October 5: Monty Python


…the 45th anniversary of the premier of Monty Python’s Flying Circus! One can only imagine how someone might have reacted if they were watching the BBC on the evening of October 5, 1969: After a quick introduction from the BBC continuity announcer, a shabby looking man appears on screen, running from the middle of the ocean to the beach. He collapses on the shore and quickly mutters “It’s…” and then suddenly the opening credits begin. For the next half-hour, viewers were exposed to comedy sketches that featured such oddities as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart hosting a program ranking history’s greatest deaths, a group of housewives who “can’t tell the difference between Whizzo Butter and a dead crab”, weaponized jokes and bizarre animation made from old photographs.

It’s fair to say that the face of comedy was changed that day, as Monty Python’s Flying Circus was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Sure, the comedians who formed the group had worked together in various combinations on other British television programs, but this was the first time that they were working on a show that they were calling the shots on. This allowed the Oxford (Terry Jones and Michael Palin), Cambridge (Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Eric Idle) and Occidental College (Terry Gilliam) educated troupe to create sketch comedy that blended highbrow cultural references, wordplay, parody and absurd silliness. It was the kind of sketch show where a game show sketch, wouldn’t just be a goofy game show spoof. Instead, the contestants would be famous communist leaders and the questions they had to answer would be about English football.

Unlike many sketch comedy groups past and present, the Pythons knew that if a sketch was funny enough, it didn’t need to fit a set length. Sometimes, material was good enough as it was and could just go for a minute and finish, rather than trying to stretch a premise out for four minutes. Also, during their pre-Flying Circus career, many of the Pythons discovered that even the best comedy writers had trouble coming up with a good punchline. So, the Pythons decided that they’d do away with punchlines almost entirely, often ending sketches by creating a transition to the next one, typically in the form of Gilliam’s surreal animation. The Monty Python spirit was so distinctive that the Oxford English Dictionary includes the word “pythonesque” to refer to any absurdist or surrealist comedy reminiscent of the Pythons.

One of the most famous Python sketches is the infamous “Lumberjack Song,” so today we’re going to drink a Lumberjack. It’s a nice strong coffee drink with just a touch of rum and maple syrup.


  • 1 1/2 ounces Dark Rum
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Coffee

Pour the rum in a coffee mug, add the maple syrup and then fill with coffee.

Tomorrow: A red windmill.


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