Dry prose does injustice to 'Life of Python'

By Michael Eilers

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Does the sentence "This . is an ex-parrot!" send you into uncontrollable fits of laughter? Have you ever taunted someone by saying, "Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries?" Have you, at any time, shouted the word "albatross" at the top of your lungs for no apparent reason?

If so, George Perry's The Life of Python is the book for you. An amazingly complete look at the cast members of the famed BBC comedy show, "Monty Python's Flying Circus," the book covers everything from the actors' first days on the stage, to their most recent film and television projects.

Lavishly illustrated with movie stills and behind-the-scenes photographs, the book documents nearly every aspect of the Python crew's careers, including John Cleese's rocky marital life and Terry Gilliam's financial disasters.

Divided into a series of mini-biographies of the Python members and a comprehensive history of the show, the book also tracks the stars' careers both before and after the short-lived "Flying Circus" days. Thick with interviews and a complete "Pythonography," a show-by-show listing of every episode and film with a Python actor in it, this history is about as exhaustive (and exhausting) as possible. There's only one problem.

It's not funny.

Perry, in an attempt to satisfy the most die-hard Python fans, threw in all things Python-esque, including every little incident and event. He shows a little too much reverence for a comedy troupe that prided themselves on irreverent, shocking fun, and as a result, even the funny bits are dull when listed in chronological order.

Delivering sentences like "In truth, the antecedents of Monty Python stretch back long before that, to the immediate postwar period when the six constituent members were in their respective childhoods," Perry's text is chalk-dry and methodical. The high points come when the Pythons get to speak for themselves, providing extremely warped and non-factual accounts of their lives and careers.

The Life of Python is valuable for the photographs alone, and if you consider yourself an avid Python fan and can plow through Perry's prose, the book is a must-have. After you buy it, pen a quick letter to KUAT demanding that "Flying Circus" be put back on the air, feed your pet halibut named Eric, curl up on the couch and read.

The Life of Python, $16.95, by George Perry is published by Running Press of Philadelphia and London.

Read Next Article