One Down, Five to Go
I never thought I would get the chance to see Monty Phython live or as was the case at least in a live broadcast.
When I was ten, I volonteered for a school trial which meant learning French instead of English. That turned out not to be such a bright idea after all when I switched to a different school four years later. Additionally to being bored during French lessons for the next years, I had just two months to catch up to everyone else in English. While not all of the Python’s vocabulary was suitable for school, they – along with countless songwriters and movie makers – played a big part in that.
More than 20 years later I still haven’t grown tired of their shenanigans. The Philosophers football match is still hilarious and more interesting than most games of the world cup. The Batley Townswomen’s Guild going all in reenacting the Battle of Pearl Harbor or the Silly Olympics are still funnier than a lot of stuff I’ve seen in the last years.
It was touching that Graham Chapman was the first Python to appear on screen; the title ‘One Down, Five to Go’ alluded to him in typical Monty Python fashion and it wasn’t the only mention. John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin were in fine form and seemed to have fun on stage, cracking up several times and improvising as a result. John Cleese’s divorces were even incorporated into the Poofy Judges. There is a picture floating around Twitter showing Terry Gilliam mid-air during the Spanish Inquisition; I dare you to look at it and not laugh.
There were quite a few guests too: it was nice to see Carol Cleveland again; Eddie Izzard and Mike Myers made appearances and Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking popped up in a pre-recorded skit (Hawking was also present in the audience).
While the original sketches played on screen and acted live by the remaining five Pythons are still killing it, Eric Idle added 16 tons of variety show elements in between. Of course you can’t expect a bunch of septuagenarians to do quick-changes and run back onto stage in 3 seconds flat, but – for me at least – those numbers were much too long and frequent and instead of making the transition between sketches smoother, actually made them even more bumpy. On the other hand, they managed to incorporate things they couldn’t have performed anymore (Silly Walk, Never Make Fun…) this way.
The other thing bugging me was the camera direction. I might be spoiled by the terrific work of the fine people responsible for the RSC and NTL broadcasts, but it seemed confused at some points and downright sloppy at others. At the end of the Lumberjack song you could see that there was something about Canada projected in the O2, but they didn’t capture it for the world-wide audiences.
All in all, I’m grateful the gents of Monty Python decided to show us what makes an Ex-Parrot once more and then gracefully told us to ‘Piss Off!”. And now number 3: The Lark…