10 April 2011

Are dead parrots funny?

[Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy wooden peg people by Randomly Generated]

Ok, so last night I was having a conversation with my husband which is a conversation that I've had many times with lots of different people over the years and yet it's something that I still have no answers on.  Hence I am turning to my trusty brain bank (that's you) in the hope that you may be able to shed some light.

The thing is, said husband and two sons really, really love A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Between the three of them they've read the book countless times, listened to the audio book another bunch of times, and watched the TV series way more than once.  It's the same with Monty Python. Every movie watched again and again and again.  Python quotes are thrown in to the conversation at random intervals.  Python documentaries are procured and yes, watched repeatedly.

I kind of get it.  Douglas Adams was funny, John Cleese a borderline genius - they did some good, nay great, stuff. But I've read the book, seen the movie, and I don't want to keep going back there. On the other hand, there is a handful of comedy shows that I would happily watch over and over again (Like Black Books, or Fawlty Towers, or new favourite Modern Family).  

So, over my short life I've been conducting a highly scientific experiment (assuming that by 'highly scientific' one means not scientific at all) and it seems this comedic division runs largely along gender lines.  I don't like to emphasise gender differences, I was happily bought up by a rabid feminist who was always going on about girls being able to do anything and men being a bit pain-in-the-arse-ish at times, and as a reaction to that I tend not to see things through the male/female prism.  But this issue is too important to keep ignoring!

My husband has suggested that the humour of Python et al is largely based on concepts, rather than characters, which puts women off.  He also suggested that women are just not exposed to comedy from an early age, and asked if there was an equivalent female comedic author in the world.  Surprisingly, I did not hit him.  I did however suggest that Python et al is adolescent...

Clearly, I need some answers!   Are you female and watching Life of Brian on a loop?  Is it just me? Do I not 'get' something?  Or do you see this gender divide too?  And what's your theory on why? Help!


  1. I think it has a lot to do with the type of comedy I was exposed to growing up. To me your choice of Black books (rates as one of my favs)is one that appeals to both men and women. I know both men and women who hate it and both men and women who love it. I understand part of the argument for different gender appeal but I think it's only one factor in why some comedies work for some and not for others. I have had times of my life when Python comedy has appealled, and other times when it has not. It's probably also influenced by who you watch it with.

  2. Oh my goodness I just typed out such a long response. And then Blogger ate it.

    In a nutshell - I think Monty Python is sexist. Where are the strong, awesome, female characters in it? They aren't there, or they're played by men, or they are just shrieking, silly women. I can't see myself represented at all in Monty Python, therefore it just bores me. And if I'm bored, I can't be amused.

    I don't at all think it's about concepts vs characters - sure it's not a sitcom where you watch characters develop each week, it's more of a sketch show. But there are just as many sketch shows out there that do feature women in a NICE way!

    Blackadder is a bit similar - there are women in it, but they are such cliches! Whereas something like Jeeves & Wooster, which is a similar crew of actors, is way friendlier to women. The biggest floozy is Wooster.

    Some of my current faves are 30 Rock, The Office, The Big Bang Theory, The IT Crew, Black Books, Wooster & Jeeves - I think all those shows are quite good at being funny, but not in a sexist/racist/homophobic way.

    So in answer, a dead parrot can totally be funny, as long as it's not surrounded by a bunch of annoying men. :)

  3. Monty Python was funny 20 years ago....I agree, it is adolescent. Love Black Books - my parents have a book shop - and secretly harbour the same loathing for their customers - so funny, and so true.

  4. i'm a lady and i like hitchhikers guide and monty python. i don't know that its a gender thing, i think its just a taste thing.

  5. I've never liked and I just don't get it, but then I'm not really into comedy much at all.

  6. I definitely like some Python stuff & could watch it occasionally but not '..on a loop', it's more little grabs of it that I laugh at... mind you, my Mr would chuck a pink fit if I tried to make him watch Life of Brian, so not all guys love it!

    Meanwhile, I LOVE BLACK BOOKS! I discovered it when working in a bookshop & it rang true. The only bad thing about watching it is that it needs copious amounts of red wine as an accompaniment... or maybe that's a good thing too.

    Also Fawlty Towers & Modern Family - Gold both. You have good taste!

  7. I think there is a definitely a gender/age component and a mood component. If I'm feeling silly and just want to get in touch with my immature side, then I'll watch the more "guy" comedies. I am a little younger so Monty Python is less my generation's funny I guess - Anchorman, Old School, that type of stuff are my equivalent I suppose. I'll really only watch that with the boyfriend though.

    If I'm in charge, it's The Office, Modern Family, and stuff like that :-)

  8. I'm a lady type person and I like Monty Python a lot! My husband doesn't. In fact, he's never seen any of their films!

  9. Monty Python is about concepts over characters- but I don't see how that excludes women. I know lots of women who like it, but probably more men who do.

    One thing springs to mind:
    It pokes fun at old, traditional male world. The jobs that men got, etc. I think that really appeals to male teens starting to learn what society expects from them.

    It is an all male cast, but it's not sexist. The ridicule is spread all across the board. The heroes and redeemable characters are men- but, again, it's a show about male roles. So it follows. In Life of Brian, the only character with any sense is a woman. And the bit around her character is pretty feminist.

    Off hand, I can't think of anything that ridicules social roles like MP, or Hitchhiker's too. 30 Rock is just an intelligent cartoon; the Office (English) is just psych studies...

    is there anything?

  10. Yes I always found Monty Python a bit, sort of, uncomfortable. I felt as though I should have really gotten into it, but somehow the humour in it passed me by. If we're talking British, anything involving Steve Coogan is a comedic winner in my book. I could watch I'm Alan Partridge over and over and over and over. Kellie xx

  11. The Meaning of Life is completely my cup of tea! Then again, historically speaking I tend to find humor in many things others may not haha.

    I think I've always enjoyed the aesthetic of the show. The juxtaposition of the random ephemera-ish cut-outs and live action people is really entertaining to me!



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