Life of Brian – Reconsidered

I’m a fan of Monty Python. Not that that’s a surprising revelation. I think it’s a geek requirement. Or maybe, if Weird Al is right, it’s just part of being White and Nerdy (As a side note, at least two of my friends have that song as their ringtone for me when I call them. I take it as a compliment). Back to Python, like many people, I started with Holy Grail, and then I saw the television series, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life. My brother and I did the Argument Clinic sketch at our school talent show one year, and my desk currently sports an empty can of Chocolate Dead Parrots. I have performed The Lumberjack Song in public. In short, I like Python.

Life of Brian, however, never did anything for me. I love Holy Grail, and there are bits in Meaning of Life that I think are fantastic. But Brian I watched once while in high school and didn’t laugh all that much. But while watching an episode of the Monty Python: Almost The Truth documentary series that was devoted to Life of Brian, I found myself laughing at the clips from the movie that they showed and enjoying them far more than I remember liking anything about that film.

Now there are a couple of possible explanations for this. Maybe the clips work better out of context, kind of like scenes in a trailer, but their inclusion in the movie blunts their impact. Or maybe I was just too young to really appreciate Life of Brian when I saw it the first time. I felt this latter explanation was far more plausible, so I decided that it is time for me to give Life of Brian another chance. I’ve had it on VHS for years (Yes, that technology still exists in my home), and I gave it another watch.

I’m still not a fan.

Now there are several bits in the film that are very funny. The stoning sequence and the suicide squad in particular made me laugh. I like the Latin lesson Brian gets from the Roman centurion. I like Pilate scenes. I like the flood of Romans streaming in and out of Mathias’ house. I like “Always Look On The Right Side of Life.” So really I like a lot of the individual bits. They don’t get the same kind of laughs out of me that Holy Grail does, but I chuckled quite a bit.

The film as a whole doesn’t work for me, and it all comes down to the character of Brian. It’s not his fault, though. It’s completely mine and goes back to what I find funny.

Comedic tastes are very individual (as I discussed a couple of weeks ago in THIS POST. For example, while I have friends and readers of my Star Traks stories who think I’m very funny, my ex-wife, on the whole, did not. We have different tastes in humor. I don’t mind things are that a bit silly. She generally does not like silly humor. This is why I love Holy Grail and she pretty much can’t stand it.

One of the kinds of comedy I don’t like is what I call “let’s torture the normal guy” comedy. If you take a relatively decent, normal person and do bad things to them, expecting me to laugh at their expense, you won’t get very far. I don’t find it funny when radio stations prank call people, I didn’t like Meet the Parents for this reason, and I didn’t like watching Brian have all of this happen to him. There are a lot of silly things going on in Life of Brian, but Brian himself is a fairly regular guy. I can laugh at the silliness around him, but I just don’t find what happens to him to be humorous. Again, that’s just me.

So Life of Brian probably won’t come back off of my shelf for a while. I’ll be sticking to the series, Holy Grail, and The Meaning of Life.  But, looking on the bright side of life, as the end of Life of Brian suggests, those Python selections are very very funny.

- Alan Decker

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