It’s safe to say that I have been a Monty Python fanatic for most of my life, starting when I was about thirteen years old.  My brother and I, when we used to visit Dad, had a tiny black-and-white television in the bedroom we shared.  Dad would say goodnight to us and head upstairs to bed, and he expected us to do the same.  What he didn’t know, however, was that at eleven-thirty Monty Python’s Flying Circus came on, and so did other similar British ‘programmes’ like Doctor Who and The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  We watched these shows at an almost but not entirely inaudible volume level, and parked ourselves on the floor, about a foot away from the tiny monochromatic screen.

When we were at Mom’s house in Yakima, which was the majority of the time, Flying Circus wasn’t available on TV there, so we went into a kind of withdrawal.  We rented the videos about a hundred million times, and I even made audio cassettes of the movies by laboriously holding a microphone up to the TV speaker so that I could constantly listen and memorize the dialogue between our viewings of the movies.  I was obsessed.

My obsession seemed only to get stronger and stronger, and it lasted well into my college years.  I would inject Monty Python quotations into pretty much every conversation, and since their range is so broad, it’s surprisingly easy to find quotes that are apropos to a myriad of subjects.  I used to pride myself on my knowledge of their trivia, and I was just enough of an a-hole that if someone dared make the egregious mistake of misquoting the Masters, I would actually correct the person.  The most commonly misquoted line I’ve encountered is one from the Black Knight scene in that movie about the search for a grail.  The Knight gets his arms and legs chopped off by King Arthur, but his fearlessly vigilant head and torso are still attempting to stop Arthur from crossing the bridge the Knight is guarding.

Despite massive blood loss and a complete lack of appendages, the indomitable Knight continues to hurl insults at King Arthur as Arthur and his servant walk across the hilariously puny bridge and go along their merry way.  “You yellow bastards,” the Knight yells over his shoulder.  “Come back and take what’s coming to you!  I’ll bite your legs off!”  The line, “I’ll bite your legs off” has somehow found its way into the public vernacular as, “I’ll cut your head off,” which A) doesn’t make sense, and B) isn’t funny.  That kind of thing used to drive me crazy, and I never hesitated to correct the offender.

All through high school and college, I had the reputation of being the Monty Python expert in my little social circle, but after a while, that kind of thing tends to get on peoples’ nerves.  I remember a couple of friends telling me in no uncertain terms that for once they would like to have a Python-free conversation.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Sliding Doors (and you should, it’s excellent), you may remember the fast-talking, witty Scottish guy Gwyneth Paltrow falls for.   He’s an obsessive MP quoter too, and there’s one scene in which he and she are at a dinner party, which he becomes the life of by quoting a huge chunk of the entire Spanish Inquisition scene, verbatim.  I couldn’t find the Sliding Doors clip, but I think a picture of the Inquisition will be enough to jog your memory.

So the guy is sitting there at the table quoting the entire scene.   Everyone is at rapt attention, hanging on his every word, laughing uproariously at the salient points.   I’ve been That Guy, and I’m here to tell you that real life doesn’t work that way.  People start to get annoyed if all you do is quote things, or if you don’t have anything of your own to add to a conversation.  They’ll quickly tire of talking with you and go talk with other people instead.  Funny how that works. . .and how long it took me to realize it.

There was a subsequent time in my life when I went through a rigorous training program I called (in my head, anyway) How To Be A Better Human.  Many people have had similar experiences; that sort of thing is one of the rites of passage toward being an adult.  I went through and found some of the areas of my life that weren’t working; there were quite a few at the time, I can assure you.  I’ll spare you the details for another time, but one of the habits I decided to break was the constant quoting of Monty Python.  I made a pact with myself that I would never do it again, since I had spent so many years doing it.  As a corollary, if I heard someone misquote a line or two, I was prepared to let that slide.  Life’s too short for that kind of pedantry.

Fast forward about fifteen years, and along comes Monty Python Day.  Everyone on Facebook is quoting and having a good time, and it IS fun.  But when I chime in (and I DO chime in!), I have to admit that I have slightly mixed feelings about doing it, because it means I’m breaking my pact.  I suppose after this many years of good behavior, I can ease up a little bit and just enjoy it.  Who among us doesn’t like levity?

As proof of my love of levity, I’m embedding one of my favorite episodes:  the one with the Lifeboat/Cannibalism/Undertaker sketches in it.  My all-time favorite Python animation sequence is the ‘Cannibalism’ section in this clip, starting around the 3:40 mark.

All this being said, there will always be a special place in my heart (and probably my DNA, too, quite frankly) for the Pythons. They unwittingly played a huge part in the formation of my personality, and I owe them a great debt of gratitude. I “always look on the bright side of life” because of them.

There I go, breaking my pact.  Oh well.  No use biting my legs off about it.