5/14/2006

The joys of an undiscovered Monty Python record!

These days my time-killing habit of choice is to look up articles on Wikipedia. I'll spend hours looking up my interests. I've learned more than I ever need to learn about the lineage of certain video games. I recently looked up the digestive process because despite being 32, the whole thing is a bit of a mystery to me. But, today, all this rooting around on the site led to a piece of absolute gold.

Yes, I've discovered a Monty Python album I've never heard before. The Hastily Cobbled Together for a Fast Buck Album, which has never been released, but is available online. It consists of material that never made it anywhere else. Last night, I watched a couple of episodes of Flying Circus, so it was on my mind. I'm so happy these are being shown over the air again.

One reason I'm so enchanted by radio are the Monty Python albums. My dad had an LP of the Holy Grail album. When I was six and learned how to use the record player, I listened over and over. This was in the days before the VCR, so there was no chance of me actually seeing the film. I don't think my parents realized I listened to it so much, given that there were swear words on it.

I picked up a cassette of the The Contractual Obligation album when I was 11 or 12, and listened to it over and over again. This is the one that's mostly singing, but there's an absurdity to it that perhaps explains why I'm such a contrarian, why I insist on confusing people when I should be courting their favor. I've lived a life of contradictions, self-imposed paradoxes, reveling in obscurity and afraid of the scrutiny that comes with attention.

During the heydey of Napster, I sought out other Monty Python albums. There aren't many, but they were not very easy to find living in Lynchburg. In college, of course, I pretended I had outgrown all of that, when in fact, I became more of a Firesign Theater kind of person. The two groups have a lot in common, though to me, Firesign only had a small window in which they were any good. Python had a built-in quality control meter in John Cleese, who stopped performing when he felt the material was feeling tired. This was the man who knew to quit after two series of Fawlty Towers, and who walked away from the Flying circus in the last year. Eric Idle, on the other hand, has always sought to make as much money as he could off of the legacy of the group, most successfully with Spam-a-lot, which I thought might have been okay, until I heard the album on Rhapsody. Recycled material.

But, hearing this undiscovered (to me, at least) album is such a nice thing to have happened today. There's actually a treasure trove of stuff on this site, and I'm going to dip into it sparingly. There will never be any new Python material, just as there will never be another good Terry Gilliam film. That time is over.

Am I guilty of dipping too much into the well of nostalgia? What becomes of all of this looking back? There's a lot of great comedy on BBC Radio 4, but what about in this country? Who are the great comedians who can make a proper go of it in audio only?

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