December 7 Reverb Broads Prompt: Who or what makes you laugh so hard that milk shoots out of your nose and why? Slapstick, dry witty comedy, your kids, Monty Python? courtesy of me
I think when we are children our sense of humor keys off of our parents' example. I was raised on the heady comedy combination of a father who repeated lines from Saturday Night Live and had been a radio DJ in a former life, and a mother who loved classics like the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby The Road to Morocco movies, or colorful musicals with dancing girls and Fred Astaire, and anything staring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn. My love of humor and comedy started with Shel Silverstein books that they read to me in funny, high pitched voices, in figuring out that I could make my brother laugh the same way when reading the Hardy Boys out loud to him. The Hardy Boys alternated from being Southern to British, the only two accents I could manage in middle school. And then something happened.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail happened. When I was a freshman and acting in a very small part in the school play, a group of junior and senior theatre nerds invited some of us over after practice to one of their houses for a viewing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I knew nothing about it. Nothing. Nearly everyone else had seen it a trillion times and could quote every scene. But instead of making me feel bad about having never seen it, they seemed to get as much joy from watching us few Holy Grail virgins watch the movie as they did from watching the actual movie. They would quote the scene perfectly in-sync, en masse, and then turn to smile at us to make sure we got it and were enjoying ourselves. They made us feel a part of the whole experience. Sort of like going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show except in someone's suburban basement, drinking Diet Coke and laughing with 12 people much older and cooler than me.
Maybe it was just the hilarity of Monty Python, maybe it was the whole experience. But I was hooked. I rented every Monty Python movie I could find and forced my younger brother to watch with me. My brother and I watched their show on TV the few times I could find it. And since this was pre-Netflix I really had to try to find their stuff. After consuming all of it, all of it, it was time to make sure my parents knew how fantastic this movie was. Do you see where this is going? Did I telegraph that enough?
I was convinced I would show my parents how wonderfully inventive, absurd and funny these crazy British dudes were. As if I'd discovered Monty Python in some kind of derelict, shadowy club all on my own. As if they hadn't already been around for decades by the time I "found" them. But I tend to take a passionate ownership in the pop culture things that I love. Even very early in my life, evidently.
I slipped the tape into the VHS player, hit play, leaned back and waited for the laughter to explode. I intently watched their faces, which may have helped kill the hilarious mood, no pressure, MOM. They didn't get it. They nodded along, but their eyes didn't light up like mine did. They didn't laugh so hard that milk shot out of their nose when the Frenchman taunts King Arthur and his men. They smiled when the Knights who say "Nee" demanded a shrubbery, but they weren't into it. The political humor that I barely understood, "Help, help, I'm being oppressed!" Oh, they gave a placating chuckle here or there. But I knew. I could tell. It just wasn't their sense of humor. (Now my father will claim that he's always loved Monty Python and that he introduced it to me. But that is a calculated lie that he is notorious for perpetrating. Even now he'll take a show or movie or music recommendation from Joe or I, and then two weeks later bring it up in conversation like we weren't the ones who told him. "Have you seen this Big Bang show? Bazinga! I think you guys would like it." He is also notorious for watching a movie/TV show alone and not enjoying it, in fact complaining about how crappy it is, and then when watching with the rest of the family, he suddenly gets the funny. He's going to hate that I've revealed this. But it's true. And as a side note, he is also quite funny. Or as my stepmother would warn, "Don't encourage him.")
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the turning point where I realized that there were many, many things I was going to find funny that my parents simply wouldn't get. And that instead of making me sad that they wouldn't get it, (rather like it does now when they don't like movies/shows that I do,) it made me feel superior and giddy and kind of cool. This must be how girls obsessed with Elvis felt in the 1950's. So while Monty Python is decidedly less sexy and pelvisy than Elvis, it felt like rebellion. Absurb, ridiculous rebellion and I haven't looked back since.
I don't like pratfalls and slapstick much. Weekend at Bernie's was stupid, the Farrelly brother's movies are not for me. But give me Monty Python, give me all Christopher Guest movies except maybe For Your Consideration (what happened there? yikes,) give me Saturday Night Live even on an off season, give me David Sedaris and Christopher Moore, give me Parks and Rec and 30 Rock and The Office. Give me the witty, the verbal sparring, the absurdity mixed with heart and you will own me and you will get to take full credit for the milk spewing out of my nose. That doesn't mean I don't laugh at the 3 Stooges occasionally. They can be a bit irresistible even to me. But male ejaculate as hair gel will never be as funny to me as Will Farrell's pompous Anchor Man or a little more cowbell. So if you hit just that right mix of smart, witty and absurd, you'll end up with yet another picture of me with my mouth wide open. This seems to happen a lot.