No Idle Evening

by Robert Smith

An Evening (Without)
Monty Python

Town Hall
New York City

Eric Idle is holding on to his Monty Python legacy with both hands – and thank goodness for that. The British comedy legend has followed up his recent triumph, the Broadway smash Spamalot, with this limited run reworking of legendary Python TV sketches, which work a lot better live than anyone dared imagine.

Basically, all Idle and co-director B.T. McNicholl did was to take some of the funniest Python classics, update them, and hand them to five talented, fresh comic actors. And what a cast it was: the still youthful Jane Leeves, late of “Frazier”; former Spamalot cast members Alan Tudyk and Rick Holmes; Jim Piddock, perhaps best known for his role as the put-upon dog show color commentator in “Best In Show”; and Jeff B. Davis from “Whose Line Is It Anyway.” The result was downright magical, as these gifted performers, armed with the brightest yet silliest sketch comedy ever unleashed on television, hammed it up and ate the scenery and had a marvelous time going wild – taking, on this evening, a shockingly mature audience of Python fanatics right along with them.

The title of the show was quite accurate; not a single Python member (the rest of the cast included John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, and the last Graham Chapman) was present, but in truth, they weren’t missed. All five cast members were brilliant, but every show has a breakout star, and in this case, it clearly was Tudyk, who seemed more than a bit at home wiping cream pies off his face, donning a kerchief and becoming a “rat bag,” or complaining about a dead parrot. The most uproarious of his portrayals, however, was his insane candy company owner performance, which bordered on manic. Instead of mimicking Jones’ original performance, Tudyk played the originator of “Cockroach Clusters” and “Ram’s Bladder Cup” chocolates as Louis Nye on methadone, and the results were pure loony genius.

In fact, what made the evening work so superbly was that Idle encouraged his actors to simply create their own characters out of the original Python sketches, and each shined in their own way. Leeves sang silly songs beautifully (including the still-shocking “Never Be Rude To An Arab”); Davis looked quite lovely while peddling albatross; Piddock brought applause as a Cockney Michelangelo; and Holmes still might be babbling, as his annoying travel customer character ran through the audience, complaining of anything and everything seemingly forever.

It’s a pity that this October 10 performance was the last of the scheduled run for this Evening (Without), as it was every bit as funny as Spamalot, and not nearly as expensive a ticket. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Monty Python, with cable television specials and a reunion in England all on the docket. Again, thank goodness; in these serious times, we need all the silly walks we can get.

© 2009 Robert Smith

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, Posts by Robert Smith

7 responses to “No Idle Evening

  1. Oh man, you KNOW I would have loved this! Never can get enough Python. And it just goes to show you – when the material is good, it holds up over time and is just as great in other people’s hands.

    Hope these guys feel inspired enough to do some more!

    Jon Pine

  2. Bill Cornelison

    Just a little trivia. Jane Leeves appeared as an uncredited dancer in the “Christmas in Heaven” sequence in The Meaning of Life (from IMDB). I wonder if she made an impression then or for her work that followed?

    Bill C.

    You sit there on your loathsome, spotty behinds squeezing blackheads, not caring a tinker’s cuss about the struggling artist. You excrement! You lousy hypocritical whining toadies . . . and your bleeding masonic handshakes! You wouldn’t let me join, would you, you blackballing bastards. (Sorry but I digress)

    • Robert Smith

      Bill C.,
      That little factoid was actually mentioned in the show; she appeared on stage in the same mini-Santa outfit and hilarious fake exposed breasts, singing “Every Day Is Christmas Day” from the film.

  3. Jon Pine

    The Pythons (minus Palin) were on Jimmy Fallon Wednesday night promoting their 40th Anniversary “of doing absolutely nothing new,” as John Cleese says. Watch for their special on IFC later this month.

    • Robert Smith

      I saw that program. What is Jimmy Fallon doing with his own national talk show? Putting a dweeb next to comic masters such as Cleese, Idle, and Jones could only make him look like a giggly teenager from Saugerties – which, of course, it exactly who he is. My fervent wish is that the Pythons show up on, say, Charlie Rose, where we can really hear them…

  4. Jon Pine

    Yeah, it’s pretty painful watching Fallon fumbling around on screen. I think some of his naive Python interview questions were intentional setups for comic effect, but the bit fell flat anyway. Fallon needs some lessons in comic timing. The Pythons proved their comedy mettle by rescuing Fallon from himself.

    I’m sure they’ll be making the talk show rounds in advance of their IFC special. Thank goodness.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s