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Old 05-22-2019, 11:23 AM
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Much Ado About Monty Python


I don't know if its just me, but Monty Python's style of humor is a bit too absurdist for my taste. I appear to be in a great minority as near all of my friends and family have ostracized me due to this simple fact. Am I alone or are there others who share this plight?
By the way, I know there is already a thread but I feel necroposting is a bit too overdone.
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Old 05-22-2019, 11:25 AM
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Well, there are two types of people: Those who appreciate Monty Python's absurdist humour, and those who are wrong.
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Old 05-22-2019, 11:31 AM
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Pal, I get the fact that this movie is regarded as "one of the greatest movies of all time" and while, yes, it was groundbreaking for its time, I just am not a huge fan.
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Old 05-22-2019, 11:35 AM
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Pal, I get the fact that this movie is regarded as "one of the greatest movies of all time" and while, yes, it was groundbreaking for its time, I just am not a huge fan.
Which of their movies? I'm guessing "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," but you didn't say.

For the record, though you may already be aware, but "Monty Python" isn't just one movie; the group started out by doing a television series ("Monty Python's Flying Circus"), and then did several movies as a group (including "Holy Grail," as well as "Monty Python's Life of Brian" and "Monty Python's Meaning of Life.")
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Old 05-22-2019, 11:43 AM
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Which of their movies? I'm guessing "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," but you didn't say. For the record, though you may already be aware, "Monty Python" isn't just one movie
I was referring to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and thanks for the clarification.
However, I merely meant that the Holy Grail just overdid many of their best jokes by extending them at length.
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Old 05-22-2019, 11:52 AM
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I was referring to Monty Python and the Holy Grail and thanks for the clarification.
However, I merely meant that the Holy Grail just overdid many of their best jokes by extending them at length.
While I've been a Python fan since I was a kid, and love all of their movies...I wouldn't go so far as to say that "Holy Grail" (or, frankly, any of their films) would even come close to being "one of the greatest movies of all time." It's certainly archetypical of their style and their humor, but it was also the first time that most (maybe all) of them had worked on something as long as a feature-length movie, and it shows.

It wanders around a lot, it doesn't have a particularly strong plot (being largely a series of related sketches), and doesn't have an ending, per se, so much as just winding down into a typically absurdist final scene.
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Old 05-22-2019, 11:57 AM
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I wouldn't go so far as to say that "Holy Grail" (or, frankly, any of their films) would even come close to being "one of the greatest movies of all time."
Thank goodness! So many people I've talked to say that I don't "get" the humor. It's not that I don't get the humor, I got the humor the first time. And the second time. And the third, fourth, and fifth time. My point is that the jokes last much too long and people see the entirety of the movie in either a nostalgic haze or a misinterpretation of length.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:06 PM
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Thank goodness! So many people I've talked to say that I don't "get" the humor. It's not that I don't get the humor, I got the humor the first time. And the second time. And the third, fourth, and fifth time. My point is that the jokes last much too long and people see the entirety of the movie in either a nostalgic haze or a misinterpretation of length.
We re-watched "Holy Grail" at Christmas last year, with my family. My parents were Python fans back in the 1970s, but none of us had seen the movie in years (and my niece and her husband, who are in their late 20s, had never seen it).

For us, it was still very funny, though at least part of that was undoubtedly the familiarity with our favorite bits. But, we did recognize that it was slow and noodly, and that was something that hadn't been in our memories from earlier viewings of it.

Out of curiosity -- how old are you? How many comedies (or other films) from the 1960s and 1970s have you watched? I ask because pacing in films (and TV shows), in general, was usually *much* slower back then, and I suspect that many people who are accustomed to the modern pace in movies see older films as intolerably slow.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 05-22-2019 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:07 PM
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I went to see Holy Grail alone at a Saturday matinee immediately after it was released in the United States. At the time, I had only the lightest smattering of the Python experience (the "Man with Three Buttocks" sketch), so I wasn't sure what to expect, though I'd been told the movie was like "a real live Dungeon* descent."

There were maybe a half-dozen other people in the cinema that afternoon. Watching the movie alone in the dark, I thought "This isn't funny, this is sick!" The only time I laughed was when Lancelot kicked the fat broad in the chest (which goes to show how sick I am). The only other part I enjoyed was the Castle Anthrax segment, but for entirely different reasons.

Two weeks later, I went to see it with some friends in the evening, when the cinema was packed with people. Not only did I laugh myself silly, I walked out with a lot of the lines memorized for my own future use.

Apparently, experiencing Python alone and with little or no previous exposure to it is akin to watching Hogan's Heroes without a laugh track. Things you're supposed to find funny, you simply don't.

*NB: I hate Dungeons and Dragons. BOR-ING!
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:10 PM
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Apparently, experiencing Python alone and with little or no previous exposure to it is akin to watching Hogan's Heroes without a laugh track. Things you're supposed to find funny, you simply don't.
Interesting observation! I wonder if it's not unlike trying to watch Rocky Horror Picture Show by oneself, with no knowledge of the audience-participation routines.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:11 PM
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This movie relies heavily upon the context in which it is watched. IMHO, more so than many other comedies.

Watching it with 10 other undergrads stuffed in a dorm room at 2AM on a Friday night? It is a cinematic masterpiece. Fantastic memories for everyone.

Watching it by yourself at 10AM on a sunny Thursday? Not so much.

Last edited by Hermitian; 05-22-2019 at 12:12 PM.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:12 PM
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Thank goodness! So many people I've talked to say that I don't "get" the humor. It's not that I don't get the humor, I got the humor the first time. And the second time. And the third, fourth, and fifth time. My point is that the jokes last much too long and people see the entirety of the movie in either a nostalgic haze or a misinterpretation of length.
Your point is that the jokes last too long? In the OP your point was that the jokes were too absurdist. And I find it unlikely your friends and family have ostracized you on account of this disagreement of taste. Are you perhaps exaggerating for comedic effect?

Or are you referring to limited ostracism, like you're no longer allowed to watch Monty Python with them, because you refuse to stop putting it down during viewing?
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:16 PM
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Are you perhaps exaggerating for comedic effect?
I am, in a word, an idiot. However, yes, I am exaggerating. The main flaw I see is the length of jokes and that my friends have (jokingly) stated that my "opinion of humor is trash."
Jokes on them, I'm the only one with a VCR
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:35 PM
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This movie relies heavily upon the context in which it is watched. IMHO, more so than many other comedies.

Watching it with 10 other undergrads stuffed in a dorm room at 2AM on a Friday night? It is a cinematic masterpiece. Fantastic memories for everyone.

Watching it by yourself at 10AM on a sunny Thursday? Not so much.
I had a similar experience with Time Bandits.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:36 PM
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I don't think I've ever heard the original dialogue of Holy Grail, despite seeing it many times. Every time, what I was hearing was a mix of the original soundtrack with a dozen other people all calling out the same lines together. It probably would fall flat if seen in isolation, but it's seldom seen that way.

And as for Monty Python in general, shrug, there's no accounting for taste. They have a very distinctive style, and some people like that style, while others don't. There's no need to apologize for that.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:51 PM
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The main flaw I see is the length of jokes and that my friends have (jokingly) stated that my "opinion of humor is trash."
Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do. Except perhaps my wife. And some of her friends. Oh yes, and Captain Johnson. Come to think of it, most people like a good laugh more than I do, but that's beside the point.

IMHO, the essence of Python is in the best of the TV show. And, on the show, I won't say things never went on too long—but they weren't afraid to end a sketch early or take it in a completely different direction.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:55 PM
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And as for Monty Python in general, shrug, there's no accounting for taste. They have a very distinctive style, and some people like that style, while others don't. There's no need to apologize for that.
It should also be considered that a lot of their jokes simply fall flat, either because they were too absurd or just not funny to begin with, and I think they recognized this too. (MPFC's soundtracks often had to be "sweetened" because the studio audience didn't laugh when they were expected to.) The problem is compounded by their point of reference being so British. I've lived in the UK, and I still needed certain things explained to me before I could appreciate them.
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Old 05-22-2019, 12:57 PM
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My father in law thought Monty Python was stupid and tedious beyond belief; at least until later in life when I snuck a video of "Argument Clinic" in front of him, which caught his eye and attention until he was laughing at it uncontrollably.

I find their best bits still to be great; they did have a lot of bits that were never real good though.

QtM, viewer of "Holy Grail" within a week of its release in the theater.
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Old 05-22-2019, 01:22 PM
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My parents went to see Holy Grail in the theater and didn't enjoy it, hardly laughed at all. It was only later, when they were trying to describe some scenes to my aunt, that they were laughing so much in recounting it they couldn't even speak.

As much as I love that movie, their best stuff is in the Flying Circus show and the albums. If you don't like absurdist humor, your not under any obligation to like it, so don't bother. You're missing out, IMHO.
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Old 05-22-2019, 01:25 PM
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As much as I love that movie, their best stuff is in the Flying Circus show and the albums.
You realize, of course, that only the best stuff went into the albums.

I think the two funniest bits were the "Upper-Class Twit of the Year Competition" and "Hell's Grannies," both of which were in the same episode, IIRC. I was literally rolling on the floor laughing when I saw those!

"Argument Clinic," I think, comes in a close third. "You sniviling pile of parrot droppings!" is one of my all-time favorite lines.
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Old 05-22-2019, 01:52 PM
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This movie relies heavily upon the context in which it is watched. IMHO, more so than many other comedies.

Watching it with 10 other undergrads stuffed in a dorm room at 2AM on a Friday night? It is a cinematic masterpiece. Fantastic memories for everyone.

Watching it by yourself at 10AM on a sunny Thursday? Not so much.
I found The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be the same way - watching it alone, it was one of the worst movies I've seen, but the audience changes it entirely.
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Old 05-22-2019, 01:54 PM
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You are right. MP is shit, and anyone who would be stupid enough to use one of their character names as a username is a complete wanker.
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Old 05-22-2019, 02:01 PM
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I found The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be the same way - watching it alone, it was one of the worst movies I've seen, but the audience changes it entirely.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is AFAIK unique in the way the audience participation is the whole point of seeing the movie.

But I'm hard-pressed to think of any comedy that isn't way funnier and more enjoyable when watched with a large, appreciative audience than it is when you watch it alone.
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Old 05-22-2019, 02:18 PM
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I've been a big fan since I first saw the episodes rebroadcast on PBS in the early Seventies. Funny, clever, silly, surprisingly erudite, endlessly quotable. Holy Grail and Life of Brian are the best MPFC movies, but neither of them would even crack my Top Twenty, I have to say. I felt a burst of pride when my teenage sons, unprompted, began quoting MP to me.

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Well, there are two types of people: Those who appreciate Monty Python's absurdist humour, and those who are wrong.
Quite right!

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You are right. MP is shit, and anyone who would be stupid enough to use one of their character names as a username is a complete wanker.
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:22 PM
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Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do. Except perhaps my wife. And some of her friends. Oh yes, and Captain Johnson. Come to think of it, most people like a good laugh more than I do, but that's beside the point.
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:57 PM
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Old 05-22-2019, 04:01 PM
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I'm going to echo what some others have said -

Did you see the movie in a theater with and audience? Or did you watch it at home, alone? There is a big difference in enjoyment level between those two experiences.

Also, regarding bits going on too long, that IMHO is actually one of their signature techniques. Milking humor out of discomfort over a bit not ending as expected and continuing past where one would like it too end so that you start going, "C'mon, alright already...." but it keeps going and repeats again and again into a pile of redundant meaninglessness and ennui, causing the eyes to glaze over and the skin to start to itch on the back of the neck right where that one hair grows that sticks up out of your shirt collar even though you pluck it regularly it still seems to grow back immediately like some genetically programmed sentry on the lookout reporting back to all of the other body hairs.....(yeah, like that).
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Old 05-22-2019, 04:07 PM
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Old 05-22-2019, 04:10 PM
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The Pythons were fairly prolific. I'm a huge fan, but I'll also say a lot of it is hit or miss. What's good is really good, even iconic on occasion. But there's dreck too.

Their method seemed to be coming up with an interesting premise and following it through to the most absurd lengths. Lots of times it worked well, but not always. I think they succeeded best when it was a simple premise that gave way to funny consequences when followed to the extreme. Some examples from the TV series (and I'm intentionally choosing lesser known sketches):

- A pair of stereotypical mafia guys go to shake down a local business. Who is it? The army. They're demanding protection money from the most powerful institution in existence. "You've got a nice army base here, Colonel. Be a shame if anything were to... happen to it." That's a great premise.

- A man going through airport security acts incredibly suspiciously. To the utmost degree. And nobody cares. The humor here comes in just how blatant the guy's behavior is and his shamelessness.

- A group of soldiers is trapped behind enemy lines with rations for all but one. The commander decides one of them should do the honorable thing and commit suicide. He then blatantly cheats at drawing straws and counting one-potato two-potato when selecting who will do the deed. (I think you'd have to see that one to get it...)

- Adolph Hitler is alive and living in Britain. He's not disguised at all, merely calling himself "Mr. Hilter", and spends his time trying to make a comeback, while succeeding in influencing no one at all. He's seen giving speeches to bored children in the street.

Not everyone's cup of tea, but it's an interesting style of humor. As for the films, I think "Life of Brian" can be considered one of the greatest comedies of all time. Certainly their most coherent film, and it has something to say. It's the Python's commentary on organized religion, and I think it worked beautifully and remains relevant. I love Holy Grail, but I think Brian is clearly their best work.
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Old 05-22-2019, 04:25 PM
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I'm in that sad group of outsiders who enjoy Monty Python but think
SPOILER:
Meaning of Life is their best movie
.
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Old 05-22-2019, 04:52 PM
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I first heard of them when Another Monty Python Album showed up at our college radio station. I loved it and asked a DJ who did a comedy show to do it. He liked it, too, but couldn't figure out when to end it, since the sketched all segued into one another. I saw Holy Grail in a theater and had lost it before the opening credits were over. Moose bites can be very nasti.

Part of the disappointment in the OP is the Airplane! effect. ZAZ got us used to seeing fast-paced gag-a-minute comedy. Python predates it, and seems slow in comparison.

And much of Python's humor is based not upon absurdity, but the reactions to the people to the absurdity. "The Cheese Shop" is funny not because there's no cheese, but because Cleese starts naming cheeses far past the point where a person would give up. "The Dead Parrot" is so funny because Palin insists against all logic that the parrot is alive. In many ways, they are in the same vein as Andy Kaufmann, though he went even further with the concept.

Holy Grail is filled with that sort of absurdist comedy. Yes, a witch weighs as much as a duck but what makes it funny is that people accept the logic. The Black Knight continues to fight, completely oblivious to the fact he's losing limbs. The peasant talks about anarchism and King Arthur tries to argue with him.

And, for the record, the ending was absolutely brilliant.
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Old 05-22-2019, 04:53 PM
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Can't stand 'em, never could. Pretty much feel the same about all "British humor." Give me Rodney Dangerfield, Redd Foxx, etc. anytime.
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Old 05-22-2019, 09:09 PM
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When I was a kid watching "Monty Python" episodes on PBS, I would be howling with laughter. I tried watching some episodes a few years ago, and they didn't have the same effect on me.

I still think "Holy Grail" is pretty funny, like the discussion of how a moistened bint lobbing scimitars isn't a good basis for a system of government, or using the scientific method to determine if a woman is a witch. I saw it once in a theatre with a bunch of other Monty Python fans and...the other fans were SO ANNOYING! There were so many nerds trying to chime in with the quotes (like "I got better"), but nobody could get the timing right...

Last edited by hogarth; 05-22-2019 at 09:10 PM.
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Old 05-22-2019, 11:32 PM
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...Yes, a witch weighs as much as a duck....
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Old 05-23-2019, 01:08 AM
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The whole "not ending as you expected it to" and "going on past where it should have ended" (or "ending it in the middle, once the joke has been told") thing led traditional comics like Johnny Carson to conclude (at first, anyway) that the Pythons didn't know what they were doing.

Lorne Michaels and the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players on SNL, all of whom were strongly influenced by the Pythons, faced the same problem.
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Old 05-23-2019, 01:42 AM
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I'm in that sad group of outsiders who enjoy Monty Python but think
SPOILER:
Meaning of Life is their best movie
.
You are not the only one.

"But I didn't eat the Salmon mousse"

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Old 05-23-2019, 06:04 AM
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Old 05-23-2019, 06:27 AM
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Their method seemed to be coming up with an interesting premise and following it through to the most absurd lengths. Lots of times it worked well, but not always. I think they succeeded best when it was a simple premise that gave way to funny consequences when followed to the extreme. Some examples from the TV series (and I'm intentionally choosing lesser known sketches):

- A pair of stereotypical mafia guys go to shake down a local business. Who is it? The army. They're demanding protection money from the most powerful institution in existence. "You've got a nice army base here, Colonel. Be a shame if anything were to... happen to it." That's a great premise.
No, the whole premise is silly, and it's very badly written. I'm the senior officer here and I haven't had a funny line yet, so I'm stopping it.
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Old 05-23-2019, 06:48 AM
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Humour is subjective so I can understand that MPFC may not be everyone's cup of tea (although I pity those people), much in the same way I can't stand Mrs Brown's Boys but many people find that hilarious (I also pity those people).

Filmwise I prefer Life of Brian as the most coherent storyline; Holy Grail and Meaning of Life are both much more a bunch of individual sketches stitched together (and of course they also literally had a film of all their best sketches, "And Now For Something Completely Different").
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Old 05-23-2019, 07:28 AM
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You are right. MP is shit, and anyone who would be stupid enough to use one of their character names as a username is a complete wanker.
That's the sort of blinkered, Philistine pig ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage. Cite.

Regards,
Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern -schplenden -schlitter -crasscrenbon -fried -digger -dangle -dungle -burstein -von -knacker -thrasher -apple -banger -horowitz -ticoleensic -grander -knotty -spelltinkle -grandlich -grumblemeyer -spelterwasser -kürstlich -himbleeisen -bahnwagen -gutenabend -bitte -eine -nürnburger -bratwustle -gerspurten -mit -zweimache -luber -hundsfut -gumberaber -shönenddanker -kalbsfleisch -mittler -raucher von Hautkopft of Ulm
  #41  
Old 05-23-2019, 09:43 AM
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Pal, I get the fact that this movie is regarded as "one of the greatest movies of all time" and while, yes, it was groundbreaking for its time, I just am not a huge fan.
What movie? Later on people seem to be talking about Holy Grail later on, but no movie has been mentioned at this point.

I didn't think the Holy Grail was regarded as one of the best films ever. I thought The Life of Brian was consistently voted as best _comedy_ of all time. It's a much more solid movie.

If you want general python, the movie "And now for something completely different" is pretty representative of them.
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Old 05-23-2019, 10:24 AM
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That's the sort of blinkered, Philistine pig ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage. Cite.

Regards,
Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern -schplenden -schlitter -crasscrenbon -fried -digger -dangle -dungle -burstein -von -knacker -thrasher -apple -banger -horowitz -ticoleensic -grander -knotty -spelltinkle -grandlich -grumblemeyer -spelterwasser -kürstlich -himbleeisen -bahnwagen -gutenabend -bitte -eine -nürnburger -bratwustle -gerspurten -mit -zweimache -luber -hundsfut -gumberaber -shönenddanker -kalbsfleisch -mittler -raucher von Hautkopft of Ulm
You're no fun anymore.
  #43  
Old 05-23-2019, 10:36 AM
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You are not the only one.

"But I didn't eat the Salmon mousse"

"Holy shit! It's Mr. Creosote!"

"We're Protestants."
"It's wafer-thin."
  #44  
Old 05-23-2019, 11:44 AM
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I don't know if its just me, but Monty Python's style of humor is a bit too absurdist for my taste. I appear to be in a great minority as near all of my friends and family have ostracized me due to this simple fact. Am I alone or are there others who share this plight?
By the way, I know there is already a thread but I feel necroposting is a bit too overdone.
I mostly agree with the OP.
Monty Python is good, but I've never quite seen the "OMG" in it.
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Old 05-23-2019, 02:52 PM
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And much of Python's humor is based not upon absurdity, but the reactions to the people to the absurdity. "The Cheese Shop" is funny not because there's no cheese, but because Cleese starts naming cheeses far past the point where a person would give up. "The Dead Parrot" is so funny because Palin insists against all logic that the parrot is alive.
I think this nails it. Especially since, in their most successful material, there is a character who seems normal, to draw the audience in to the absurd universe.

Perhaps that's why I never cared for much of the animation. It was an absurd universe, but nobody was around to react to it, even if their reaction turned out to go way beyond logic.

One of the bits of animation that worked for me was in Life of Brian. Brian wants to put the graffito "Romans Go Home" on the citadel, the centurion catches him, and then absurdly treats him the way a Latin school master treats a pupil. "But this is motion towards, isn't it?" Then Brian writes it a hundred times, there is the sudden realization of the absurdity of the situation, Brian flees and is caught up by the desu ex machina of the flying saucer. And Brian recognizes that this is still an absurd universe, and drops out of it, back to his "normal" world. Brian the character is in the flying saucer, but not of the flying saucer.

Another bit that works is where God gives the knights of the Round Table the mission to seek the Holy Grail. Not only because God looks like a medieval painting of Himself, but because of the quick cuts between the knights ("Good idea, oh Lord!") and God ("OF COURSE IT'S A GOOD IDEA!"). Because, obviously, it's God - His ideas are going to be good. And the knights should have realized that - to think otherwise is absurd.

The ending to Holy Grail worked, but wasn't IMO very creative, But by that time, my sense of reality was so beat up that it fit, more or less.

But the tone was set for me by the very first sketch of MP I saw, Harold the Clever Sheep. The outsider, asking a perfectly reasonable question about why the sheep are up in trees, to receive the long, elaborate answer that it's all Harold's fault for trying to teach the sheep to fly. Because, according to the rules of that universe, it makes sense. Nobody wants to stand around a paddock for a couple of months, and be et.

But it continues, because of the immense commercial possibilities, should he succeed. Which transitions seamlessly into a discussion of those advantages. In French. And then you are drawn into a universe with absurd, but definite, rules, and those rules will be made clear, more or less. Once you grant that somebody would go to a clinic for an argument, it makes sense that I cannot argue unless you pay.

And accepting those rules made it all work. Not only did Kemal Ataturk have an entire menagerie, all called Abdul, people seeking a cat license would have the reference work proving it immediately to hand. And having produced it, got an immediate apology.

It didn't always work - I didn't care for that nice Mr. Hilter, nor Mr. Neutron, despite his ability to destroy whole galaxies with his wrist. But when it worked, it worked.

Regards,
Shodan

makes his escape thru Soft Toys
  #46  
Old 05-23-2019, 03:32 PM
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...Another bit that works is where God gives the knights of the Round Table the mission to seek the Holy Grail. Not only because God looks like a medieval painting of Himself, but because of the quick cuts between the knights ("Good idea, oh Lord!") and God ("OF COURSE IT'S A GOOD IDEA!"). Because, obviously, it's God - His ideas are going to be good. And the knights should have realized that - to think otherwise is absurd....
What really gets me giggling is God's peevishness that Arthur and the others don't understand that He's always going to have good ideas.

That, and the fact that Terry Gilliam used a picture of this guy for God's face: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._G._Grace
  #47  
Old 05-23-2019, 08:01 PM
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Life of Brian still stands up - because it had a point to it that's still relevant today - but much of the rest of the Python output is very, very dated. Comedy doesn't often age well.
  #48  
Old 05-23-2019, 08:18 PM
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People either like funny-clever songs or they don't. Personally the entire genre leaves me cold and I don't get Python (though Fawlty Towers rules). I also don't get Tom Lehrer, Frank Zappa (as a lyricist - he's a good songwriter), Weird Al Yankovic, etc etc. But what can I say, some people live for that stuff.
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Old 05-23-2019, 08:21 PM
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Come on, guys, the OP simply expressed that Monty Python's absurdist humor isn't his (her?) cup of tea. He didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition...
  #50  
Old 05-23-2019, 08:48 PM
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He didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition...
My friend, I am always ready for and expecting the Spanish Inquisition to attack while I'm posting something. It is when I am at my most vulnerable.
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