Schuppel’s Scoop: And now for something completely different (a Monty Python Tribute)

Claire Schuppel, Arts & Life Editor

Humor is a universal language. It can serve as social commentary (as mentioned in my column on satire), it can bring people to work together to build comedic stories or it can just be ridiculous and meaningless. I have continued to notice throughout my life that my favorite kind of comedy is the last of those options, most notably with the comedy troupe Monty Python. 

For peers of mine who aren’t familiar with the makeup of Python, it was started by Michael Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, the late Graham Chapman and Terry Jones, who passed most recently. They all found success in their own avenues, but they will always be known for their collaborative work. 

Monty Python was the first introduction to real humor that I saw as a child (besides a Steve Martin SNL compilation DVD), and it has shaped my sense of humor to this day. I remember vividly laying on the living room floor with the flashing lights of the opening credits for “The Holy Grail” lighting up the pitch black room. I was likely four or five years old at the time, so I was able to take away the main things that kids love in that movie: using coconuts to pretend you are riding a horse and the idea that an innocent white rabbit could be murderous. It was revolutionary.

(from left to right) Monty Python’s Cleese, Gilliam, Palin, Jones, Idle, Chapman. (Ben Martin)

Around 16 years later, I was reminded of how great Python was because I finally got to watch “Life of Brian” a few months back—another I wanted to watch as a child, but that is not as family friendly. I had not laughed that hard in ages. During winter break, my mom and I revisited “The Holy Grail,” and now that I can read well, I was shedding tears of laughter by the end of those colorful opening credits. I have since shown my roommate and a few others these movies for the first time, as I forgot they were not fundamental elements of everyone’s childhoods. 

My Python renaissance has led me to more information about their media and most notably, my first watch through of “Flying Circus,” a program so beloved that it got Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and George Harrison to fund their future film endeavors. I had seen clips of the program via my oldest sibling’s iPod nano, my favorite being their Spam sketch. Being able to understand and appreciate the multigenerational appeal of Python has been a great gift recently.

A still from “The Holy Grail.” (FilmPublicityArchive)

A unique part of what makes Python easy for generations to love is the timeless comedy value that they have. In an interview with Idle and Cleese, Idle says, “…if you look at early ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and then Chevy’s doing Gerald Ford…you have to remember the context in which the jokes are being made. Whereas for Python, we never had to bother with that.” When sketches are centered around silly walks or dead parrots, they can be appreciated for much longer than a sketch about the 2012 presidential primaries. Even with their projects like “Life of Brian,” we will always be surrounded by religion or classic literature. Pulling inspiration from those sources, or just creating something silly and fun, can create work that our generation and beyond will continue to cherish and share. 

The men of Python brought humor and light to every atmosphere, with the most touching example being at Graham Chapman’s memorial service in 1989. It was yet another gift they provided for the public while mourning the loss of one of their group mates; it was a beautiful and hysterical tribute. Beginning with Cleese’s poking fun at Chapman and ending with “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from “Life of Brian,” it was a reminder of the importance that Python has to me and so many others. 

I will be eternally indebted to Monty Python for the foundation they gave to me with my sense of humor. Comedy is something I cherish and often seek in the media I consume, and the majority of that comedy is off-the-wall in a Python reminiscent manner. I will be rewatching “The Holy Grail” and all of their other works for the rest of my life, laughing about holy hand grenades and the Knights Who Say “Ni!” along the way.

Claire Schuppel is a sophomore from Lakewood, Ohio. She is the Arts and Life Editor for the Carroll News. You can reach her at [email protected].