Rear Window

Comic Relief as Axiomatic Belief

Sandipan Deb is an IIT-IIM graduate who wandered into journalism after reading a quote from filmmaker George Lucas — “Everyone cage door is open” — and has stayed there (in journalism, not a cage) for the past 19 years. He has written a book on the IITs.
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If you’re feeling low, nothing works better than Monty Python skits on YouTube.

I am a conventional person. I believe in conventional remedies. No New Age stuff for me. So, whenever I get depressed, I go to YouTube and spend 10 minutes watching skits from the funniest TV show in human history. And I am cured. Henry David Thoreau wrote that most of us live ‘a life of quiet desperation’. Well, those are the guys who haven’t watched Monty Python.

A man comes to an ‘argument clinic’ to have—what else?—an argument. By mistake, he enters the ‘abuse’ room, and is roundly—what else?—abused: “Shut your festering gob, you tit! Your type really makes me puke, you vacuous, coffee-nosed, malodorous pervert!” However, the error is discovered, the abuser apologises, and directs the client to the right man. What follows is the most hilarious argument ever, consisting mainly of “I did!” and “No, you didn’t” and a nuanced discussion on the difference between ‘argument’ and ‘contradiction’. The client is disgusted and wants to complain, but the ‘complaints room’ is inhabited by a man whose job is to complain, not listen to any.

The Monty Python TV show ran for five years on BBC, from 1969 to 1974. There are also several Python movies, the most famous being The Life of Brian, about a Jew born the same night as Jesus and mistaken for the Messiah. In fact, the three wise men reach the wrong manger. Wise man: “Ahem…” Brian’s mother: “Who are you?” Wise Man: “We are three wise men.” Brian’s mother: “Well, what are you doing creeping around a cow shed at two o’clock in the morning? That doesn’t sound very wise to me.” You get the drift. Nothing is sacred in the world of Monty Python.

I can go on. About the man who is alternately rude and polite, about the Ministry of Silly Walks, the cheap airline with the kamikaze pilot, the dead parrot (totally, totally unbeatable), or the silly job interview. Okay, the silly job interview. Interviewer: “Good morning.” Stig: “Good morning.” Interviewer: “Tell me why did you say ‘good morning’ when you know perfectly well that it’s afternoon?” Stig: “Well, you said ‘good morning’.” Interviewer: “Good afternoon.” Stig: “Good afternoon.” Interviewer: “Good evening.” Stig: “... Goodbye?” Interviewer: “Ha, ha. No (rings hand-bell), aren’t you going to ask me why I rang the bell?” Stig: “Er… why did you ring the bell?” Interviewer: “Why do you think I rang the bell? (shouts) Five, four, three, two, one, zero!” Stig: “I, I...” Interviewer: “Too late! Time’s up! (singing) Goodnight, ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. Goodnight. Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding.”

I am sure someone somewhere has toiled for years and written a totally mirthless PhD thesis on the meaning and significance of Monty Python skits, perhaps even subjecting them to Marxian analysis, using phrases like ‘the socio-geographic contextual space of the narrative trajectory of the alternate subverse’. And the surviving members of the group (one of them has passed away) would be laughing themselves silly over it. After all, these are the men who scripted an Olympic soccer final between the German and Greek philosophers.

Germany boasts such stars as Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Hegel. The Greeks are a formidable team too, with Socrates, Plato, Archimedes and Aristotle. The referee is Confucius. He blows his whistle to start the game, and the Germans immediately turn away from the ball, hands on chins in deep contemplation. The Greeks, too, are thinking deeply. Cut to commentary from the closing moments of the game: “As you can see, Nietzsche has just been booked for arguing with the referee. He accused Confucius of having no free will, and Confucius, he say, ‘Name go in book’…There’s Archimedes, and I think he’s had an idea!” Archimedes shouts “Eureka!” and kicks the ball. The Greeks cotton on, and, “Socrates scores, got a beautiful cross from Archimedes. The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside.”