Monty Python Speaks



Monty Python Speaks is a book that gathers decades of interviews into one chronological source. In and of itself, that is a fantastic idea, and I don't know how you could screw that up. 

Does that mean I can recommend this? Well, with some qualifications, sure.

First of all, there is little here that will be shocking or revelatory. I have read several books on Python and I've seen the documentaries on Netflix. If you have an interest in what they did before coming together as a six person troupe, there is a wealth of material out there to go through. You can see the different factions and how they worked in British television before the initial run of the series.

This book captures some of the negotiations and the discussions and will allow the business associates a voice that doesn't really come out in the documentaries. So, you can get some of that here. In fact, I wish there were more books. That's a pet peeve of mine, and I don't know how to get over it. I remember reading a book that had the scripts of the show Ripping Yarns, and I loved it. Very little of that ended up in this book because it only involved two of the Pythons and no one thought to interview them about it.

However, this brings up my chief complaint with this book and that is, they really should have annotated each excerpt with a date and time of interview. It doesn't do you any good to go through the chronological history without telling the reader, "so-and-so said this on Feb 4, 1976 when he was in a foul mood and angry at that other son of a bitch who said something in return on April 8, 1977 when he found out what had been said about him."

You will begin to understand why Terry Gilliam is a bit of a pain in the ass about things because there are ample statements from everyone as to why that is. And then, in return, you'll discover that John Cleese was very much a pain the ass from the beginning because everyone seems to say so in their rather polite way. 

Someone could write an entire series of books and detail why Gilliam and Cleese are absolute pains in the various asses of everyone who comes into contact with them. Not sure if those would sell, but there you go.

Second, the book is missing contributions from Graham Chapman (who died, of course, after a lifetime of being a pain in the ass and had serious issues) and from Eric Idle (who is very much alive, is a nominative pain in the ass like we all are, sometimes, and likely didn't care to contribute anything).

Third, this is the updated version and carries through the diagnosis of dementia for Terry Jones (a right miserable pain in the ass about things, as you'll read) right after their farewell run of shows at the O2 arena. No mention that that's what Led Zeppelin did as well, and I've always wondered who else might use the O2 to tell everyone "we're done, now go fuck off."

Clearly, Idle told everyone to fuck off and kept the money he made from Spamalot, so maybe there's a book in that I need to go read. If you look at how successful the Broadway show was, you come away wondering why they didn't do more with that and expand into the larger Python universe with more songs and more shows. There's a book there, too!

I thought there should have been more material with regards to Python's tour of Canada and the United States. There could be a whole book on that. And the absence of any real commentary from Idle, aside from some one-liners that deliver some zings, cripples the narrative. 

There is a wealth of back and forth from Cleese, Michael Palin (who everyone loves and no bad words are said about him because he was easy to get along with and was not a pain in anyone's ass, ever),  and Jones and Gilliam that significantly advances the reader's understanding of their various projects. You will learn exactly why they made two disappointing films and two great films and you'll learn why everyone seemed to have been disappointed in everything regardless of whether it was successful or not.

Oh, and someone should write an entire goddamned book about their goddamned albums because they are, without question, entirely ignored by a world that should be reintroduced to the comedy album format. Goddamn it all anyway.

For completists only, in other words.

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