Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus — after some delay I’ve finally gotten around to seeing the first of two of the strangest comedy ventures ever, namely the nearly hour-long German-only episodes (nearly all of which, a couple of moments aside, consisted of material written only for them rather than carried over from elsewhere) that them Monty Python fellers did in the early seventies at the invitation of a German producer who felt that they’d go over well. Bits and pieces had surfaced in other contexts, notably as interstitial parts of their Hollywood Bowl performances and film, but the episodes themselves only finally got a formal release in the late nineties and now, in America at least, are split between two collections, Monty Python Live and The Life of Python, which gather up all kinds of random bits and pieces and reunion specials and the like.

Over twenty years after Python first hit me over the head thanks to repeats on late night TV, it’s nice to see that for all the changes and refinements and differing approaches that have surfaced in its wake (The Day Today and South Park being two of my favorites) that the original model of open-ended sketches without punchlines and self-referentiality to a fault still has a certain punch, and the first of these German episodes has it in spades. Seeing the six wandering around the Alps as Little Red Riding Hood and flocks of doctors and Albrecht Durer, sheriff of the Old West and more — well, like with the original show sometimes the concept works better than the execution but the execution is more inspired than not. But perhaps my favorite is “The Bavarian Restaurant Sketch,” introduced as such and featuring an American couple looking for the ‘authentic’ Bavarian food experience. Serendipitously, the most humorous things about it are the authentic Bavarians in the background of every shot elsewhere in what appears to be an actual eatery, wondering why in the world a bunch of Englishmen are dancing around in waiter costumes to accordion music, insisting in phonetically learned German that theirs is the best restaurant in Bavaria, “where the mountains rise out of the ground.” But of course.

I definitely am more looking forward to getting The Office box set at some point here, but knowing that Python can still remind me why I loved them so much to begin with — it’s like getting an unexpected dessert at the end of a well-enjoyed meal. As opposed to one where prawns are stuffed down your shirt.