Friday, October 13, 2006
garry shandling and monty python and I
I must say I do think It's Garry Shandling's Show was the funniest show of the 80s, perhaps even beyond that.
One of those weird things that happens three or four times in anyone's lifetime, but I wish it would happen to me in things of greater consequence, but still: I remember walking home from work when I lived with Amanda in Egan Street thinking how I'd heard about this very funny program called It's Garry Shandling's Show and how it was a show about someone who lived in a show, etc, and I thought 'I wish they'd screen that here'. Then I looked in the tv guide and it was actually starting that night, at about 11pm on Channel 9. Serious!
I have quite a few Garry Shandling tapes, probably of about 7 or 8 episodes. I am amazed to find that there were four seasons - that's a lot of IGSS - and I have only seen bits and pieces, really. According to the Jump the Shark site, though, I seem to have seen many of the best ones - like the Fugitive episode, and the time travel/amnesia episode, and the Name the Schumaker baby contest (and the one where Pete thinks he's not the father of the baby and Garry flies to Chicago to quiz Jackie's old boyfriend and he knocks on the door and the boyfriend doesn't remember any Jackie Schumaker and Garry says 'Oh, what was her maiden name - that's it, Jackie Schunaker, and the guy says, 'Oh, sure I know Jackie Schunaker!' I mean seriously that is quality). (And the Jeff Goldblum one where they get locked in the freezer, I am laughing about that one now).
A few days ago, inspired by a Mojo feature on Monty Python, I was thinking about how I was a very early, young convert to MP - I remember Dad let me stay up to watch it when it was first being shown on the ABC (or, at least, when we were living in Kew, which was pre-1973). Can that be a genuine memory? He thought I would like, and he was right, the Terry Gilliam animations and at first that was all I really wanted to see. By the time we were living in the UK in the mid-70s, I was full on into it and the last series - without John Cleese and coincidentally not as good - was on. By this time no-one in the family but me was interested, I would stay up and watch it by myself. Anyway of course like many MP fans I bought the records and then there was this weird thing of learning sections of dialogue and reciting it with friends ('Your majesty is like a big jam donut with cream on top... your majesty is like a stream of bat's piss'. I'm sure none of us knew who the hell Shaw and Wilde were, or really 'got' the idea them standing around insulting Prince Edward, though I suppose we got some of it by context). Why the hell would anyone do anything so lame as recite bits of this show? I guess it marked you out as part of an esoteric clique back then.
To my shame I recall anyone who got the slightest word wrong was chastised.
I was way grown out of the whole schtick and was able to talk to girls and stuff by the early 80s when I was at a party and I heard a bunch of boys one or two years younger than me doing that same thing - reciting bits of Monty Python sketches - and then one of them said with glee, 'Hey we should write this stuff down!' That was when I knew I had wasted too much of my life already.
I suppose the humour of Monty Python was primarily that kind of humour of inappropriate interjections, social embarrassment, people talking one way and saying something else, etc. There was also a lot of stuff on the shows and records that would have made absolutely no sense to anyone after about 1972 - references to various British journalists, broadcasters (Joan Bakewell) and politicians like Reginald Maudling. (I must admit I smiled when I just recalled the cannibalism-in-the-lifeboat sketch where someone cries 'We're done for! We're done for!' and someone else says 'Shutup, Maudling.' I guess the name 'Maudling' is funny in itself).
Anyway, the reason this ties in to a program I now believe to be about 700 times better than Monty Python, the abovementioned IGSS, is that concepts, phrases and so on will pop into my head all the time from IGSS. I think this is broader than remembering dialogue (no, I didn't try to learn dialogue from IGSS) but it might go back to the same basic principle. A lot of the time things people say trigger songs in my mind, too. (As an example writing that sentence has put the fairly mundane Elvis Costello song 'Little Triggers' into my head - sorry, but it has!!!)
One thing that comes to mind as an example is from the Fugitive episode of IGSS, where Jackie and Garry are running from the cops (it turns out to be a toy helicopter - heh) and they see the teenage Grant Schumaker under a lamplight, smoking a cigarette like Bogart.
Jackie: Look Garry it's little Grant smoking! Aren't you going to say something?
Garry: I don't know... 'He looks really cool' -?
Perhaps it's a sign of a syndrome. Every time someone says, or I read the words, or words approximating, 'Aren't you going to say something?' my mind goes to that joke. Which probably doesn't come out too well in the above but it still makes me laugh.
Garry Shandling's film about being an alien from outer space was so appalling, I wanted to die when I saw it. But everything else he's done has been incredible, and I think he is possibly my favourite comedian ever - though I have to get over the general sexism, etc of some of the material (because I'm so po-faced and right on).
After IGSS he went on to do the second greatest comedy show ever, The Larry Sanders Show, a totally different proposition - totally - but every bit as good in so many different ways. The first season of this show is available on DVD and Annabel was nice enough to get it for me as a present a few years ago, and it's magnificent. It's a different kind of 'show within a show', but whereas IGSS was absolutely surreal, TLSS was very believable. I love them both. Only the first season of Larry Sanders is available on DVD and none of IGSS is available on anything, even YouTube has nothing. Even YouTube!!!
When I was in NY in '96 with the Cannanes we went to Aileen McNally's mother's restaurant (or was this '91? maybe - I think it was the same visit we saw Epic Soundtracks outside the Knitting Factory and Aileen tried to talk to him about Julian Clary who he didn't like) we ate at the table in the window and I got to sit in a chair that Garry Shandling had sat in. Look, it actually was a thrill, he is a hero to me on the level of Robert Crumb and Mayo Thompson... all these American men twenty years my senior, what's it all about?