by Victor Valle
Through the use of humor, people can both laugh and see their own world in a different light. Comedians frequently make politics or world events the subject humor as a way to educate and inject one’s beliefs on the topic. Such as here one can make jokes on the government and tell how they feel about it. This can go with the idea of bringing those of the same views together and have a laugh and can be an educational moment for those who did not know and could encourage more research on a given topic.
In 1971, British comedy troupe, Monty Python, released And Now for Something Completely Different, a feature film compilation of sketches from their hit BBC series, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Their humor is best known for its blending of satire, surrealism, and anarchic comedy which they employed to lampoon English (and sometimes American) culture in often hilarious ways. This blend of humor can be seen in the sketches “American Defense/Ads” and “How not to be seen.” Each demonstrates how Monty Python’s humor can seamlessly transition from one comedic form to another.
The animation of “American Defense/Ads,” chiefly created by Terry Gilliam, can be seen as surreal, initially through the drawing style along with the voiceover which gives the impression of an old propaganda cartoon which is what is it really making fun of. But then, the animation transitions from a piece of propaganda to one poking fun at the commercial values of the American people. It also goes depicts offensive stereotypes as the subject of its attack. The abrupt cut into the ad itself which shows Uncle Sam as a sort of huckster selling a product can be shown as a commentary on how America works with products and how they sell them to the people. This can be showing how the British view Americans and how they see product placement in a negative light. This social satire here was especially timely during this capitalist vs communist era which affected the world. What Python does is blend the surreal and the satire of political discourse, ultimately making this serious topic funny.
The sketch “How Not to Be Seen” incorporates a blend of anarchic humor with the premise of killing those who are seen and even not with explosions or shots simply. The second part of this blend is satire due to the reference of the government and the idea of a “manic god”. This can be seen as a way governments and those in power can go crazy.
The anarchy of the hiding and exploding even if they are not seen goes on with the ending portion of the skit. Going from people to homes to nations even. It goes down a chaotic rabbit hole and does not let up until the narrator is stopped. The humor, a bit dark when thinking about it deeply, can be looked over when looking at the actual comedy of it. Doing the blend right and keeping its levity high.
This method was done a lot with Monty Python’s sketches when one looks at them. The main thing to notice with their sketches is in their blend in everything within the context of their topic. Blending anarchic, satire, culture, and aesthetic. They choose not just one style or form with their sketches but rather a stream of consciousness that interweaves real life, such as with a government announcement or an animation that borders on the surreal, but lets you know it’s based in this world.