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And Now for Something Completely the Same

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)

By Tom BakerPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, and a "Thing": THE MEANING OF LIFE (1983)

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life is a sketch comedy film that is not far removed from the legendary comedy troupe's classic BBC television series of the late sixties and early seventies--it has the same quasi-surrealist bent and the same level of pushing the absurd, grotesque, and insensible to the outer edges of acceptability as the "Flying Circus" did nearly a decade before. Of course, the very fact is that it's a motion picture, and so the censors are somewhat dispensed with and the writers can get on with the sorts of nasty and shocking things they wanted to do on the small screen, but just couldn't get away with.

The film, ostensibly an examination of the question, "What is the meaning of life?", is divided into various grotesque segments, each one mocking the various facets of life as we know and accept it (this is after a longish intro comprised of a short film, wherein a poor, downtrodden office of elderly financial advisers or what have you become a gang of fairy tale pirates, their office building becoming a sailing vessel and taking out upon the blood-soaked seas of international finance).

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life Intro (HD)

The first episode or segment, "Birth," skewers religion and birth control, with comedian the late Terry Jones playing a haggard, repulsive British woman who drops offspring in bloody piles, while her massive army of children sing amusical number denoting that "Every sperm is sacred!" Across the street, the bourgeois Protestant (the late Graham Chapman) observes and comments hypocritically that his religion is far superior, as it allows him the use of several different types of contraceptives, as well as "aids toward sexual stimulation." Eric Idle, playing his wife, eagerly asks, "Could we get some?"

War or, "Fighting Eachother" seems a comment on British colonialism, as stuffy, pompous, and conservative officers during the Zulu War go out looking for a missing leg, only to find Michael Palin and Eric Idle dressed in tiger costumes while, presumably, doing something repugnant in the bushes. The gift of several clocks and a celebration cake to a soldier about to go "over the top" pushes the outer edge of the envelope of the absurd--and genuine laughter ensues. (Or at least, I was genuinely laughing--you, perhaps, may find none of this funny at all.)

The culmination of this uproarious and often sickening trip is a visit to Heaven, where, "it's always Christmas." Along the way, we have forced kidney removal, a tremendously obese man, Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones) going into an expensive French restaurant and ordering everything on the menu, projectile vomiting it back up in one of the most repellent pieces of commercial cinema ever lensed, and, lastly, three human oddities (one wearing an elephant's head and another having nightmarishly long, crooked arms) playing "Find the Fish." I suppose it's all in good fun, or the spirit of satirical commentary, but it may put you off having dinner soon afterward.

(Oh, and did we mention John Cleese playing an insensitive and stereotypical British schoolmaster who demonstrates sexuality to his bored class by boffing his wife in front of them? No? Well, now you have it.)

The last segment, "Death," is the most amusing. A hooded and skeletal armed death visits an unbelieving out-of-the-way soiree of American ex-pats and their British hosts, all of whom succumb to the spoiled salmon pate. Not only do the spirits leave their bodies, but they all drive off into the Void (actually a swirling tunnel of light) in "ghost cars." Death Itself is an incredibly irritable and thoroughly amusing fellow, who castigates "pompous" Brits and loud, vulgar Americans, who are "always talking." Yuk yuk.

Forty-one years on, the edge of the envelope Monty Python pushed has traveled far, far out into the distance (mixed metaphor?). The sorts of things that pushed buttons with audiences in 1983 won't even bat an eyelash in 2024. Be that as it may, you might feel a little queasy while viewing this unchestnut, so be forewarned. We hope and pray you don't end up like Mr. Creosote, but do bring your own bucket or barf bag, just in case.

The Meaning of Life Official Trailer #1 - Graham Chapman Movie (1983) HD


About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.:

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Comments (2)

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  • ROCK about a month ago

    I loved John Cleese and still have never found anything of the likes of Month Python. Great trip down memory lane. Great article!

  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    One of their rare misfires, but with some fantastic sketches (Mr. Creosote and the sex-ed class seem very timely)!

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