All the material in this book is guaranteed to be old, writes Terry Gilliam in one of the book’s many prefaces, “not a single new joke or idea has been sacrificed for this tome.” This is doubly true when you discover that The Very Best of Monty Python is in fact a repackaged omnibus edition of 2000’s A Pocketful of Python. What a complete and utter scamalot.
Nonetheless, the wit of Python is timeless and certainly puts Catherine Tate and the new series of Bo’ Selecta! into perspective. Particularly pleasing is the chance to examine, in detail, the drawings from Gilliam’s animation sequences which sometimes fly by so quickly on the TV series you don’t always appreciate their uniquely strange artistry. Similarly, the lyrics to those excellent songs are printed here, and there are enough book-specific jokes to justify spending a tenner.
Sadly, some of the sketches lose their magic when reduced to script form. Unless read exactly how the Pythons deliver their lines, many of the jokes fall flat and read more akin to an office bore trying to explain the gist of a great comedy sketch he saw the previous night. The famous cheese shop skit, with John Cleese removed, becomes just a list of types of cheese.
The release is timely, coinciding with the Glasgow debut of Eric Idle’s Spamlot musical, and it’s just the right size to be put inside a Christmas stocking. What a remarkable coincidence.