Parody, litotes and satire
I was too young to be allowed to watch the first series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus when it aired on TV, but I did catch the second and subsequent series.
There was a lot that was pretty average in most of the episodes and I’m convinced that they are now viewed as ground-breaking not because they were laugh-a-minute shows, but because of the open-ended and nonsensical nature of the sketches and the ease with which the occasional really funny parts could be repeated ad nauseum by schoolkids in the country’s playgrounds.
And now Terry Jones has died, becoming the second of the Pythons to have “shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible”.
Subsequent to the Flying Circus series, Jones’ Ripping Yarns productions (co-written with Michael Palin) were, and remain, a joy to watch and, as an amateur historian, he successfully challenge orthodoxy, writing, for example, about the medieval era that:
A lot of what we assume to be medieval ignorance is, in fact, our own ignorance about the medieval world.
He also got to voice the best ever line in any of the Python productions…
better than: It’s only a wafer-thin mint, sir…
better than: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
better than: Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.
and even better than: PININ’ for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?
’tis simply this: He’s not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy.
And here’s the limerick:
There once was a man so imbued
With humour that verged on the lewd
That he took of his clothes
And sat in repose
And played on his organ when nude!