Yesterday. I was saddened to learn of Monty Python writer/performer Terry Jones’ passing. Borrowing slightly from his colleagues, Dead Parrot sketch writers John Cleese and the late Graham Chapman, Jones has joined Chapman as the second Python team member whose ceased to be, expired, gone to meet his maker, pushing up the daisies, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible!!….. THIS IS AN EX-TERRY JONES.
The Welsh-born comedy icon leaving a legacy of seminal writing/performances. Prose delivered over six decades with fellow Oxbridge graduates Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Chapman and Terry Gilliam. The sextet going on to gain worldwide popularity and cult status with ground breaking sketch comedy after initially bursting onto British TV screens in 1969.
Unable to categorise the zany sketches, sight gags and Terry Gilliam’s animations, critics/fans coined the term Pythonesque to describe their genre of surreal comedy. These idiosyncratic sketches occasionally interspersed with continuity announcement of “And now for something completely different.”….. Never was a truer word spoken!
I was a six year old lad when the show first hit the screens, although it didn’t register on my televisual radar until probably two or three series later. My induction into this surreality coming when my dad eventually joined the programmes ever burgeoning viewing audience.
If memory serves me correct, he wanted to see what the fuss was about this new hypnagogic comedy he’d heard about, on BBC2…… Incidentally, if you’re unsure of hypnagogic’s meaning, according to my thesaurus, it means surreal….. Actually even if you do know the meaning of the word hypnagogic, it still means surreal.
Not that any people my dad knew used the word hypnagogic! In fact, I’d wager absolutely no one in my childhood town of Gateshead, apart from the Leam Lane Hypnagogic Society, ever used the word….. I’d certainly never heard of it until a few minutes ago.
Thank god for a thesaurus.com……. You might ask why I just didn’t use the word surreal, which’d be a good question to which I’ve no adequate response. Other than I’d used it earlier and I’m keen to avoid repetition.
As I recall, my dad was by no means an avid Python fan, however he did occasionally watch the broadcast during it’s Monday night BBC2 slot. Only laughing sporadically throughout the broadcast, I got the feeling he found the humour a bit hit and miss. When not laughing he was generally yelling “Ian, will you bloody stop playing football in the house!” at my younger brother.
On occasions yours truly was allowed to stay up later on a school night; times I’d watch Monty Python with my old man. From recollection, I’d laugh heartily at some of the sketches, however some of the sight gags and animation flew clean over this junior school kids head. Consequently, in a bored state, I’d often wander off to play football and smash ornaments with our kid!
Clearly, I was too young to understand the seminal work the Pythons were creating, along with its place in TV’s evolution. Although, to be fair, at that age I’d be surprised if 9-10 year old kids were part of the shows demographic audience.
As with my dad over 40 years ago, when watching recordings of Monty Python’s TV shows in adulthood I’d find the hilarity levels of the sketches hit and miss. That being said, at least I now appreciate and understand the part this ground breaking work played in the history of TV comedy. The writers/performers bequeathing discerning viewers with ‘exactly what it says on the tin’ when proffering mid-episode “And now for something completely different!”
I’d posit I was just too young to fully ‘get’ the original airings, and in adulthood those repeats had, to my mind not aged gracefully. That being said, though, I still adore the show’s spin off movies, in particular The Holy Grail and Life of Brian. Despite having seen them numerous times, I still chuckle heartily throughout both movies. Reverence that’s occasionally led to the recital of funnier lines with peers.
During a holiday in Spain I read an autobiography of each member of the Monty Python team. Whilst reading this book around the pool I received quite a bit of attention from one of the waiters who declared himself to be a big Python fan.
When walking past me poolside, if I had my head in the book he’d proudly announce in pigeon English “Theeezz eeez a dead paarrrott.”; in addition to other famous quotes from Python sketches.
He seemed to revel in asking endless questions about the book, which was fine initially. However, this got to distract me to such an extent I got to a point of wanting to respond to his enquiries with “Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition!”…… However, concluding the irony of the retort might be lost on him, I gave him a disingenuous smile, answered his question and returned to my book.
Yesterday, the entertainment world lost one of its greatest writing/performing exponents. That being said, as they say in the Life of Brian concluding tune:-
“……life is quite absurd,
And death’s the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow!
Forget about your sin — give the audience a grin,
Enjoy it, it’s the last chance anyhow!
So always look on the bright side of death!
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life’s a piece of shit,
When you look at it.
Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true,
You’ll see it’s all a show,
Keep ’em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!…..”
RIP Terry Jones