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The Beatles of Comedy

In an article coinciding with the release of a book containing all the scripts of the TV show Monty Python's Flying Circus, the Atlantic dissects the humor of the comedy troupe Monty Python. The most classic example of the TV series' comedy is the Dead Parrot Sketch, which was a reworking of an earlier skit set at a car dealership.   

It is absurd from the start, but its absurdity represents a compact, dreamlike way of telling the truth. This time the role of the aggrieved customer is taken by Cleese—who plays him not as a straight man but as a Brylcreemed, raincoated weirdo. In the world of Monty Python, even a guy with a valid beef is a lunatic. As for Palin’s salesman, this time his denials of the undeniable have an existential audacity: he is ready to claim, and keep claiming, that the palpably dead parrot is just resting. Cleese, indignantly brandishing the bird’s corpse, is the victim of the ultimate—the archetypal—rip-off; but he remains an Englishman. Nutty as he is, he declines to vault over the desk and punch Palin’s lights out. Language is the only weapon available to him. So his tamped-down rage becomes a torrent of increasingly baroque synonyms for death, which Cleese and Chapman composed with the aid of a thesaurus.

When that outburst of manic poetry is over, the Pythons don’t bother forcing the parrot sketch toward a well-made conclusion. The quest for punch lines bored them. Instead the sketch collapses into a series of bizarre digressions, and finally Cleese’s character turns to the camera and declares that the situation has become “too silly.” And that’s that: we move on to the next item.

And that is the reason why the show didn't last long -the troupe refused to drag an idea out to fill time. With their best efforts compressed into three and a half TV seasons, they live on in recordings forever. Link -via Metafilter


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