Friday, January 27, 2012

Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group continues its pop culture connectivity series If You Like with the newest volume, If You Like Monty Python… (Limelight Editions, $16.99) by Zack Handlen. From its perfectly insane television show to its consistently irreverent and riotous movies, Monty Python has owned the zany and absurd side of comedy since its debut and has a massive following to prove it. But there’s a finite supply of Monty Python in the world, and once you’ve finished going through that supply, what happens next? In a world of dwindling video stores— and instructive video store clerks— If You Like Monty Python… guides you through over 200 films, television shows, books, and other material that will satisfy your Python withdrawal. If you have graduated from the Ministry of Silly Walks and want more, this book is for you.

One thing I have to say right off the bat is how much I enjoy the variety the company is employing here. The Beatles is a pretty obvious choice, but The Sopranos is a little out of left field. And as great as Python were, they are still (at least in the U.S.) considered relatively obscure. One thing I really enjoyed about this book is the way Handlen opens it— with a discussion of the roots of the comedy of Monty Python. While it may not be a stunning revelation that the members of the troupe found inspiration in the Marx Brothers, his mention of Charles Schulz's Peanuts was a tad bit unexpected— as was Bob Newhart's 1960 debut comedy Album LP; The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart.

As the book progresses, Handlen details the history of Monty Python's various works, plus the many other programs and such that they inspired. It is little surprise that Saturday Night Live and SCTV are included. But there are some pretty cool connections the author makes which I intend to look into as well. Although I have seen Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) many times, the mention of it in this context is interesting— and provides me with yet another excuse to watch it (as if I REALLY needed one). 

If You Like Monty Python… navigates readers through Python’s influences from Charlie Chaplin to the Flying Circus’s predecessor on British television, At Last the 1948 Show. Handlen also looks at Python’s contemporaries, other works by the individual Pythons, and those inspired in some way by Monty Python including mockumentaries like The Office and satirists like George Carlin. The book also includes useful appendixes like “Famous Monty Python Quotes, and How to Use Them” and “Master Lists of Musts for Python Addicts.” Surprising connections one may not have initially made are what make the If You Like Monty Python... book such a worthwhile read. This is a great series, and I certainly hope that the publisher continues with it.

No comments: