After my father died, a few years ago, I discovered something I’ve come to call Python Grieving. It has nothing to do with snakes. I needed to escape from the fog of grief that enveloped me, so I borrowed a friend’s 14-DVD set of The Best of Monty Python and sat down each night to watch and laugh.
Grieving has spawned millions of aphorisms, hundreds of religious rituals, and thousands of self-help books as well as prescription cocktails and probably several diagnostic codes. I think it should also have a what-to-watch list. For my children’s generation it might be episodes of The Simpsons or Family Guy or even YouTube cat videos, but for someone my age, there is nothing so helpful as the Minister of Silly Walks, a dead parrot, and the Spanish Inquisition.
My father was not a Monty Python fan. He was of a different generation. Television came along in his adult years, after he’d survived World War II in the Pacific and settled into the family business, marriage, and parenthood. When the remote control came into his life, followed by cable, he had all he needed. With a short attention span and fast reflexes (the kind that would have let him buzz in quickly on Jeopardy, should he have ever been on the show), he would zip through the stations, never settling on one show for very long. But he loved Antiques Roadshow, and recruited me into becoming a fan. When I watch it now I think of him, and wish I could call him up to discuss the shocking value of ugly items, and the crazy stories of what people find in attics and at flea markets.
After my father died, I couldn’t watch the Roadshow without crying, and I needed to laugh. That meant Monty Python. Silly without being mean, political without being pointed, and filled with enough short sketches to grab my attention and keep my thoughts from returning to grief, it was just about perfect. Watching Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Ché Guevara, and Mao Tse Tung compete in a quiz bowl answering questions about English football and Jerry Lee Lewis hits was the escape I needed.
When friends lose loved ones, I offer to lend them Monty Python DVDs. It might help; it can’t hurt; you don’t need a prescription; and it doesn’t matter that your insurance won’t cover it—although this would be better world if it did.