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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monty Python & Shakespeare

I was re-watching the closing ceremony from the Olympics, and Eric Idle singing "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" makes me laugh so hard -- especially when the Indian dancers interrupt him. Hilarious!

Maybe it was the large "To Be Or Not To Be" printed on the stage, but I couldn't help thinking about Monty Python and Shakespeare.

Oh, how I wish the Python boys had done up Shakespeare all those years ago, when they were making Life of Brian and Holy Grail. They would have been so spectacularly funny. And I think they would have found the truth of Shakespeare had they tried.

All they did do were some skits, none of them very funny. Perhaps the funniest is the "Man Who Talks In Anagrams." My favorite line is "A shroe, a shroe, my dingkom for a shroe!"

As I wrote my versions of Hamlet, Richard III, and The Merchant of Venice I realized that they are unlike any Shakespeare we have ever known. They are funny in ways that we don't really appreciate. We have to re-wire our brains to understand them. We have to remove many preconceived notions of Shakespeare from our minds -- we have to un-Shakespeare ourselves.

Also, it became evident that the actors who performed these plays were more like comedians than "Thespians" with a capital "T." They were very bright men, often from Cambridge, and they worked themselves to death to entertain.

Well, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, and John Cleese also went to Cambridge, and were in the Footlights club which has produced some of the greatest talents, especially in comedy, from England. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry also belonged to this club.

I think the Python boys had the same kind of brilliant talent that Shakespeare's actors did. I think this brand of comedy started long before Shakespeare, for sure, but it must have crystallized with him, and the flowering of theatre in England under Elizabeth.

This comedy has gone on for 4 centuries.

Think of Peter Sellars, Rowan Atkinson, Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais, and Sacha Baron Cohen.

These are the kinds of comedic actors who should perform Shakespeare today for us. They can and would find the humor in the plays and properly un-Shakespeare our minds. "My dingkom for a shroe!" indeed!