I love comedy, yet I constantly bemoan the state of comedy as it plays out on tv and in the movies. There’s definitely a lot of good stuff out there, but more often than not, I’m left feeling a little disappointed with the majority of it. This week, I’ve been knee deep in the 6-part Monty Python doc on IFC, Monty Python: Almost The Truth. I can’t tell you how much I’m digging it. I loved Python to death when I discovered it back in the 5th or 6th grade. I used to show up to school and drive my friends crazy with my horrid reenactments of the show, faux British accent and all. It’s been years since I’ve paid much attention to Python and I’m usually pretty disheartened when I see John Cleese or Eric Idle in anything contemporary. But that said, I’m loving revisiting such an early influence on my life. I won’t get into much detail here, but the thing that I’m most blown away by is how damn smart the show was. The troupe’s love of language is paramount. Nothing is dumbed down. Art, culture, and literature references abound. Some skits revolve solely around playing with language. It’s not a passive viewing experience. The viewer is expected to keep up.
Python were a huge success and a prime example that you don’t have to play to the lowest common denominator. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of dumb, absurdist, and downright silly bits. The Fish Slapping Dance for example, and perhaps my fave Python sketch, Upplerclass Twit of The Year. Nothing too erudite there. But Python was willing to mix highbrow and lowbrow. Perhaps nobody did it better. So much comedy now plays straight to the lowest common denominator and is neutered of anything smart. Too bad. Comedy can be this good. I've thrown in the Argument Clinic sketch below. A beautiful example of a skit that plays with language while being utterly silly at the same time. Enjoy.