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Why The 3 Best Monty Python Sketches Aren’t Necessarily the Funniest

Monty Python saved my life. Their best sketches stand up today because they're such accurate portraits of human nature.

Kathy Shaidle


March 16, 2014 - 12:00 pm
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Editor’s Note: This article was first published in January of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months… Click here to see the top 25 so far and to advocate for your favorites in the comments.

Monty Python saved my life.

I was ten years old in 1974, when the Buffalo PBS station across the lake began airing the iconoclastic BBC comedy series every Friday night.

Being stuck in a cheap, dinky apartment that overlooked a burned-out church, with my bullying alcoholic stepfather and a meek, “see no evil” mother, surrounded at school by more extroverted, rough-and-tumble classmates — and very likely, without knowing it, clinically depressed — that half hour once a week sitting two feet from the TV was one of the only things I felt I had to look forward to.

Maybe ever, I thought at the time.

Ironically, my crappy stepfather was the one who turned me on to the show.

The first night, he “made” me watch it, the same way he was always trying to “make” me get a suntan or take up horseback riding or keep all the closet and cupboard doors in the house either open or closed depending on his inscrutable whim of the week.

My pouty resentment faded fast. For whatever reason — the cool accents, the breathless pace, the tame “naughtiness,” the “question authority” iconoclasm, the ineffable cuteness of Michael Palin — I got hooked on Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

In high school, I finally met a couple of girls who shared my passion, and we became those insufferable sorts who communicate almost entirely in Python (and SCTV) catchphrases.

I bought all the Python’s albums and books by and about them, and repeatedly signed out hard to find titles from the library, like the one detailing their lawsuits and censorship battles.

(Which I suppose helps explain my enthusiasm for trouble-making and my relative indifference to being sued and otherwise denounced and condemned.)

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Python fans who are conservative will want to read this.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wow. Darren Boyd is so good at doing John Cleese it's frightening.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
"We hear all the time from satirists that tyrants cannot bear being mocked, and therefore with enough well-aimed spoofs and SNL sketches, we can bring down the powerful.

Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, to cite just one example, proves this self-congratulatory theory to be absolute bosh."

The late Richard Grenier made this point in his great comic novel "The Marrakesh One-Two" (which, if you have not already read it, I strongly urge you to find a copy):

"...he said, "You know what they used to say in Berlin in the Nazi time?"


"It's all the fault of the Jews and the bicyclists."


"Sure. On the walls in the U-Bahn they wrote it. The Jews and the bicyclists. To show what nonsense. Ridicule kills. Nothing kills better than ridicule. It did Hitler a lot of harm, I'm telling you."

I didn't know exactly what to say to this since Hitler had survived the ridicule and gone on to greater things and only been stopped by forty million men under arms. All in all it seemed a bad precedent for trying to do people in by ridicule." (The Marrakesh One-Two, Chapter 25, p. 325, Penguin paperback edition).
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm rather fond of the "Ministry of Silly Walks" sketch.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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