You Never Forget Your First Time

I remember that, during my childhood, I spent alot of time alone. Perhaps too much time alone. My mom worked evenings, and my older brothers weren’t interested in hanging out with a kid in elementary school, so needless to say, I had plenty of time to enjoy my own thoughts. My most amusing friend for most of my childhood was the TV. All I can say about all of that now, is thank the heavens we had cable! Which is where I found the first TV show that I can say, most truly, that I fell in love with. I was a teen and tired of the crap that was called “entertainment” on the networks ( this was before Fox came along), and so I was eager for new visual stimuli. My ritual, at that time, was coming home, dropping my backpack at the door, jotting down to the living room, and popping on the TV. It was important that the TV went on before I had even relieved myself after a full day’s schooling, or even stopping by the fridge to get a snack because the TV had to be on MTV as quickly as possible. (I could lay into some derisive commentary about how I remember when MTV used to show music videos, but that rant has been overdone. Besides, Tila Tequila is by far more entertaining than any Adam Ant video ever was or could hope to be). I had to see the newest Bell Biv Devoe video or see what new catch-phrase “Downtown” Julie Brown had for us to imulate. Now, I’m old enough to remember when MTV was a 24-hour video network, but I’m young enough to remember when the network started moving non-video content into its programming. One day, after setting down my bag, and turning on the TV, I saw something that I had never seen before: a 1970 sketch comedy show imported from England was on my TV srceen. It was called Monty Python’s Flying Circus. There are plenty of firsts that we all remember: first kiss, first you-know-what, first love, first DUI arrest… those firsts that we say shaped who we are now — the ones that, even when we’re in the old folks home, we’ll never forget. I can recall exactly which episode aired that day when I was converted ( I use the word “converted” because that’s exactly how becoming a Monty Python fan becomes a part of who you are and takes over your soul). It was episode 33 “Salad Days”. What I remember most about that episond is my alternating amusement and horror at the close of the title sketch. I’ll say nothing more about it here other than to say that its ending is “Peckinpah-esque”. The next day, I asked my school chums if they had seen what I saw the day before. None had. And this was to be a frequent experience I would find in my conversion. I’ve come to realize that Monty Python is the least popular popular thing I’ve ever encountered. Most people either say that they’ve never heard of it, or (and unfortunately the more frequent response) say that it’s “British” humor and (as is the case with alot of British humor) not very funny. Unfortunately, a side of effect of conversion is the need to tell others what one has experinced. I felt like a Christian trying to convince the pagans that they should accept Christ. Ok, that’s a little much. But at the very least I could sympathize with the various Andy Kaufman and Frank Zappa fans who had tried in vain to convince me that Kaufman and Zappa were entertaining. Andy Kaufman is not funny. But, I had experienced the miracle of Python. I needed to share it with others. I would randomly break into “The Lumberjack Song”, recite lines from classic sketches like “Dead Parrot” or try to explain why “Fish Slapping Dance” was so funny. I found myself yelling “Dimmesdale” “Semprini” and “Albatross” in public places. Nobody understood me. Nobody wanted to understand me. I felt alone. I had this wonderful thing and the jr. high scum that I hung out with didn’t appreciate what true comedy was. The funny thing is, is that unlike much of the things that I liked when I was younger ( take Knight Rider, for instance), I haven’t outgrown my love of Monty Python. When I was younger I didn’t understand all the philosophy-oriented humor in the sketches. All these years later, I understand why the Wittgenstein jokes are funny (and what a Wittgenstein is in the first place). I still appreciate the poop humor and the showing of the naughty bits, and the John-Cleese-shouting-at-the-top-of-his-lungs sketches, but there’s so much more that I get now that I appreciate the show on an entirely different level. I can say about Monty Python’s Flying Circus what I can’t say about too many other shows — watching it makes me realize that I’ve actually learned a few things in my lifetime. This October marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of the Fying Circus, and I’m certain that in those forty years, there were many latchkeys like me that were converted then and are still true believers now. I know that somewhere out there, some kid who spends too much time alone will see “argument clinic”, or blancmanges playing tennis and experience a conversion just as I did. We’ll all embrace our inner village idiots (or upper-class twits, if one prefers), always look on the bright side of life (which is my ringtone, I’ll add), and learn to appreciate our philosophy without so much rat in it. Which is more than I can say watching the A-Team did for me. FIN
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