Monty Python Goes Back to School
Academics embrace the Flying Circus
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In America, Monty Python addicts were once the outcasts and the eggheads. Awkward teenagers discovered Monty Python’s Flying Circus on PBS in the 1970s and were hooked by the British comedy troupe’s avant-garde, irreverent style, choosing to watch John Cleese and Eric Idle in their parents’ basements instead of going to Friday-night football games.
These same geeks are now serving time as perennial graduate students and scoring tenure. Their arcane obsessions are intact, however.
Last fall academics gathered in Lodz, Poland, to hold the first-ever conference celebrating Monty Python. The attendees—80 percent male—discussed Python’s relevance to philosophy, religion, literature, history, political science, and the media, reports Randy Malamud in The Chronicle Review (Feb. 4, 2011). For two days, they attended lectures such as “Monty Python in Its British and International Cultural Contexts, or, How to Recognize the Spanish Inquisitions from Quite a Long Way Away” and worshipped at the altar of assorted Python scholars, including Brigham Young University professor Darl Larsen, who penned the book Monty Python’s Flying Circus: An Utterly Complete, Thoroughly Unillustrated, Absolutely Unauthorized Guide to Possibly All the References from Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson to Zambesi.
“Academics venerate Monty Python,” notes Malamud, a professor at Georgia State University, “because we find the troupe’s subversive critical analysis and its vast portfolio of cultural and intellectual references congruent with our world.”