Welshman Amused, Recordist Recorded

Terry Jones

Cardinal Biggles

On Sunday Maureen and I went with some friends to Improv Olympic Theater to see Monty Python’s Terry Jones give a talk on comedy writing.  But the comedy began even before the main event.

On taking my seat, I noticed that the guy seated in front of me was none other than Aadam Jacobs. Aadam, a well-known fixture at Chicago rock shows throughout the 1980s-90s whose persistence with microphones and tape decks has produced an enormous private archive of rare live music, was having a chat with another fellow in the row.  Naturally, my instinct was to do for Aadam what he had done so often for the bands — record the proceedings.  So out came my Palm Treo 700P. I fired up the CallRec software, hit the Record button and and hovered the smartphone just out of Aadam’s peripheral vision, capturing the chatter.  Eventually he noticed and we had a chuckle.  Of course, he requested a copy of the recording.  We’ll see what we can work out in trade, Aadam.

Then came Monty Python’s Terry Jones onstage to begin a great session concerning the craft of comedy writing, a subject near to my heart by a speaker whose work I have effectively memorized over the years.

What did I learn?  About the Python history and working method, not a lot — they went into an office every day, wrote a lot in pairs (Jones/Palin and Cleese/Chapman), rejected a lot of their own stuff, made it up as they went along, faced stupidity from BBC executives, argued with their director, were clueless on how to write for women, and were supremely blessed with talent and favorable circumstance throughout their career together.

Throughout the talk, video clips of Terry and Michael Palin’s work were shown.  Great classic pieces — Lumberjack, The Spanish Inquisition, Mr. Creosote, The Funniest Joke In The World.   I love all of these, and because of that, I carry them around, complete and correct, in my head.  So they weren’t what I watched.  Instead, I took the rare opportunity instead to watch Terry Jones as he watched these clips.

I had a morbid curiosity: would he display the slightest fatigue at watching, for the hundred thousandth time, his best work?  From my seat, I stalked him to find out.

The answer was a beautiful no.  I saw in his face not a trace of impatience, only delight, a perpetual openness to the humor and honest reaction to it.  He was truly a natural reflection of his work, and it was awesome to see.

Sometimes I wonder about the objective value of things created.  Sometimes I wonder who else wonders about the same thing.  Sometimes I wonder too much about things that don’t matter, and sometimes I guess incorrectly about what people might do.  Such is the plight of the perpetual skeptic who forgets it’s better to enjoy what you have done unreservedly when a world is inclined – by sheer numbers if nothing else – to reservation.

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rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

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1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende
May 2009
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