Film Feature: And Now for Something Completely Different (But Quite Familiar)

Monty Python are the marmite of comedy but 2014 has proven why their humour is still as funny and relevant as ever.

I’ve been an avid Monty Python fan since I was eight years old and last year when it was announced they would be performing live at the O2 Arena in London, my heart skipped a beat! I was lucky enough to get tickets and when the day finally came, the Pythons did not disappoint. The show ‘One down, Five to go’ was filled with their best musical numbers, silly sketches and Terry Gilliam’s hilarious animations.

However, the reviews were not quite as complimentary as mine and many critics argued that the shows were unfunny and consisted of dated jokes played out by a bunch of doddery pensioners. There was certainly no new material in the show but that’s not surprising given that the Pythons had promised audiences a celebration of classic Python comedy, and in interviews all members had admitted they were too lazy and decrepit for anything new.

The number of Python related programmes that have appeared on TV both pre and post the O2 shows gives some indication of the massive fan base they continue to have. In my opinion, Monty Python is a unique and timeless comedy machine. This is because when Python was created in the 1960s there was nothing like it and therefore, nothing to rival it. In many ways that is still the case.

The creative freedom given to the Python team by the BBC is unheard of now and would probably never be possible again. The Pythons had episodes of their show ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ commissioned by the BBC, despite not having a traditional comedy structure for any episode. However, it was this that made them so successful and the Pythons became pioneers in the surreal comedy style.

Over the years, Monty Python has become a cult phenomenon and the Pythons have made their mark through books, stage shows, music, popular culture, and film. Many Python fans often argue that Monty Python can be seen on their best comedic form in the four films they produced. These were; And Now For Something Completely Different, The Holy Grail, The Life of Brain, and The Meaning of Life.

The films are, in many ways, the most interesting form of Python. The films show that their strengths lie not only in their comedy but in acting, script writing and directing. Many people’s favourite Python film often depends on what type of Python comedy they prefer. The Holy Grail and The Life of Brian have a main plot line and are largely satirical, whereas the other two films are more similar to the Python sketch shows and pride themselves on being very silly.

No other comedy troupe since Monty Python has ever been able to have the same impact and transcend the confines of a television series in quite the same way. Monty Python owes much of its success to the teenage fans of the 1960s and 70s for keeping Python alive among the next generation.

The Pythons’ individual projects have also helped ensure their continued appeal. Each of the five remaining Pythons have enjoyed success away from the group and this has meant that their faces have become familiar and popular in the world of entertainment. The Pythons still continue to collaborate on different projects together and the next instalment of their combined work can be seen in February when Terry Jones’s comedy film Absolutely Anything starring Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale and including the voices of the other Pythons, is released.

[Rosannah Jones]

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