Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Monty Python is Not a Pet Snake

I'm really surprised at how much I enjoyed the international satellite broadcast of Monty Python Live (mostly). Why? Because I was never a fan of the legendary British comedy troupe. As a Jamaican kid clicking the converter, I didn't get the humour in Monty Python's Flying Circus. Next! In high school I didn't get the reference to "is your wife a goer, wink, wink" and as for the Lumberjack Song, I wanted a red plaid lumberjack jacket like the white Canadian kids in my school ("NO!" scoffed my Jamaican mother) but I sure wasn't going to watch "that weird show" to find out more. After seeing the farewell performance of the septuagenarian cult comedy geniuses, I will venture to try one of their films. My Python friends recommend, Life of Brian.

Cineplex is presenting the reunion show again on July 23rd and 31st at theatres across Canada. They are also showing the Meaning of Life (July 24), Monty Python's Life of Brian (July 27) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (July 30).

Python fans can expect to see original members (John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin)  re-enact some of the favourite sketches live on stage (here's where the "mostly" comes in) and the inclusion of deceased Graham Chapman in television clips in between the live stage set ups.  So, if you're familiar with the dead parrot, fish slaps, and the Spanish Inquisition you won't be disappointed. The show is also full of songs, including the famous "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", the politically incorrect, "I Like Chinese" as well as a couple of dirty little ditties (Penis song anybody?) in which audience participation makes it more fun (but okay if you remain silent and just laugh along) to follow the bouncing ball. 

My Python screening companion was quick to educate me about the older woman on stage with the boys. Apparently "Python Girl", Carol Cleveland a.k.a "Carol Cleavage" was only supposed to have a been part of a couple of sketches on the original television show, but went on to become a regular and was also cast in many of their films. Carol plays a prominent role in this stage performance, and is a delight in the Spam sketch.

If you're new to Python, the show includes a Chorus Line fit team of nubile young dancers and singers that flesh out the extravaganza. London's O2 Arena where the live event took place, has a large stage to fill and the addition of the dancers manage to keep the mood and the eyes occupied between and during the performances. They are hilariously effective in the aforementioned Penis song lead by Eric Idle (complete with candy-coloured penis cannons), and especially so in the choreographed take on the Silly Walk, which is obviously too physical for the ageing comedians, but which needed to be referenced.

Fan or not, a wide audience can enjoy the men sitting around trying to out do each other in how poor they were as kids sketch (You had a wall? Paradise! We had a corner of a room with no roof.), the bit with the two middle age ladies (Cleese and Idle) watching television and the exploding Penguin, the career development knee-slapper, and television clips of Philosophers on the football pitch, a matronly English women's group re-enacting the Battle of Pearl Habour, and many subversive animated sketches. The two-tiered stage, decked out like a vaudeville show, will remind Pythons of the Flying Circus, but even newbies will be entertained by the kitchy atmosphere. My audience, young AND old (remember the average age of the guys on stage) were all howling with laughter, and so was I!

I don't know if it was the satellite feed or the sound at the Scotiabank Cinema that needed tweaking, but the sound in the first half of the show sounded  a bit muffled, but after the intermission there were no technical glitches marring the even funnier second act. No doubt with it having been recorded, there won't be any such issues to contend with. Happy viewing. Maybe you'll see me at the upcoming screening of Monty Python's Life of Brian.


photos courtesy of Monty Python's facebook page.

Friday, 4 July 2014

James Quandt on Satyajit Ray and Zabrina Chevannes on A Nurse's Worst Nightmare!

James Quandt, TIFF Cinematheque's Senior Programmer and I chat about the Satyajit Retrospective (on now until August 17) and nurse and standup comedian Zabrina Chevannes and I talk about laughter mental health, and the other talents that are part of her upcoming show, A Nurse's Worst Nightmare. Have a look/listen at the segment below.


I was reviewing past coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and realized that as good as it is to use social media, I m...