Monty Python's Utterly
Devastating Critique of
GEORGE A. REISCH
It would have been fascinating to be a fly on a wall (even in a bottle) near those philosophers who had watched Monty Python's Flying Circus on November 9th, 1972. In that night's episode, Michael Palin portrayed the host of a television program titled, The Bols Story: The Story of Holland's Most Famous Aperitif.
As soon as Palin introduces the program's topic, he becomes mired in precise linguistic analysis:
Good evening. Tonight we're going to talk about, that is, I'm
going to talk about, well, actually, I'm talking about it now.
[pauses and laughs nervously]. Well, I'm not talking about it now,
but I am talking.1
By the time he reaches his fourth word, “we're,” Palin is derailed. The problem is that there is no “we” who will be talking. Rather, viewers at home will be listening. He alone will be doing all the talking. And is it true that Palin is going to talk about a subject (in a moment or two), or is he in fact already talking about it? No, he decides, he's not talking about it yet, but he is talking.
1 The sketch is titled “Gestures to Indicate Pauses in a Televised Talk” (Episode
30, “Blood, Devastation, Death, War, and Horror”).