Monty Python broke sketch comedy out of the parlour room and into the mainstream of the British consciousness.
Issues of class and status, already the meat and bread of the 60s satire boom, were handled with a surrealism, subversion and irreverence that was unparalleled then and arguably now.
But will their reunion expose these septuagenarian sorcerers or are they now about as relevant as a dead parrot?
It is tempting to think of the one-off theatre show as a museum piece. Recent remarks by John Cleese on comedy (“I don’t think the writing is as good as it used to be”) and society (middle-class culture giving over to a “yob culture”) might suggest this. The Pythons came from an era where class divisions were more marked than now and a nation was busy shaking them off. The establishment was still able to be characterised as buffoonish and Blimp-like, though Python had a handle on the emerging middle class like few else.
Today, social division is an issue that still exists but defies easy caricature, obscured by apparently democratising technological advances and a redefinition of social aspirations.
However, anyone who thinks the laugh is on Python need only look at sketch comedy now to see their legacy is alive, well and bringing an influence to bear every year at that hotbed of comedic ambition, the Edinburgh Fringe.
Next to the efforts of some of the fresh-from-university sketch troupes of today, Python might not look so strange. In fact they might even feel positively edgy. Either way, it is hard to find a review of sketch comedy without an allusion to Python in it.
You could argue that this might say more about today’s acts than Python’s influence. That would be a disservice.
Bring on the Pythons. Let the Circus fly again.
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