The Age of Monty Python

The reunion hoopla shows the group – and their comedy – isn't dead yet. Like Mr. Creosote, we want more.

By Jere Hester
|  Friday, Nov 22, 2013  |  Updated 1:15 PM PDT
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The Age of Monty Python

Fans see the Monty Python reunion as proof of the bright side of life.

This was something completely different: a looped Vine of Monty Python’s surviving members delivering news of their reunion stage show in the strained, guttural grunts of their brain-injured Gumby characters.

The juxtaposition of the new technology and an old bit performed by five septuagenarians (they sat, instead of assuming the usual Gumby semi-squat) offered a tantalizing taste of the coming spectacle of absurdity – which, like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expected.

The online reunion hoopla (the Python return became a Twitter trending topic in the UK Thursday) generated by the crew that provided the inspiration for a new use of the word "spam" ("Spam, Spam, Spam!”) suggests that Monty Python’s comedy is not dead yet.

The comeback show, cheekily titled “One Down, Five to Go,” (the “One Down” refers to Graham Chapman, who died in 1989) conveys a certain urgency as the remaining Pythons edge closer toward meeting the Grim Reaper, who is quite possibly steamed over his portrayal in "The Meaning of Life" (note to John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin: avoid salmon mousse).

The victory lap is appropriate with the five Pythons finally reaching the age of their Four Yorkshiremen, successful old gents who sit around exaggerating their hardscrabble rise to the top (“I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulfuric acid, work 29 hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our dad and our mother would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing 'Hallelujah.'”).

The group's strongest bits in their TV show and movies are timeless, as evidenced through repeated viewings by both original and latter-day fans who can recite skits like “The Four Yorkshiremen” verbatim. But perhaps more key to the fortunes of the reunion, the best of Python is ageless.

When "Monty Python's Flying Circus" crashed into the BBC in 1969, none of the members had hit 30. With much of the humor dedicated to puncturing uptight British establishment pomposity, the Pythons often played characters older than themselves and sometimes of the opposite sex (watch out for the Hell's Grannies!) 

The age of the players doesn't matter much in a cheese shop without aged cheddar (or anything else) or in an argument over whether a parrot is dead or "simply pining for the fields."

Thursday’s official announcement of the one-off reunion show in July at London's O2 arena leaves us already pining for a tour. It might be too much to expect Cleese to do his acrobatic silly walk across the stage as he approaches 75. But we humbly ask he and his colleagues board a plane and bring the act across the Atlantic to the US, where they solidified their place as comedy superstars (or as Idle put it when talking about The Rutles in his classic Beatles spoof, "All You Need is Cash," a "legend that will last a lunchtime").

Python fans need this reunion to last far more than a lunchtime. Much like Jones’ gluttonous Mr. Creosote, we can’t resist one more mint, wafer-thin or otherwise, even if we risk exploding with laughter.

 Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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