Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Monty Python toffs about as funny as a dead parrot: Not funny, never have been and never will be

Unfunny: John Cleese and parrot

I was in the cinema the other day watching an age-inappropriate film. It was 22 Jump Street, the American slacker comedy about two thick cops who go back to school to crack a drugs ring. I'd laughed like an imbecile at the first one (21 Jump Street. See what they did there?), so the thought of two hours of brainless fun enticed.

I was, by about 25 years (or a quarter-of-a-century!) the oldest one in there. But it was the film previews before the main event that most stick in the mind.

The majority were for similar dumbass movies in which things go badly wrong for idiot American males. The audience laughed like drains and made mental notes to go see them.

And then something amazing happened. As if an X-Man with a freeze gun had sprayed the audience, they instantly stopped what they were doing, hands paused half-way from popcorn box to mouth, silence reigned and furrowed brows spread. For up on the screen was a preview for something that they could not comprehend.

What they were watching were some old men performing what were called sketches. One seemed to be about a parrot that might, or might not, be dead. In another, a man with a handkerchief on his head and wearing shorts seemed to shout loudly about something.

Afterwards, when normal order was resumed, the audience looked at each other with nervous laughter to check what they had seen had really been described as comedy. It was, of course, an advert for movie house live coverage of Monty Python's sell-out London reunion at the O2. The Oxbridge-educated millionaires are, as you will know, back for a sell-out rerun of the "ground-breaking" comedy which "revolutionised" TV back in the Seventies.

But here's the real news. Those kids at 22 Jump Street were right. Monty Python is NOT funny, never has been and never will be. It was, and still is, a mass deception forced on the population and no one dares say otherwise, because the Establishment has given it the thumbs-up.

Don't believe me? Watch the aforementioned Dead Parrot sketch and be honest with yourself. If you laugh out loud, you need to see a doctor. I'm beginning to wonder if, back in the laugh-deprived Seventies, the English former public school boarders in charge of television connived with the "authorities" to put something in the water.

This nationwide doping made everybody accept what was manifestly not true. That Mssrs Cleese, Palin, Idle etc (I can't be bothered to list the rest) were comic geniuses and that shouting and silly walking were not tedious, but actually hilarious.

Monty Python was humour for the aforementioned boarders, emotionally under-developed posh lads who really missed their mums and tried to make light of that fact by putting on mock working-class shop steward voices with their chums and farting under the bedclothes. How they all brayed.

Of course, as is the way with England, all these chinless lads went on to be our leaders in politics, TV and, sad to say, journalism. While in the Seventies the rest of the nation gawped at their television sets with incomprehension at the inanity of the "comedy" (the "you think you were poor" sketch wouldn't get past the pilot stage on ITV3 today), those who could laugh the loudest did so. And they're doing it all over again.

Those (mainly middle-aged male) newspaper critics were out in force last weekend, like Eton sleepers, falling over themselves to praise the Emporer's New Clothes of comedy as if it were lights out in the dorm all over again.

If I were looking for a suitable ending for this piece, I might say that Monty Python's comedy was always "stiff, bereft of life, rests in peace", maybe was always "ex-comedy". But it wouldn't really be funny, so I won't.

  • Mike Gilson is Editor of the Belfast Telegraph

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