Six comic delights -- five British guys, and one American. Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.
These six guys created "Monty Python's Flying Circus," a groundbreaking comedy series made of skits. They were sometimes gross, naughty, and they were always strange. And their bizarre humour has influenced everything from "Saturday Night Live" to Jasper Fforde.
For dozens of episodes, these guys served up skits on every insane subject you can think of: defense against fresh fruit, the Ministry of Funny Walks, sitcoms based on the family life of Attila the Hun, lupin bandit Dennis Moore, obscene children's books, semaphores, racing twits, village idiots, goats, psychotic barbers, Vikings, "ALBATROSS!", killer sheep, lobotomies, pantomime horses, Tudor pornography, Royal Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things, the dirty vicar, and giant alien blancmanges who are turning people into Scotsmen.
Certain sketches have reached the point of immortality, especially John Cleese's "dead parrot" sketch, in which he plays an increasingly peeved guy who is trying to return a parrot that was "nailed to its perch." Also Eric Idle playing the obnoxious guy who constantly thinks of sex, and refers to it as "wink wink, nudge nudge... say no MORE!" And of course, THE SPANISH INQUISTION, whose chief weapons are fear, surprise...
There are also some running jokes, like the pantomime Princess Margaret, and a mysterious knight who walks through hitting people with a dead chicken. And of course, Terry Gilliam's cartoons interspersing the skits -- goofy, surreal, sort of like Saturday morning cartoons if Dali were doing the animating.
Okay, not every skit is funny -- the "Mouse Problem" sketch takes a great idea and stretches it thin. But more often than not, they ARE quite funny. They also mock just about anything, from government officials to art to censorship to the military ("It's DANGEROUS, sir!").
There are also a pair of live discs, in which the guys also do their best little skits and songs onstage, and they're almost as funny onstage as they are on a soundstage. They make a nice bonus for Python fans, and are fun viewing after you've seen all fourteen discs of the TV show.
And all of this by men who often dress up as the world's most unattractive girls, with only a tiny budget and minimal cast. The 70s production values are omnipresent, and they are decidedly unpolitically correct. But in a weird way, these only make it even funnier than it would have been otherwise -- the writing and acting are pure, raw, unrefined comedy.
Probably the most memorable actors here are Cleese and Idle. Cleese does his psychotic shrieks better than anyone, as well as having that rubbery lanky body that twists itself into Silly Walks. And Idle not only has amazing comic timing, but he can adjust his voice and body language to... anything, from domestic goddesses to sleazy TV hosts. But the other actors are quite good too, especially Michael Palin, especially when he's playing someone timid or crazy.
This classic comedy series not only became a pop culture staple, but it's still fresh and funny more than thirty years after it was made. The full series is definitely a must-have.
And now for something completely different...