Autobiographical Python

One thing in particular struck me while I was reading The Pythons Autobiography by The Pythons, very ably edited by Bob McCabe (who to my great surprise and considerable relief turned out not to be the same fellow at all as Graham McCann who wrote a pretty bleak and amazingly unfunny book about Fawlty Towers - something that quite honestly I thought would not be humanly possible): the Conflict.

However did these chaps agree on anything? Cleese seems aloof. He's really got better things to do. It's all a bit silly really. Not to say repetitive and somewhat boring. Chapman's drunk. Mostly. Or then he's off chasing boys. Terry Jones is obsessed with every slight detail and disagrees with anything Cleese says. Cleese is his bete noire. And he just won't give in. And if he does he'll recant tomorrow. Terry Gilliam wants to be heard and taken seriously. I mean, although he is an American, he's still a Python. Idle is the lone wolf. He's always the underdog. Cleese and Chapman write together, so do Jones and Palin. So in a vote they've got two votes automatically, by default. Who's Idle got? Sweet FA, that's who. Palin is just too nice and can't say no. He shrugs away from conflict. That's a problem.

Whenever anyone in the book says anything (the book is composed of quotes), another Python entirely disagrees. "This was terrible" is at once countered with "What a great success". "This was our aim" is countered with "That was never what we tried to do". To the outside eye it very much looks like these fellows never agree on anything. It is indeed a miracle that anything gets done. But it was. And we all know the absolute heights they scaled.

It all spells serious conflict. Now that's important. The internal conflict within the group. It seems to me that it's quite impossible to achieve anything worthwhile if everybody agrees. Conflict guarantees that everybody will do his best. There's no alternative. There's always a lethal competition going on. Second rate ideas just won't cut it. Sometimes even first rate ideas won't do - if someone's feeling bloody.

It works. The results are, notoriously, amazing. The conflicts just guarantee that no substandard material will end up in the series or in any movie. Then, after a while, nothing. The conflicts are too great. There's no cohesion any longer. Everybody's got other things to do. Chapman's dead. (And insists on staying dead.) Palin travels. Jones writes books, makes BBC thingies and directs. Gilliam is in Hollywood. Cleese is in business. Eric Idle is the only one who really wants Python. Who needs Python. The other ones would like to, sort of, but it's simply too difficult. So after The Meaning of Life it all falls apart - and even the Meaning suffers from a lack of polishing the script; it's not a movie at all but a collection of skits, and just because the Pythons couldn't be bothered with finishing the script. So they simply didn't. It's funny, contains some of the best Python sketches, but a movie it isn't.

So the thing that makes them great eventually pulls the group asunder. That's the nature of the beast. Control it or it will destroy you. And in the end it will destroy you no matter what.

Well, they had good innings. We're satisfied.


Anonymous said...

Why were you surprised Bob McCabe wasn't Graham McCann? Are you a bit simple?

PS said...

You know, I was rather wondering what it was.