I watched the recent 6-part Monty Python documentary all in a gulp and it fills me with a strange nostalgia, a sadness, I suppose, but one that’s bittersweet and perhaps more on the side of sweet. Those are the types of unclassifiable feelings that lead to posting at 1 am when no one is reading.
See, I’ve loved Monty Python since junior high school. That’s actually not too long in geek circles, in a lot of ways we hold competitions to determine who got geekiest soonest. I’m sure some of you were reciting the parrot sketch in utero. And I hate to say it was my boyfriend who introduced me to it, but it’s true. Everyone has that member of their circle, if they are so lucky as to have a circle, who comes running up to you at lunch to tell you about the Thing they have discovered with all the joy and naivete of Columbus. A whole new world, and I’m the only one who knows about it.
I learned about Python from this boy who I was friends with–a weird, up-til-then homeschooled, awkward kind of kid my other friends and I kind of picked up along the way and then one day woke up and realized that I was in love with him and also that his rucksack full of geeky interests–Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Python, had mated with our neo-pagan teen witch drama club sensibilities and made something that a decade later would be indistinguishable from alpha-level mainstream geek culture, but then, in the absence of the internet, seemed new and precious and unique.
I learned about Python in quite an analogue way for 1993 and 4. By my boyfriend reciting the sketches, and then listening to an actual record of the Hollywood Bowl show and others. Doing the Great Geek Work of memorizing the Python rosary. We’d ride our bikes home singing the Philosophers Song, we sang the Galaxy Song to the stars while camping in Yosemite. We did the Inquisition sketch for the school talent show. Much as kids have and probably still do, we watched the movies and immediately started running the lines ourselves.
Yes, everyone can recite the Holy Grail. But we didn’t know that. We thought we were specially devoted. It’s a luxury almost nobody has now–you know what everyone else is interested in. Profiles and interests link every possible Python fan. We know that everyone can recite the Holy Grail so it becomes unnecessary to ever recite the Holy Grail. And there was an infant internet going then, I just didn’t know or care about it. And that subversive sense of feeling like you’re the only one who’s uncovered this odd thing from the 70s that your mother doesn’t laugh at–even though she’s more of an age with the Python guys than you–well, I remember that with fondness. It was genuine. It was not to show off or win a geek plumage contest. It was just because it was funny and speaking in a British accent drove everyone else absolutely crazy and we were all high-functioning performer types who needed things to sing together. We lived in a bubble. It was nice. It was peculiarly Spielbergian, in the mild California nights, our awesome bikes pounding down the trails and our voices all together.
So, I am the cliche, my boyfriend got me into it. I needed someone to, because I was far too inward-looking and bookish and stubborn to find things myself that were not in the orbits of my own obsessions. I picked it up and ran with it. Obviously the boyfriend and I did not stay together, and to be honest he doesn’t talk to me anymore because he thinks I am Awful on a number of levels, and shit like that happens when you grow up and life just loses that Spielberg glow. Ironically, I am now much more invested and involved in geek culture than the guy who first told me what a convention was. So it goes, as my man Kurt said.
Still, I remember that time with such terrible fondness, and since it is gone, sadness. I liked not knowing. I liked singalongs. I watched the Python boys all talk about creating what they did, which is relevant to my interests since creating things is what I do. I found it interesting that they often didn’t get along all that well, and it broke my heart when Cleese read the litany of euphemisms for dead at Chapman’s memorial service. I kind of want to watch Life of Brian again. It strikes me that they are Boomers, even though I think of them as perpetually young. People who got in on the BBC early, and had opportunities I hardly think young TV writers will ever get again. It’s all interesting. But mostly I think about growing up and my old boyfriend and shopping for red capes for a sketch that must have seemed so strange to the teachers, seeing the comedy of their subversive youth done by tiny kids. I think about it all and I love the world that has things like Monty Python in it.
And I have confirmed that at thirty-two, I can still sing every word of the Galaxy Song. I think it will always be my favorite.