A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Monty Python's Flying Circus is a classic British sketch comedy series that includes some silly physical comedy skits that are fine for younger kids, but it's most appropriate for teens. The Pythons' humor is absurd and silly, but it also leans heavily toward the intellectual -- skits incorporate topics such as politics, classic literature, and historical figures and events. Some skits also have sexual themes and plenty of innuendo, but nothing more graphic than some occasional bits and pieces of brief nudity (mostly quick glimpses of bare breasts and unclad buns). Skits can also include violence, but it's always cartoon-like with the Pythons and always there for a laugh -- a roving gang of biker grannies pummels a victim with their pocketbooks; members of a Sousa-playing band explode into nothing, one by one; a housewife stuffs her turkey with a limp cat; and so on. One extra word of caution: Unlike Tom and Jerry and other cartoons with exaggerated violence, this show occasionally features real actors performing violent acts -- young kids won't grasp the humor and may think the action is happening in real life.
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What's the story?
Created in the 1960s and beloved as a cult classic ever since, MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS stars the titular British sketch comedy troupe -- John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones. Creativity runs wild in skits like "A Man with a Tape Recorder Up His Brother's Nose," "Gorilla Librarian," and "Exploding Penguin on the TV Set." But there's more to the show than sheer absurd silliness. Many members of the troupe attended Oxford and Cambridge, and their smarts show up in most skits. (A very brief list of Python skit subjects: Queen Victoria, Richard Nixon, Proust, Picasso, Attila the Hun, the Spanish Inquisition, Hamlet, Wuthering Heights).
Is it any good?
The Pythons are an amazingly talented comedy bunch -- their humor is a mix of downright silliness, brilliant intellectualism, and over-the-top exaggeration. But with its sexual themes and innuendo (more on that below), cartoonish violence, and cerebral humor, this show is best for teens. What's more, some skits poke fun at the mentally and physically challenged, homosexuals, and people of other races and ethnicities (particularly the French). It's all in the name of humor/good fun, but younger kids won't be able to put it in context. Violence is exaggerated but all in fun -- a man is crushed by a 16-ton weight, dowdy matrons mix it up in a rugby-like brawl, a bloke reminisces about the time a gangster nailed his head to the floor, and a crazy self-defense instructor shoots his students when they attack him with fruit.
Overall, Monty Python's Flying Circus is a great example of what creative minds can accomplish when they work together. Anyone with an appreciation of comedy will see that these mates are masters of comedic timing, clever writing, character creation, and the art of physical comedy. Teens interested in acting and theater arts may be inspired by the show -- even though it originally aired in the late 1960s and '70s, it remains a grand example of talent and creativity and, frankly, is still hilarious.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Monty Python's Flying Circus' spoofs on historical events and figures (like World War II, the Spanish Inquisition, Picasso, and Trotsky) and other subjects also covered in classroom settings. Why is it funny that the Spanish Inquisition tortures victims with pillows and comfy chairs? What are the Pythons really making fun of in the "Ministry of Silly Walks" skit?
Families can also discuss how the all-male cast frequently dresses in drag to play women's roles. Why is it so funny? Is this tradition held over from Shakespeare's time?
What skits best show off the troupe's comedic timing, physical comedy, clever comedy writing, and creativity?
For kids who love comedy
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