“What's All This Then?”
GARY L. HARDCASTLE and GEORGE A. REISCH
Pythonist: A person who professes to prophesy through some
divine or esoteric inspiration.
— Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged
England. Sunday evening, October 5th, 1969. A big surprise awaits those switching on their television sets and settling in for an evening of entertainment. A game show features Genghis Khan dying, his death scored by panelists. An advertisement for butter heralds its superior taste, all but indistinguishable from that of dead crab. And excited sportscasters cover Pablo Picasso painting while riding a bicycle through England (“It will be very interesting to see how he copes with the heavy traffic round Wisborough Green!”). It's …Monty Python's Flying Circus!
At the end of the 1960s—a decade of race riots, student protests, undeclared wars, political assassinations, Woodstock, the first moon landing, and the rise of the sensitive singer-songwriter—perhaps nothing could be entirely new and unexpected. Yet Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin—collectively, Monty Python— pulled it off week after week. When a tuxedoed John Cleese intoned “And now for something completely different…” (mocking the BBC, naturally), he was completely right. Characters suddenly announced their desire to be not only lumberjacks, but