Monthly Archives: November 2013

Dead Parrots

My pal Mark Evanier and I have been trading comments about the Python reunion on our respective blogs. Here’s his latest.

I point this out in particular not because I disagree with him, because I very much agree with him. [Although I do disagree with Mark about something: the Hollywood Bowl shows were Sept. 26-29, 1980, not ’81.]

The Python reunion will inevitably be less of a performance and more of a rock concert, with people showing up to see the legends performing their legendary sketches. John Cleese always talks about how he was unnerved when they first performed the Dead Parrot Sketch live at the City Center in New York, because the audience was so quiet. He thought it has bombed, until he saw the audience members all mouthing the words.

On another occasion, performing the same sketch, Michael Palin had broken his concentration so badly that John had completely forgotten the words. He leaned over into the audience and said “What’s the next line?” And about a dozen people shouted it at him. He began conducting the audience, who knew all the lines as well as he did, for the rest of the sketch. Those are the kinds of moments that will be special for the audiences who see them live.

The guys are trying to satisfy both segments of the audience–those who want a “Greatest Hits” performance, and those who want to see something–well, something completely different. Which may be impossible. But it’s safe to say that there will be new spins on some of the old favorites, as well as some bits that have never been performed live, and several surprises.

A live show had been under serious discussion in 1999, to be held in Las Vegas. The opening number would have featured an over-the-top Vegas-style musical production, with showgirls pushing around Graham Chapman’s coffin. I doubt they’ll be taking the Vegas approach this time, but that gives you an idea of the sort of thinking they’re doing.

One thing is certain: whether audiences are going for the entertainment or the history, they’ll be getting both.

I’ll be posting ticket information here soon, along with some Python book information.

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Pythons and Pole Vaulting

My old pal Mark Evanier writes one of the best blogs ever (here), and is one of the reasons why I started blogging. He’s always interesting, and I agree with him about 99-percent of the time. He’s also a huge Python fan, and recently wrote about the upcoming Monty Python reunion here.  I think I should probably point out a couple of things to balance his thoughts.

It’s true–Graham Chapman will not be up there on the stage with them physically. My dear pal Graham made an ill-advised career move back in 1989. He has stubbornly insisted on remaining dead, so I suspect the other Pythons finally got fed up and decided to reunite without him. Yes, it will be sad to not have Graham there in person, but he will certainly be there in spirit and in video clips. Frankly, I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years, but have come to the conclusion that it’s good audiences will have a chance to see 5/6ths of the Pythons performing live, particularly when the other option is 0/6ths of the Pythons.

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Several people have also asked me about the Pythons getting up there “at their age” and doing their old sketches. My feeling is that is if a championship pole vaulter decided to make a comeback at age 70, he may be missing a step or two. But with comedy, particularly the Python style of comedy, they can perform as well as ever. I saw John Cleese perform a couple of months ago, and believe me, he hasn’t lost his sense of timing, and the others are every bit as sharp. This is going to be fun.

Pythons United, Part 2

ImageAs Judith told Reg in Life of Brian: It’s happening, something’s actually happening!

That’s the answer to the question I’ve been getting all day. The Python Reunion is on. 2014 is going to be the biggest Python year since 1983, when Meaning of Life was released.

I’ve known about this for months now–so much for everyone who said I couldn’t keep a secret!–but when I first found out, my reaction was much the same as everyone hearing about it today.

Even though Graham Chapman died in 1989, he will be included in the show. He wouldn’t have it any other way. But details are still being worked out. The guys just spent all day together, and scripts are being finalized.

There will be a press conference on Thursday in London, with the group announcing when and where. I’m still biting my lip, so you’ll have to come back here Thursday for all of the details. It’s going to be worth it.

Pythons United!

ImageIt looks like Terry Jones has let this particular cat out of the bag. During a BBC interview Tuesday, Terry revealed that the Pythons are indeed reuniting to perform live once again. As soon as I get the okay to blog about this in more detail, I will. So stay tuned!

Mystery Science

It was nice to see Chicago’s Museum of Broadcasting honor Mystery Science Theatre 3000 last Saturday by bringing in Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, and Joel Hodgson (though Josh Weinstein had to bow out due to illness, unfortunately–get well soon Josh!). The crowd was so huge that this was as close as I could get to the panel (and I couldn’t even fit in moderator Steve Darnell, who did a fine job questioning the group).

ImageFortunately, I was able to get a little closer to my old pal Trace over at Nookie’s in Old Town. Trace, Frank, Joel, Josh, and Mary Jo Pehl have spent the past few years touring the country as Cinematic Titanic, riffing on movies, and if you were luck to see them, you know the only thing better than watching MST 3K on video is watching them live in a theatre with a huge audience (of course, you can still order their DVDs here).

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But all good things come to an end, and although Cinematic Titanic hit a metaphorical iceberg and is coming to a close, there’s good news ahead. Laurie and I got to hear (and see) Trace’s new production–and boy, if it’s that spectacular on a 3″ screen, just wait till it’s available on your own DVD or download! As soon as Trace gives me the go-ahead, I’ll tell you all about it–but it’s coming soon. Until then–Do the Frank.

 

 

I’m in the middle of writing a longtime project that will pay tribute to The Committee, the legendary San Francisco improvisational theatre. (More about this later. A LOT more.)

Some of the members that I’ve interviewed have been quick to correct me, ever so gently, when I use the word “improv.” So much so that they’ve pretty well trained me not to use it (at least in front of them), and so I’m always careful to say “improvisation” around any of them. Hey, I figure they’ve earned the right to call it what they want. After all, that’s where The Harold was developed and named.

One of the guys I talked to this week preferred the term “improvisational theatre,” at least for what they were doing in the 1960s. He discussed the development of what they were doing as developing and polishing scenes which would be repeated every night, and were good enough to be transcribed and published, which has always been Second City’s bread and butter. He differentiated it from iO shows, for example, in that scenes performed during a Harold at the iO were forgotten immediately after and never performed again. (Fireworks, as Del Close always described them.) And, I realized that it was another example of the Del Close/Bernie Sahlins argument–whether improvisation was an art form in itself, or just a tool for developing scenes.

Del used to say we should be able to perform at such a high level that we could improvise in the evening, transcribe it overnight, and send it off to Samuel French to be published in the morning.

Have longform scenes been transcribed in that way? If not, is it because the quality or longevity isn’t there? Or because no one has bothered? He seemed to feel it was the former, but I offered up T.J. and Dave as an example of the quality that he was referring to. He hadn’t seen them, so it pretty much ended our disagreement.

But how about it? Is there an example of this that I wasn’t aware of?