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You Should Be Watching: 'Monty Python's Flying Circus'

If you seek supremely silly sketch comedy, then binge-watch the BBC’s wonderfully wacky “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” This is British comedy so bizarre and bodacious it will make you spill both your tea and crumpets.

Title: "Monty Python’s Flying Circus"

Year it began: 1969

Where it can be seen: Amazon; Netflix; iTunes; Seeso

Who’s in it: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin

Typical episode length: 27 minutes

Number of episodes: 45

Brief plot description: The show features a variety of sketch comedy bits and unusual animated interludes, with strange themes sometimes linking scenes.

Why it’s worth watching: The legendary comedy troupe Monty Python offers some of its most wonderful weirdness in its “Flying Circus.” While you may be familiar with some of their classic sketches from best-of collections or Youtube clips, there is nothing quite like experiencing the non-stop rush of kooky comedy in a full “Flying Circus” episode. Strange themes often bridge sketches with characters sometimes walking whimsically from one routine into another. Four of the five troupe members are comedic chameleons capable of playing a wide variety of roles, while Gilliam’s key contribution is the cut-out, stop-motion animation that makes the show surreally unique.

Monty Python features masterful displays of physical comedy. To watch Cleese play a buttoned-down government minister whose specialty is silly walks, or to see the players dressed as Queen Victorias run a furious foot-race, is to see slapstick at its best. Another charming quality is the group’s penchant for cross-dressing: the sublimely funny “Spam” sketch, for instance, resonates so magnificently because Idle’s straight-man Spam-enthusiast converses with the seriously shrill-voiced Jones and Chapman in drag. The show offers many well-conceived gags that imitate serious documentaries. The explosions that painfully teach subjects trying to camouflage themselves “How Not to Be Seen” are hilarious due to perfect use of outdoor sets.

Monty Python are particularly skilled at mixing low-brow and high-brow comedy. You are just as likely to see a crudely goofy skit where a madman makes music by bludgeoning mice as to hear Palin cracking sophisticated jokes while announcing a soccer match between Greek and German philosophers. Whether you delight in such black comedy as an unscrupulous shopkeeper selling a dead parrot or such surreal silliness as a wild-eyed cartoon face playing organ music with his teeth, Monty Python serves most of your comedy needs.

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