One half of this marriage loves a fancy dress party; the other can be persuaded into an outfit and is grand once she has had a drink. There were those who suspected we were jumping on the comedy troupe’s 2014 reunion bandwagon when we announced our plan to host a Monty Python themed costume party for our ten year wedding anniversary at the end of last year. There were others who simply cried, “Noooooo, not fancy dress!”
The last time my husband threw a Monty Python fancy dress it was as an unseasonal addendum to a series of Christmas costume parties held in the late 1990s, one of which included a trainee doctor friend who took a green surgical gown from the hospital where he was interning, stitched on some stolen baubles from the lobby Christmas tree and arrived wide-eyed and pale-faced after no hours sleep.
People came as presents and wise men, snowballs and angels, but the best Christmas-themed costume was worn by a friend dressed as a pizza delivery man. “Pizza’s not Christmassy,” everyone said. Unfazed, he held his cardboard pizza box aside and twirled around to reveal the motto of his fictional company, printed on his shirt: “Paul’s Pizzas – Deep and Crisp and Even”. The cryptic ones are always the best.
The first time round, the best Monty Python costume was worn by a friend who came as an aggressive keep left sign. This time, the women complained there were no good roles for women. It’s true: all the best ones were taken by men. Female actors in Python sketches in the 1970s got token, sexist bit parts, like the girl with the “but I only had one line….” whine, sorry I mean line. Boobs, bums and big hair were the only assets allowed to shine.
That first Python party had featured a lot of vestal virgins, a cheekily ironic choice for revellers in their twenties. Fourteen years on, no one braved it. This time there was a preponderance of lumberjacks, of both genders; live liver donation doctors; and male and female surgeons associated with the machine that goes ‘Ping!’: “Pregnant? Let me sort that out for you…”
The last time, there were knights who say “Nih” and various bowler hat-wearing folk from the Ministry of Funny Walks. This time, there were people in makeshift beards and long robes carrying baskets of scrumpled paper. “We’re here for the stoning,” they said as they wished us a happy wedding anniversary. It’s pretty dark, this Python humour.
Several came as “gumbies”, a reference I didn’t get until I Googled it. Apparently I missed those sketches, but I did learn something useful: you can actually dress as anything you like for a Monty Python fancy dress, as long as you claim to be from a sketch no one else remembers.
I went as a Terry Gilliam animation in which a tiny person hilariously shouts for help from inside another tiny person, both of which are collaged from old Victorian photographs. No one laughed. I’m kindly presuming they hadn’t seen the sketch.
The former aggressive keep left sign turned up with a cardboard letter hanging from her neck. No one knew what she was. “Just say what you see,” she said. “Eh, letter L.” “Yeah, but what about it?” she said. It was concrete-coloured and punctured with holes, like a piece of Swiss cheese. “Say what you see,” she repeated. “It’s grey and there are holes in it,” we said. “So that’s what I am,” she said. She was, of course, dressed as The Holey Grey L. Say it fast. The cryptic ones are always the best.
A version of this article was first published in The Sunday Times Ireland on 25 January 2015.