Photographed by: A. Arthur Fisher

It’s been a big week for America. Regardless of your political leaning, the state of the world has undergone huge and heated changes. So when headlines seem daunting and when your Facebook feed has been full, there is nothing left to do but stroll yourself into the Arlington and watch the fish slap dance.

“It was the stupidest sketch we’d ever done,” John Cleese remarked, as the clip from Monty Python’s Flying Circus played behind two infamous comedians on their “Together Again At Last for the Very First Time.”

While only a month into this tour, John Cleese and Eric Idle are certainly not strangers to the each other, the stage, or the laughter-filled hearts of the public. Now well into their seventies, the pair met fifty-three years ago at Cambridge where John recalls, “The first time I set eyes on this chap, he was stealing my material.” 

“I was perfecting it, John,” Eric retorted.

As the two recounted their history together, from their opening show in London’s West End to recruitment by Michael Peylon and eventually American Broadway, the stage became a cacophony of delights – from sketch comedies to ukulele sing-alongs to Technicolor film clips and classic British banter on red velvet chairs in front of a cartoon-sketched backdrop.  “It is very liberating to be so silly,” Eric Idle remarks of his past work and present mission.

Laughter: for some of us, it’s a luxury; for others, it’s a personal goal. For children, it’s a natural response, and for these men – it’s their personal calling.

“Our target audience was each other,” John Cleese said, remarking how Monty Python formed. Together, Cleese and Idle along with Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin pitched a comedy series to BBC in 1969. “No one in history has ever given a series to people who had no idea where they were going with it,” Cleese joked. Yet this was the group’s strength – absurd, surreal comedy full of half-deceased parrots for sale, memory training schools where no one remembers anything, arguments where “yes” means “no,” and undertakers which tell you how to burn or bury your mother. It’s part-shock, part-ridicule, and part-sheer joyful play. As both the writers and actors for their material, the Pythons were a self-contained comedy team. This freedom allowed them to push the boundaries of what was acceptable, overturning the rules of television comedy on its own Holy Grail head.

“There’s nothing as funny as true stupidity,” Cleese remarked after the “I’m not dead yet” clip played from his 1975 hit Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And that was the wonderful point of these two comedians gracing of the Arlington Stage: no one alive is dead yet, which means there is much life and laughter to revel in, much “mindless good taste” to be had, and many songs left to sing.

So America, please don’t dismay.  Eric and John told us the secret, as they closed down the house with their “song we like to sing when we aren’t being crucified,” and if we listen to it carefully, there is deep wisdom in the lightest of comedy: 

Always look on the bright side of life (whistle whistle)
Always look on the bright side of life (whistle whistle)
You’ll see life is all a show, keep ‘em laughing as you go
Always look on the bright side of life. 

 

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