There is a best way for recreating a favorite Monty Python moment.
You're in an ordinary conversation with a group of people. Perhaps you feel a twitch of annoyance with everyone present. Suddenly a line of dialogue bubbles up from that ever percolating part of your brain in which life's humorous moments make their last stand. (And what a joyful part of the brain that is.) You blurt out the line.
Everyone looks at you like you're crazy.
David Pierce, the scenic designer for the just opened Good Company Players production of "Monty Python's Spamalot" -- the Broadway musical based mostly on the classic 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" -- has done the "line blurt" thing more than once.
"I've been known to suddenly say, 'I've got no option but to sell you all for scientific experiments!' " says Pierce, referring to a famous line of dialogue from the movie "The Meaning of Life."
If you aren't an M.P. fan, that reference likely will sail over your head higher than a flying cow tossed from a French castle. But if you're familiar with the "Every Sperm is Sacred" scene from "Meaning of Life," you just might find Pierce's line about scientific experiments so funny you explode. (But not like someone who just ate "a wafer-thin mint.")
A certain segment of the population clicks big-time with the Python style of humor. And it has for many years. Ever since the British comedy ensemble started with the "Monty Python's Flying Circus" TV show in 1969, there have been fans who are, well, fanatical. They're the ones who can recite word for word the "French taunter" scene from "The Holy Grail." ("Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!")
Or they'll happily explain the origin of the "scientific experiments" line. (The character who says it is a Catholic father with an unusually large brood of children. As in a couple of hundred.)
Often times, the Python taste is developed in childhood.
"Growing up in Southwestern Ohio back in the 1970s, my older brothers were hooked on it, just addicted, and they kind of got me started," Pierce says.
To be sure, not everyone appreciates the wacky Python blend of low-brow gags and pointed satire. But the funny thing is that some of the best-known moments have sort of soaked over the years into the pop culture through osmosis. Even if you're the type to turn up your nose at "weird British humor," you've probably heard of the famed Black Knight -- the insistent fellow who gets both arms chopped off, only to exclaim, "It's just a flesh wound!" It might even get a giggle out of you.
With 2005's "Spamalot," developed primarily by Python star Eric Idle, with music by John Du Prez, there's a nice balance between deadpan insider humor and the more general sweetness of an amiable Broadway musical comedy. By loosely following the plot of "The Holy Grail," the audience gets to see some of the most famed Python moments. (There are no dead parrots or scientific experiments, but if you're looking for the Knights of Ni or the Killer Rabbit, you won't be disappointed.)
There are some notable moments from other Python movies as well, though not always in the same context. A good example is "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," probably the best known number of the Python canon, which shifts from a song sung on a cross to one offered as general sunny inspiration. The musical is also big on satire of other Broadway shows, including comic slaps at such giants as Mel Brooks and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
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