Video: Why I Love Monty Python

More from the Python Channel on YouTube. I came across this while fishing for free videos to download from the iTunes store. It’s a refreshingly straight un-ironic take on the influence of Monty Python on American comedy as seen by American comedians.

Jimmy Fallon has the best line: “If you play Dark Side of the Moon while you watch the Holy Grail, I guarantee that you are not getting laid.”

The Python Channel is now steadily adding content. Their experimental business strategy appears to be working very well. They’ve even got themed playlists now like the World Financial Meltdown Special. The Money Song is a surefire crowd pleaser, but I’ve always been fond of the Merchant Banker sketch: “I don’t want to seem stupid, but it looks to me like I’m a pound down on the whole deal.”

MontyPython’s YouTube Channel

Look, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, I really am, but Monty Python now has their own YouTube channel. You may commence wasting time now. As they say in their intro video, “For three years, you YouTubers have been ripping us off…” But now, they’ve decided to put authorized high quality videos directly on YouTube. Their motivation is an increasingly common one in this age: they might as well make some money selling trinkets and t-shirts around the edges of their work rather that be bitter and make no money at all.

At this moment only 31 videos have been posted, but some of them are truly from the Greatest Hits collection: Silly Walks, Biggus Dickus from Life of Brian, and the Witch Village from Holy Grail. I imagine, or at least I hope, the plan is to add steadily to this collection.

There are also a few pieces like Eric Idle on what a pain it is to write with John Cleese.

But the one I’ll leave you with is the The Four Yorkshiremen.

We were evicted from our hole in the ground.

Spamusement documents Python Tourettes

Via Lynn‘s twittering last night, I came across Spamusement, a site with cartoons drawn to correspond to actual spam email subject lines. This reminds me of the old Surrealist parlor games like Exquisite Corpse. By God, we should be doing more to amuse ourselves with the discovered poetry of spam. It’s the moral equivalent of cooking with kudzu or rendering roadkill into biodiesel. We’ll never eliminate our dependency on foreign oil unless we tap our vast spam reserves.

I was especially happy to see that one of the cartoons (not appreciated for what you know) addresses the plight of those suffering from Python Tourette syndrome. Here’s another good one. If you had to draw the cartoon for “get rid of premature ejactulation and last longer”, I bet you wouldn’t do better than this. Bad drawing, but darn good writing.

I was talking about Alan’s favorite graphic novels last week, so it only seems fitting this week to point you to a few good web comics while we’re on this topic. has a list of 5 Great WebComics You Should Read. Garfield minus Garfield is right up there with the Nietzsche Family Circus in terms of madcap nihilism.

Noodling around with Chinese characters

Here’s a fun image: the most complex Chinese character in common use.

You have to arrange 57 little lines just so to make that character. What it means (besides “Chinese is hard”) is a kind of noodle, the biang biang noodle. Now let’s imagine you work at a noodle shop in China’s Shaanxi province where these noodles are popular. It’s busy and hot, and you’re taking orders on your little pad with a stubby golf pencil.

CUSTOMER ONE: I’ll have the biang biang noodles please.

YOU: [scribbling furiously] One… order… of… biang biang… noodles…

CUSTOMER TWO: And I’ll have a double biang biang please.

YOU: Hold on, I’m still writing…

CUSTOMER TWO: Could you just write biang biang twice? That would signify my double order.

YOU: [mumbling]One order biang biang biang biang… aghh… hand cramping… can’t write.

CUSTOMER ONE: Christ, my lunch break is almost over. Let’s go get a pig.

As is my wont, I am reminded of the Monty Python skit about the great composer Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfernschplendenschlittercrasscrenbonfrieddiggerdangledungleburstein von knackerthrasherapplebangerhorowitzticolensicgranderknottyspelltinklegrandlichgrumblemeyer spelterwasserkürstlichhimbleeisenbahnwagengutenabend-bitteeinenürnburgerbratwustlegerspurtenmitzweimacheluberhundsfutgumberaber-shönendankerkalbsfleischmittlerraucher von Hautkopft of Ulm.

I suspect this biang biang character is more gimmick than anything else, much like the Llanfairpwll railway station in Wales (so many letters! so few vowels!), but it does raise a question that I’ve always pondered. In terms of semantic content per ink-inch, is Chinese more efficient than English? Chinese is more compact, but you have to cram a lot more pen strokes into that space. I recently learned at work that when we localize our software for Japanese, you simply can’t shrink a Japanese font below ten points. It goes all gray and mushy. Here, for example, is the biang biang character writ small:

By my count, 57 strokes of ink gets you almost entirely through the writing of ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM. But ultimately, is ink-inch efficiency (IIE) a metric worth optimizing? It’s very tempting to consider which language is “best” in this or that sense. But to young human brains learning languages, none of this seems to matter. Languages all have the same shape. You pick them up here and you do this with them. See what I mean?

[First seen on the Cynical-C Blog]

Python-Lehrer Tourette syndrome

Earlier this summer I attended my twentieth college reunion. I had a good time. I always have a good time at reunions. Earlier in my reunion-attending career, I had some misgivings, but over time it’s gotten much easier to simply visit with friends and remember the good times. The people I remember as jerks, they keep coming to reunions too, but they get fatter and fainter and more forgettable with each year. Eventually I expect them to disappear altogether.

With age comes perspective. One thing I finally came to terms with at this reunion was my longtime affliction with a social disease. The disease, Python-Lehrer Tourette syndrome, is common among a certain male-dominated geek population. It involves having quasi-appropriate phrases from various Monty Python skits and movies spring to mind throughout the day. During quiescent phases, these phrases can be suppressed. But when surrounded by those sharing the diagnosis (as at my recent reunion), the urge to utter all manner of Pythonesque non sequiturs can be overwhelming. Python-Lehrer sufferers, incidentally, are differentiated from their Python Tourette cousins by their interstitial allusions to the Tom Lehrer musical canon. There is also a notable subset of this malady (as yet without official diagnostic designation) known as Grailolalia, in which the victim specializes only in phrases from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Grailians are fine people, but not terribly nuanced.

I don’t worry much about this problem, and I’ve long since given up apologizing for it. But it is impressive to consider the degree to which this particular comedy troupe dominates the brain space of people like me. I’ve known a few people with Firesign Theater disease, but it’s nothing like the vast spawn of Python-quoters. Why is that? I believe there is a Shakespearean completeness to the Python repertoire. All the comical-tragical-historical varieties of silliness are there. They were around for so long, and they brought such disciplined seriousness to their absurdity, that there truly is something quotable for almost every situation. Furthermore, their absurdity sometimes touches on the profound. To my mind, King Arthur’s argument with a peasant about the origins of Excalibur is the last word on confusing mythology with journalism and the sacred with the profane: “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.” Petty literalism contending with religious mania. That, in a nutshell, is the drama of our age.

Of course, none of this stops Python-Lehrer Tourette syndrome from being intensely irritating to friends and family.

To which I say: Nih!