Tag Archives: Monty Python

It’s Been Real

Sure, the event coincides with the availability of a new 6-disc DVD called The Ernie Kovacs Collection which hits the shelves on April 19. But paying tribute to one of television’s true pioneers is always a good thing, so I have no problem spreading the word.

On April 12th, Keith Olbermann will moderate a panel discussion that will focus on the impact Ernie Kovacs has had on television and on specific creators, long after his death in a car accident in 1962. The program will incorporate a wide range of Kovacs’ work in its original form and some repackaged to address specific themes. 

Most of these shows, which have never been screened since their original airings, have been newly transferred from original 16mm kinescopes and curated by noted film/television historian Ben Model. Much of Kovacs’ works have been archived at the Paley Center since his widow Edie Adams delivered original kinescopes and tapes dating back to the 1970s.

Model will participate on the panel at The Paley Center along with comedian and Kovacs fan Joel Hodgson,(Mystery Science Theater 3000), humorist-comedian-writer Robert Smigel, Laugh In creator George Schlatter, and Jolene Brand, a Kovacs cast member on his ABC specials.

Video: The Aesop Broadcasting Company (Weekend Update, prostrate thyself and pay homage!)

Ernie Kovacs transformed television’s early era with offbeat humor, sight gags and lunacy that had not been seen before. Scholars have remarked that Kovacs understood the impact and possibilities of television before many of his contemporaries. In fact, Kovacs is credited with shaping the medium’s visual possibilities rather than simply putting a picture to a popular radio show. Pretty much any television host or program with a taste for the absurd can be traced back to Kovacs, from Monty Python, SNL and Pee Wee’s Playhouse to late night hosts like Carson, Letterman and Ferguson.

As Kovacs said. “nothing in moderation“.

Click here for more information about the event.

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Never Mind The Buzzcocks

Thanks to another recently converted-to-region free DVD player, I’ve been catching up on some great comedy from across the Big Pond. Although most of my also-converted money has been going for stand-up comedy shows, I’ve also been loading up on some bargains on comic panel shows like Mock The Week, 8 out of 10 Cats and an old favorite, Never Mind The Buzzcocks. In 2009, an excellent DVD was released featuring clips from the show’s lengthy run under recent host Simon Amstell with great featurettes and gag reels.

Amstell is a cocky, cheek host who (depending on which year’s hairstyle) looks like a cross between Michael Cera and a pre-weightlifting Carrot Top. The irreverent panel show features a host and two teams of comics and pop culture stars, many of whom are complete unknowns stateside but household words there, like longtime team captain Bill Bailey, Jack Dee, Frank Skinner, Catherine Tate, Frankie Boyle and Martin Freeman. Of course many pop culture celebrities would appear as guests to take the piss out of themselves and others, most of whom got into the spirit of the event, although when they didn’t (I’m talking to you, Lemmy!) that could be fun as well. Many appear on this DVD; two of the funniest are Russell Brand and Amy Winehouse, albeit for opposite reasons.

I first heard of the show years ago and tuned in because I thought it was actually about The Buzzcocks, one of the finest bands of the late 70s punk pop movement. (The show did get its title by mixing  the band name and the Sex Pistols album Never Mind The Bollocks). Although initially disappointed, I was soon swept up into the pulse of the show, which ranges from good sarcastic fun to sheer lunacy. Pop culture cows are gutted and nothing – and no one – is sacred. My younger daughter is a fan of the show, and this holiday we skipped the usual Sci-Fi marathons to watch every minute of this great collection.

Is there a Doctor in the house?

I used to watch the show on occasion as various cable packages over the years were sketchy on what UK programming might be included in the package. Perhaps like Monty Python and Benny Hill, it was the PBS station to the rescue once again. (Yet another reason to support their annual fund-raising drive when the envelopes arrive in December!) As with many successful UK shows, eventually the US tries to copy it. Hard to believe that I not only forgot that this happened with Buzzcocks, but also that the host of the US version was one of my favorites, Marc Maron. (The show lasted one season on vH-1.)

Some households gorge on college football during the Thanksgiving holidays.

I’ll take comedy every time.

The show’sWiki page and list of episodes.

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Monty Python, Again

No Spam here.

Monty Python: The Other British Invasion. Great DVD documentary about how the comedy troupe changed America…albeit by accident.

This two-disc documentary about the origins of Monty Python is an informative and enjoyable blend of archival information and contemporary interviews. There are no skits within, only occasional excerpts; instead the programs focus upon how the infamous troupe first met, overcame numerous obstacles and eventually became world-famous practitioners of absurdly silly comedy.

Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle all found that thread of madness in their youthful experiences that demonstrated they saw life a bit differently. And once they realized that there were others who shared this skewed vision, they quickly immersed themselves in a myriad of artistic endeavors until their paths finally crossed into this immortal configuration.

Read the full review at PopMatters.

***

R.I.P. Jay Reatard

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Blast From The Past – The Raves

Really, really fab!

Your collection, if like mine, contains several hidden gems that even you forget about over time. But when you stumble across them years later, you immediately know why you were hooked in the first place. With so many bands springing up in the post-Beatle era and beyond, how could you know about them all? Some incredibly talented ones never got too far outside of their zip code for one reason or another, but we all know there are diamonds in that rough…

One such band was The Raves, from Atlanta. Years after its release. their album Past Perfect Tense is still a sixteen-track breath of fresh air. Here’s what I wrote for TransAction a dozen years ago…

My God, two of them even *look* like John and Paul! This collection of Beatle-esque pop from the 1980s proves that along with The Flashcubes and The Toms there were many other great bands that didn’t get their due. Chuck, John and Jim Yoakum handled the guitar-bass-drums axis while Ken Kennedy added some flash lead guitar. Although the production immediately screams “local band”, the songs don’t – they’re pure New Wave pop.

 “Any Way You Can”, “Every Little Bit Hurts” and “Make Up Your Mind” are just three of the sixteen tracks that you can play in tandem with bands like Artful Dodger, The Jags and The Sinceros. “Tonight It’s Going To Be Great” is The Records via Buddy Holly and you’ll like the Elvis Costello nod on the intro to “Chastity”. Four guys weaned on classic pop rock who decided to make some of their own.

Go ahead – drop a few more names. The Rubinoos. Dwight Twilley. Sloan. Everly Brothers. Name any melodic or powerpop band you want…if you like them, you’ll like this. I have no idea what happened to the band after this – a very common tale – although Chuck did work with the late Graham Chapman of Monty Python.

But do try and track down this hard to find little gem – you will be richly rewarded.

The Raves at AllMusic.com

A couple of YouTube videos courtesy The Yoakum Channel.

An old interview at Bubblegum The Punk

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Dead Parrots

Monty_Box_p1050 box wrap no marks

Thank God it’s Python!

Argument Clinic

The Parrot Sketch

Silly Olympics

Job Interview

Ministry of Silly Walks

The Black Knight

The French Taunter

The Bridge of Death

Upper Class Twit of the Year

Bring Out Your Dead

Bonus track:

Spam, spam, spam, spam,your word here and spam

comedy mask

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Forty Years of Python

I want to start an argument

I want to start an argument

You’re either in or you’re out.

You either get it, or you don’t.

You can either recite the entire sketch by heart – hell, some entire movies by heart – or you can’t.

And if you’re in those latter camps, you’ll just never understand the clandestine language that Monty Python fans share. It’s like a secret handshake – overhear someone dropping a classic line about silly walks, or dead parrots, or Mary, Queen of Scots, and it’s an open invitation to join the conversation and be accepted all in one fell swoop. Skull and Bones never had anything this insidious, this lethal, this great. The Pythons might not have pioneered sketch comedy in Britain, but for reasons I (and they) can’t understand, they crossed The Big Pond and twisted our minds in a different way than Benny Hill or Peter Cook or even Peter Sellers could. What began as a cult is now an inseparable part of the American comedy fabric.

For the past 24 hours, you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing some combination of John Cleese and Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle hamming it up with newscasters, talk show hosts and…well, pretty much anyone who would have them. Michael Palin was traveling, but even the late Graham Chapman made an appearance (even though he had ceased to be…)

Why another British Invasion? It’s the fortieth anniversary of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and the surviving members of the troupe are here in the United States to accept an award and to revel in the six part series Almost The Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut). If you missed that ceremony tonight, click here. The six part documentary starts airing on IFC on October 18th.

Better yet? The series is available on DVD just nine days later(a link to my published review will follow in the coming days). This project is not yet another collection of broadcast clips, but a combination of recent interviews and archival footage that follows the troupe from inception to legend, featuring input from several of today’s leading comedic lights. I’s truly special.

So buckle up. And always look on the bright side of life.

Here’s a link to a poor soul who had his mind twisted. As for me…well, I’m a lumberjack and I’m O.K.

 Forty Years of Monty Python

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Happy Birthday, Tom Lehrer

Man could tickle those ivories, too.

Man could tickle those ivories, too.

Tom Lehrer is a ripe old 81 today, although that mind is probably still whip-crack smart. One of the first and most popular musical satirists, along with contemporaries like Mort Sahl he was among the new wave of intellectual comedians, although Tom did it best with song rather than story. It would be tough to draw a line back from any satirist, whether a political pundit (i.e. Bill Maher) or ribald songman (Stephen Lynch) without intersecting Lehrer somewhere along the way. Mark Russell might have been more political, Steve Allen more broad; Tom Lehrer was probably your ideal bridge between Mad Magazine and adulthood.

Tom Lehrer’s website.

For those old enough to remember, I’m preaching to the choir, of course. But a generation (or two?) who have grown up laughing at SNL’s Weekend Update (or the latest incarnation, Best Week Ever) might want to check out That Was The Week That Was, featuring a brilliant cast and group of writers (including Monty Python members and even writer Roald Dahl!). As always, an American version was adopted and the names involved are stunners – everyone from Woody Allen and Nichols & May to Gene HackmanBuck Henry and Alan Alda. Lehrer wrote satirical songs for the show, and a collection of them were released after the show left the air. That’s about when I discovered him and realized he was much funnier than the Allan Shermans of the world (no slight on Sherman – Lehrer is sharper than most). Literate and witty – imagine that – a deadly combination.

Happy Birthday, sir!

...and not a bad time to be getting on board, either.

Poisoning Pigeons In The Park

The Masochism Tango

The Vatican Rag

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