Monty Python’s Almost The Truth

Netflix offers an awesome array of content — including documentaries. If, like me, you are a fan of Monty Python, I recommend tuning in to Monty Python’s Almost The Truth, a six-part documentary about the troupe that really bent the comedy arc.

Good documentaries answer your questions. In the case of Monty Python, there are lots of those questions. How did these guys get together in the first place? What caused them to develop such a hilarious, zany, irreverent, subversive view of the world? How did a lone American break into this supremely British group? Who came up with ideas like the fabled Parrot Sketch or the “bring out your dead” scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Why did animation feature so prominently in what they did? Who came up with the great songs, like the ditty about Brave Sir Robin? And how and why did the group spin apart?

This documentary answers those questions. Made in 2009, it featured interviews with the then-surviving Pythoners, as well as comments from other people who were involved and well-known fans of the group talking about what it was like to watch their work. (I recommend fast forwarding through the comments by Russell Brand, who comes across as supremely self-absorbed and irritating.) I particularly enjoyed learning about the early days of the members of the group — including the important role now-forgotten figures like David Frost inadvertently played in the group coming together — as well as the TV and radio shows that influenced them. Later episodes drill down into the Flying Circus years, their battles with BBC censors, their creative process and some of the tensions that drove it, their legendary live performances at the Hollywood Bowl, the making of their films, and ultimately the untimely, early death of member Graham Chapman.

Influential social figures that touched the lives of millions and forever changed the way we think about their idiom — like the Beatles, or Monty Python, or the first cast of Saturday Night Live — deserve this kind of look back after years have passed and their true impact can be assessed with the perspective that only time can bring. Monty Python’s Almost The Truth gives you some of that perspective and a peek behind the curtain. It’s fascinating stuff.

Presidential Polls And The Bridge Of Death

God knows how many election polling outfits there are these days.  Once upon a time, there was just Gallup; then it became Gallup and Harris; now there are dozens and perhaps hundreds.  Who knows how skilled they are at their sampling, their weighting of likely voters, and the other factors that separate meaningful polls from floss and ear wax?

Of course, the main problem with polls is that you don’t know whether the respondents are telling the truth.  If only the penalty for giving a false answer to a polling question was like that imposed at the Bridge of Death . . . .

Not Dead Yet

The political pundits are dissecting the results of the 2010 election and pontificating about President Obama and his future.  The pundits always seem to grossly overreact to the results of an election, however.  After the 2008 election, many people were shoveling dirt on the Republican Party, arguing that it would be relegated to permanent minority status.  Hey, how did that prediction turn out?

The overreaction to the 2010 election is similar.  We have some Democrats arguing that President Obama should declare that he will not seek reelection, so that he can better deal with our pressing problems.  (It’s hard for me to understand how a voluntary lame duck President would be better situated to get things done, but maybe I just don’t understand politics.)  I think such talk is silly.  For now, at least, we should presume that President Obama is a smart, capable politician who can figure out which way the wind is blowing.  He will make adjustments.  (In fact, Obama Administration officials have been doing some navel-gazing and considering how they can re-energize this presidency and rebuild the coalition that got President Obama elected in the first place.)

In the meantime, the current storyline reminds me of this classic scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Like the unfortunate old man in the mud-spattered village, President Obama isn’t dead yet.

On A Possible Republican Sweep, And The Political Lessons To Be Learned From The Tale Of Brave Sir Robin

If the polls are to be believed — and that remains an open question in my mind — Republicans are likely to win the House of Representatives and have a long shot chance of assuming control of the Senate.  If that occurs, voters will find out whether the Republicans mean what they have been saying during the campaign or whether they will instead be like Brave Sir Robin.

Remember Brave Sir Robin from Monty Python and the Holy Grail?  He was the publicity-hungry knight who desperately wanted to join in the search for the Grail.  He left on his quest accompanied by a minstrel and a cadre of musicians who sang constantly about his adventures.  And yet, when the going got tough and the giant three-headed knight awaited, Brave Sir Robin made no attempt to fight.  As his minstrel sang:

When danger reared its ugly head
He bravely turned his tail and fled
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out
Bravely talking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin

I’m tired of politicians who talk a good game but don’t deliver.  I’m hoping that, if Republicans in fact sweep to victory this November, they will indeed slash spending, reduce the deficit, and restore fiscal sanity to our federal government.  If they instead act like Brave Sir Robin, I think that will be it for me and the Republicans.  I’ll have to start looking for Sir Lancelot elsewhere.