Mad Dogs, Englishmen and SPAM…

Author:  Luke Dempsey

MPFC Book (212x237)The suspicion has been voiced by others on numerous occasions and I have to admit that I might be permanently brain damaged.  I have no way to effectively rebut the charge, but at least allow me to explain my unfortunate circumstances.  I’m a member of the small but distinguished American demographic that grew up watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the 1970s.  Despite my young and impressionable age, my parents allowed me to watch the insane and raunchy antics of the madcap British comedy troupe on the local PBS channel every Saturday night.  It warped me for sure.  Whether it was the Spanish Inquisition, the Ministry of Silly Walks or the finer points of larch identification, I couldn’t get enough of the show.   The 16 ton DVD compilation of all 45 episodes – a full 1749 minutes of laughs – has been available for almost a decade, but I recently stumbled across a new book that’s sure to delight fans of the show.  IT’S……Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Complete and Annotated by Luke Dempsey.

The Pythons in 1969

The Pythons in 1969

Collected in one massive tome, this book brings together all four seasons of the show, which originally aired in the UK from 1969 to 1974.  The scripts from each episode are included with countless still photos from the broadcasts, as well as numerous annotations and brief biographical bits provided by Dempsey.  It’s all here, from The Dead Parrot Sketch to The Lumberjack Song, laid out with outrageously vibrant Technicolor gaudiness.

Mister Dempsey is particularly well suited to his assigned task.   While he grew up in England, he’s lived in the US for many years, successfully and enthusiastically making himself at home in the former British colony.  As a result, he has a good sense of the many details and references that may be completely foreign to American audiences.  He’s also been a Monty Python fan since childhood and appears to possess two copies of the wacky gene, allowing him to appreciate the finer points of the Pythons’ inimitable art form.

SPAM in 2006

SPAM in 2006

Now it’s entirely possible to enjoy the show without understanding all the minutiae – I know I have! – but if you don’t know what an Aldis lamp is, want help figuring out where Ipswitch and Bolton (aka Notlob) are or know next to nothing about soccer or cricket, this book is a useful resource.  I found all sorts of satisfying trivia in my travels through its almost 900 pages, such as the origin of the giant cartoon foot in the credits, how much it costs to purchase a “television license”, plus a blow by blow analysis of the cheese sketch.  I now know everything there is to know about Venezuelan Beaver Cheese.

Without a doubt this book is only for true fans, but for members of that distinctive society, Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Complete and Annotated is sure to prove endlessly entertaining.  In fact, the back cover includes enthusiastic blurbs from both God and Goethe!  If, after all these years, you still have a fondness for sketches like The Man with Three Buttocks, The Mouse Problem and Buying a Bed, this book is for you, even if it’s no longer something completely different.

— D. Driftless

SPAM photo by Matthew W. Jackson

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