If re-watching Monty Python’s Life of Brian last night has taught me anything, it’s that the three films and a TV show that the legendary English comedy troupe managed to bless us with are, in my meaningless opinion, some of the finest pieces of media ever produced by a multi-cellular organism. I’m sure that this is nothing new though, as the three films are so universally well liked by everyone that I don’t actually think I’ve heard anyone openly jeer at them. That is, nobody except Derek, but honestly screw Derek.
Yet somehow, despite their ubiquitous nature in both the comedy and film worlds, as well as the endless references that people seem to make to them, there are still many sad, hopeless fellas out there who have yet to be exposed to their brilliance. If you happened to be one of the “people” I’m referring to,than you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a comprehensive guide to navigating these comedic epics.
Start With- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975): The one that everybody seems to like the most The Holy Grail seems to be many people’s first introduction to the world of the Pythons. I know for a fact that it was mine at least, and I fondly remember watching it for the first time at a friend’s house. I knew for a fact that I liked it, even though I didn’t understand a word of it.
This title is well earned, mainly due to the fact that it’s the most digestible of all of the Python media. I use the word “digestible” because of the fact that while it is the most easy to follow for newcomers, this is still a Python film, which means that it still fires off jokes and weird, high concept visuals at the rate of a rabid money on speed.
Centering on King Arthur’s quest to find the fabled holy grail, the film consists of several semi self contained scenes loosely strung together by the main plot. Most of the characters are played by the Pythons themselves, who portray everything from three headed giants to peasants with very staunch opinions on governmental systems. What also helps make this one so accessible is that thanks to the millions of obnoxious b*stards out there who constantly make (often incorrect) references to this film, even the unitiatied should be familiar with some of the jokes.
Fun because why not: The film was funded in part by the band Pink Floyd, who were die hard fans of the show.
Continue With- Life of Brian (1979): Now I know what you’re thinking; “What a lazy jerk, he’s just telling us to watch them in release order!” Well that’s just how it turned out OK, JEEEZZ.
Monty Python’s second film outing goes further back in time to take on the biblical era, and follows the adventures of Brian Cohen as he is mistaken for the messiah. As always, hilarity ensues, with the film poking fun at everything from biblical stories to the Roman occupation of Judea, and even space aliens.
Structurally, it sticks the closest to its primary narrative out of all three films, following Brian closely as he gets caught up in shenanigans all around Jerusalem. It doesn’t stray too much from the tried and true Python formula, and just like The Holy Grail, is comprised of a variety of distinct bits. It also has the mother of all musical finales.
Fun fact because I need to hit the word count: After EMI backed out of funding the film, George Harrison of the Beatles created Handmade films, and raised enough money to fund the film. English rock stars really like Monty Python.
And Finally – The Meaning of Life (1983): My personal favorite (and ironically the least favorite of the Python’s themselves) of the three films, The Meaning of Life throws the concrete narrative out the window in favor of being an anthology of sketches very, very loosely centered on the stages of life. This one acts more like an extended episode of the show than a conventional film, which is why I recommend that it should cap off your Python viewing experience.
While the other two had a story to fall back on, this is Monty Python in its purest form, so those who are going in unprepared might get lost very quickly as it covers a lot of ground, including but not limited to a birthday party during World War I, sexual education, morbid obesity, colonialism, and talking fish. This film also contains a ludicrous amount of musical numbers that cover everything from our role in the universe to seiman. All of them are bangers.
Once the credits roll on this one, then congratulations; we can finally begin to reintegrate you back into society!
Fun Fact because information is good: Terry Jones blew a large chunk of the film’s budget on the “Every Sperm is Sacred Sequence” without telling the other Pythons.
Can’t Get Enough? So the credits have rolled on The Meaning of Life, and all of a sudden you have a very empty feeling in your stomach. Well fear not, true believer, because many episodes of the original Monty Python’s Flying Circus series can be found illegally on Youtube! By this point, it’s really just more of what you’ve experienced, but this time in a nice bite sized package.
Jonah Nink is a Freshman at UIC currently study English and communications. Listen to him talk on “The Longplay”, every Tuesday from 9pm to 10pm on UIC Radio.