Monty Python George Arthur - Essay

George Arthur

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Unlike the media recreations of [Lenny] Bruce, Monty Python doesn't care about being loveable. If Monty was, say, a traveler on a train, he would be someone to avoid. Python is as cheerfully mindless, cruel, vulgar and gross as any cross-sampling of midwest auto dealers. They create grotesqueries of monumental distastefulness (on [Monty Python Matching Tie & Handkerchief], an unlikely British mum skinning and deep-frying a dog while a media-modulated doctor's voice compares the human brain to a fish), but they make you laugh. They turn the most threadbare—and for Americans, obscure—of comic conventions (Australians as hard-drinking blockheads, actors as idiots) into some of their best routines.

The force that makes this kind of inanity work is their vision of a conventional world gone mad—a sophisticate's slapstick landscape, laughed at from a cynic's remove. Priceless routines which first surfaced on their two largely unnoticed … releases, Another Monty Python Record and Monty Python's Previous Record, developed visually in the television shows and recapitulated on T&H, offer an absurdist congruity to their work which enables the audience … to laugh at a world where all food is inedible, all daily activities are as mad as [Lewis] Carroll's exemplary Hatter, and nobody knows when to expect the Spanish Inquisition….

Nearly everybody gets cuffed about on the album, but there's a nasty edge of class snobbery to a good deal of it. If it represents a chance taken …, it must be counted a failure of transcendance…. Snobbery knows no class lines, but the Oxford-Cambridge background of the Pythonians makes any kind of democratic raffishness a little strained. That great leveler, the tube, takes away a lot of potential sting, making it hard to say who the joke's on.

George Arthur, "Another Monty Python Review," in Crawdaddy (copyright © 1975 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co., Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), December, 1975. p. 70.