ‘Ministry of silly walks’ and ‘Fish-slapping’, it is easy to see how the Pythonesque humor has found its contemporary expression in British comedy acts like Little Britain. Watching these Python DVDs is to experience how the classic has always influenced the contemporary!