On Tuesday, my parents took Megan and I out to see Spamalot, the musical based off of the fantastic Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s something that I’ve seen before, when I was in London, in 2007, and when the production reached Boston a year later. Even three times in, it’s still an absolutely hilarious musical, and one of the joys was watching my parents and Megan watch it for the first time.
One of the things that I’ve long appreciated from the musical and soundtrack is at how well the musical relates to the rest of the Monty Python canon. References were numerous in the songs, and it’s delightful to hear references from not only the other films (Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is possibly the most obvious) but smaller references to the Flying Circus pop up frequently in the dialog and lyrics. A couple that I heard this time around were from the Parrot Sketch and the Lumberjack song, as well as a bunch of regular popular culture references, such as a Lady Gaga riff, as well as shots at Britney Spears, Michael Moore, and Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss.
What has long impressed me with the series is how it’s retained the defining characteristic of the Pythons to look at popular culture and find the humor in it – there are very few groups out there that can do that – and the productions that Monty Python put together thrived on going right up to the edge when it came to humor. It was funny, but it was also incredibly thoughtful, and has an edge to it that makes a lot of their sketches timeless. Spamalot is very much the same. At the risk of putting off the hand that feeds them, the creators do a couple great numbers: ‘You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if you Don’t Have Any Jews’ and ‘The Song That Goes Like This’ that are satirical of the formulas in Broadway, which had the audience roaring on Tuesday night. At the same time, I’m waiting for the Seven Days to miss the point by pointing out how politically incorrect the show is.
Humor is something that’s tricky. My mother can’t stand Rusty Dewees aka ‘The Logger’ (For those out of State), because of his character and the style of comedy that he does, as a highly stereotypical Vermont redneck. I can’t get enough of the guy. Comedy, I think, should offend to the core – it’s a long style that goes way back to the roots of comedy. Laughter is often the best thing to get people not only interested in something, but realizing at how ridiculous some of the stands people take on any sorts of issues.
The big thing in the news over the past couple of weeks has been the issue of bullying and high profile suicides of six gay youths who were ousted. I can’t help but think back to the line in the musical: “Just think Herbert, in a thousand years, this will still be controversial.” This issue probably will be. Hopefully, people will eventually take the stance that the Pythons seem to have run with: life is ridiculous, and it’s probably best not to take things too seriously.