Friday, October 16, 2009

'Monty Python: Almost the Truth' review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review IFC's wonderful six-part documentary "Monty Python: Almost the Truth," which ate up a whole bunch of my time this week, to my delight.

And no, I will not in any way object if the comments section quickly degenerates into people quoting their favorite bits. I don't think that violates the commenting rules, and I wouldn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition about it...

(Hi, I'm a comedy dork. Nice to meet you.)

39 comments:

Alan Sepinwall said...

In addition to the great Jimmy Fallon appearance on Wednesday night, the surviving Pythons also did a live Q&A at Manhattan's famous Ziegfield theater last night, which IFC is streaming.

Cinnette said...

I don't have IFC! :(
Is there any way I can catch this some where else? Online? On a future DVD? I'm very sad I missed the fun.

LDP said...

I think he said, "Blessed are the cheese makers . . ."

LDP said...

I recorded but haven't watched their appearance on Jimmy Fallon's show. Why wasn't Michael Palin there?

DonBoy said...

"Beatles of comedy" indeed. When people ask where the group's name came from, I have to notice the similarity between "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". It was 1969, after all.

Toni said...

I'm a girl and loved Python growing up, as did many of my male and female friends. Hard to imagine if PBS hadn't been around during my childhood; we'd have missed out on something incredible.

Tracey said...

I wouldn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition about it...

Well of course not, because NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition.

(I'll be here all week, folks; don't forget to tip your waitress)

Tracey said...

I am a proud owner of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail DVD, but I must admit, my favorite part is the frame-for-frame reproduction of the Knights of the Round Table song using Legos.

And there was much rejoicing...

Rick said...

Here's an article from Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson about why he loves Python:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/jeremy_clarkson/article6869288.ece

"Oh I'm sorry, is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?"

filmcricket said...

For the truly dorky, there's this Star Trek/Python YouTube mash-up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luVjkTEIoJc

I don't get IFC either, I don't think, which blows, as this sounds like a lot of fun. There was another special several years ago hosted by Eddie Izzard in which Idle posed the following questions: "Is John Cleese using all his own height? Is Graham Chapman still dead, or is he just being difficult?"

In a way it's kind of sad that Idle is still going to the Python well so much, but I'm really glad I got to see "Spamalot," as well as the operetta "He's Not The Messiah, He's a Very Naughty Boy."

Josh said...

Do you in fact have any cheese at all?

No, no, I was merely wasting your time.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to shoot you.

BANG

What a senseless waste of human life.

Will said...

Really looking forward to this. I've been watching since I was about 8 years old, so 30+ years of exposure has obviously left me permanently scarred. I'm very curious to see their comments about their earliest efforts, as they were quite terrible. Especially the stuff done for German TV.

I wouldn't even know where to start with quoting lines and sketches. I'd run out of comment space.

Travis said...

I got to watch the Fallon show last night, finally. Wow, is that show ever terrible! Opening monologue was brutal. Is that how it is every night? Fallon waxing poetic on a bunch of topics he has no interest in? Yikes...

Even with the Python group out there, Fallon just looked akward and mostly star-struck.

I think the best line of the night came from Idle:
Fallon: Was there a time when you thought the show wasnt going to work?
Idle: Yeah, when you started the monologue...

The look of shock on my girlfriend's face as I repeated the punch-lines from the bits they showed... priceless!

I will be going on Thursday to see the show (which is on limited run at select theaters)

Tracey said...

@FilmCricket: Oh. My. Gawd...

Thanks for that link. I can't believe I've never seen that before! That may actually take a place in my heart above the Lego version...

William said...

It's out on DVD on the 27th. And I'm about as geeked as can be for it.

jim treacher said...

I don't think that violates the commenting rules

Yes it does.

Alan Sepinwall said...

No it doesn't!

Jen said...

Alan, another girl here to taunt you a second time for the male/female fan remark in the article. I'll have you know my first exposure to Python came on a school trip when our busload of girls opted to watch a grainy recording of Holy Grail over other more *traditionally* *female* movies.

Though I must confess that we were going to a Model UN conference, so.... nerds.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, another girl here to taunt you a second time for the male/female fan remark in the article.

I'm gonna copy and paste the response I wrote to a reader e-mail accusing me of being sexist:

I wasn't trying to be sexist. I'm aware that Python has female fans. But in my own anecdotal experience, moving in a lot of incredibly nerdy circles where the people of both genders agreed on virtually everything pop culture-related, the one dividing line always seemed to be Monty Python. The guys would say "Ni!" and the girls would roll their eyes. Always. And this is the same thing I hear from other male Python fans.

Or, to put it another way, the documentary casts its net far and wide for celebrity fans of the show, and not a single one of them is a woman. The only women to appear in the film are, I believe, Carol Cleveland, a producer they worked with in America, and George Harrison's widow (who comes across as amused that her husband spent $4 million of their money to finance Life of Brian, but not particularly amused by Python itself).

filmcricket said...

@ Tracey: You're welcome! I'm not even a Trek fan, but that clip cracks me right up.

Does the doc talk to Jaimie Lee Curtis at all? In the extras on "Wanda" she talks about how she was too young to know the Pythons when they were on TV, but she'd probably have stalked them had she been aware of them. It's one of the many things that are awesome about Curtis - she loves comedians (married one, flirts with others on talk shows, etc.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

No Jamie Lee. Again, the only women I can remember were Carol Cleveland, the American producer, and Olivia Harrison. If any others appeared, it was briefly, and they weren't famous enough to register.

Anonymous said...

Not long ago I was pondering the British expression "the full Monty" in the context of Monty and python being used together in Monty Python. I made myself laugh out loud almost as much as I laugh at all things Python. Am I delusional or just a 65-year-old woman whose mind is in the gutter?

Hatfield said...

You can be sexist, just as long as you don't invite us back to your place for some bouncy, bouncy, bouncy.

I know that joke was terrible, but it's my only line!

Amy said...

"She turned me into a newt!"

"A newt?"

"Well I got bettah..."

Oh that scene makes me laugh. Every time.

I once met a boy at a bar and we spent the evening quoting Monty Python to each other. And then we dated for about a year after that. They brought us together. So romantic.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Clearly, I needed to find a different circle of female friends, based on some of the comments and e-mails so far.

Hutch said...

Hi Alan,

Yes, I think you do need some new female friends. Most of the women in my family, as well as a large circle of female friends (and myself) have been huge Python fans for decades. I'm from Canada, and whenever any of their films hit the big screen, I never noticed that the audience was predominately male.

Matthew L said...

My church used to put on a regular New Years Eve concert, and I used to get together with some friends and perform a few comedy sketches in that each year, mostly Python sketches. I remember one year we performed the Dead Parrot sketch - the extended one from the show where the customer ends up travelling to Bolton. I remember just being so so so excited afterwards about having actually performed Dead Parrot.

We also at one time or another did Spanish Inquisition, Argument Clinic, Four Yorkshiremen, Crunchy Frog, Fish Licence, and a bunch of other ones that I can't remember at the moment.

Unfortunately, I was never able to convince my friend to perform my favourite sketch. It was the one in Hollywood Bowl where Michaelangelo and the Pope discuss a painting of the Last Supper (he thought some people in the church would take offence at it).

"Why on earth did you paint it with three Christs in it?"
"It looks great! The fat one balances out the two skinny ones!"

Pamela Jaye said...

ah, Monty Python and Trek in the same set of comments.

Run for the hills!

Kidding.

The only time I wasn't living with Trekkers, I was living with people who did Silly Walks, could quote whole sketches, and watched Fawlty Towers. (I liked the ep with the rat).

I did like The Detective Sketch as well. And that Emmy like thing... no clue what it was called.
Brother watched MP on PBS before I left home (so probably in the 70s)

Ostiose Vagrant said...

I find the Proust summation sketch hilarious and think that it's underrated.

KeepingAwake said...

Alan, when I clicked the link to get to your article for the Star Ledger, it launched a malware attack.

Thought I would let you know in case the link has been infected.

I did get to the SL page, and then the attack launched so I suppose it could be them and not you.

Jessamyn said...

I'm female, and I dare you to top this for nerdiness: I belong to several dance groups, including one that does English Country and Morris Dancing. One of our traditional props is a "stave," a tall pole with a metal finial on top. One of the 17th-century dances we do periodically is called "The Bishop," and every time someone announces it, I am compelled to grab a stave, take a stance, and declare, "THE BISHOP!" Then I start humming dramatic theme music...

Yes, they think I'm nuts. But they're used to me.

KeepingAwake said...

I'd agree that there are many female Monty Python fans out there. I'm one of them!

But there does seem to be a distinct gender difference regarding the desire to recite movie lines in place of conversation. Men do it all the time--I think they'd live their entire lives that way if they could manage it! :D

Women hardly ever do it. But we're still fans!

Nicole said...

I always thought the male/female split was the Three Stooges.

As for Monty Python, my university friends, both male and female were into Monty Python. I think it has more to do with whether or not you get British humour, which is different from American humour and not everyone appreciates it. Being north of the border, our comedy is somewhere in the middle, and CBC tends to import a lot of BBC stuff, so everyone was exposed to Python, sort of along the same lines as Doctor Who.

Daniel said...

Monty Python was ingenious for, among other things, realizing that gay men were hilarious. This has been picked up, very nicely, by the very funny Modern Family. I guarantee the Modern Family writers are big Monty Python fans...

Anonymous said...

Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore and his horse Concorde... dum de dum...

Another female (British) Monty Python fan here. There are lots of us about. And some of us do quote from sketches (although personally, I am more likely to quote from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - radio version. Zaphod, he's just zis guy, you know.)

I think Life of Brian is the best comedy film of all time and it is exceptionally quotable. 'He's not the Messiah, he's just a naughty boy!' Oh, but then there is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. 'Well, I didn't vote for you!'

The world would be a poorer place without the Pythons.

JKChicago said...

Still another female Python fan here. I was the one who introduced Python to my friends (along with Eddie Izzard) in high school, and we always quoted back and forth to each other. We were all drama club geeks, so maybe that had something to do with it.

I was always partial to the Philosopher's Sketch - memories of reading Kant in college and struggling not to start the song. I also love the sketch with an angry Graham Chapman giving flying lessons: "A gap in one's hhhoop. Pardon me, but I'm off to play the grand piano."

Therem said...

Female, and another Python fan since high school (I'm 40 now). Most of my geeky friends are fans as well, and it's been particularly fun to see their children indoctrinated over time. Hearing an 11-year-old reciting the Black Knight scene from Holy Grail = priceless. I don't get IFC, so it'll be a while, but I very much look forward to seeing the documentary someday.

BTW, I second the comment about malware on the SL website. It happened to me, too.

Joan said...

Chiming in a bit late just to say thank you to Alan for posting about this, otherwise I would have missed it. My husband and I both thoroughly enjoyed "the not-so- exciting beginnings" followed up by "Live at the Hollywood Bowl," which was like a greatest hits concert.

I was struck by how well-educated they all were, a bunch of Cambridge and Oxford guys with the odd (heh) American (Terry Gilliam) thrown in for good measure. I'll also add they've all aged well.

dez said...

No it doesn't!

That's not an argument; it's just contradiction.

If it wasn't for The Simpsons, Alan, I'd have Pythoned you out years ago :-) It's pretty much all I used to quote (besides Beatles and R.E.M. songs) before The Simpsons.

Also, when I was a kid, my male friends used to recite Python sketches, but they'd never let me join because all the Pythons were males and so all the sketches had to be done by males. Stupid boys were too young to notice Carol Cleveland at the time, heh. It's also one reason I wound up memorizing entire sketches and performing them myself (The Argument Clinic being particularly amusing as done by one small girl).

He was a cruel man, but fair.

Dinsdale!