Bruce Dennill
1 minute read
7 Jul 2014
9:00 am

Monty Python: Absurdity for the ages

Bruce Dennill

Last week British comedy troupe Monty Python celebrated its 50th anniversary with the first of 10 reunion shows titled Monty Python Live (Mostly) – that addendum a reference to the late Graham Chapman – at London's O2 Arena. That venue can hold 20 000 punters and the first show sold out in 43 seconds.

INFLUENTIAL. From left: Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam of Monty Python. Picture: AFP

This phenomenon, plus the enduring popularity of various Python-related productions (films including Life Of Brian and The Meaning Of Life; stage productions including Pythonesque and the bonkers musical Spamalot) suggest that the surreal humour and performance style for which Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Michael Palin became famous is no less popular now than it was in their heyday.

Much of this legacy is down to the influence the Pythons have had on other performers and writers, with Douglas Adams, Eddie Izzard, Seth Meyers (Saturday Night Live), Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park), Matt Groening (The Simpsons), David Cross (Arrested Development) and Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) all acknowledging a debt to the British sextet.

It must be noted that little or none of the above would have happened at all without the support of the BBC in the late sixties and early seventies. Such absurd comedy would very likely not be encouraged at all nowadays. But at the time, the broadcasters gave the group creative control. As writers and performers of their material, this made a lot of sense, but it’s unlikely that what Monty Python achieved will ever be replicated, given the political correctness of most modern broadcasting corporations, which have their agendas dictated to them by advertisers and politicians.

The spirit of this groundbreaking partnership between artists and broadcaster still exists to some degree in the series Curb Your Enthusiasm and Flight Of The Conchords in the US.

– For tickets to Monty Python’s Spamalot, go to joburgtheatre.com.