A day or two before Christmas, my dad and brother stood looking at a Christmas tree and began talking about how complicated it was to make sure a string of the old-fashioned lights, with large individual bulbs, worked, and how annoying it was to have to find a bad bulb that made that the whole string go out. Life was much easier these days, now that Christmas lights come with the lights all affixed to the wires and take decades if not centuries to wear out, though they're not perfect since the quality of LED lights isn't as warm.
I couldn't help it; I did my best impression of a Yorkshire accent (which I readily admit was pretty awful) and interjected, "Luxury! Decorating a Christmas tree with lights already strung on wires. When we were young, we had to set the tree on fire to make it light up!"
They turned to look at me like they suspected me of producing an unpleasant smell.
"Sorry," I said. "I know it's dumb. It just reminded me of that old 'Four Yorkshiremen' skit."
"What?" my brother asked.
"It's John Cleese and Marty Feldman and a couple of other guys from Monty Python talking about how awful things were in the olden days," I said. "How they had to live in a lake and lick the road clean every morning before going to work. You know it, right, Dad?"
"Never heard of it," he said.
Which of course required me to interrupt one of my nephews at the computer, so I could find the video on YouTube and make everyone watch it.
Of course Dad and Brother thought it was hysterical, and my brother began riffing on it immediately.
I admit that this is not the first version of this skit that I saw, but I used this version because it's the original. The first version I saw was done by the members of Monty Python in one of their compilation movies. There was also an extra silly version done ten or so years ago--it's obvious from the audience's reaction that they know the skit from start to finish.
But it is sort of weird how you can just miss things and how other people can just assume you haven't. I guess they never had never seen it because they never bothered to watch all the Monty Python movies, something I set out to do as an undergrad. I can't say for sure, because it's not like I really worried about it, but I am pretty sure I managed, because even though vcr's weren't commonplace, the shows were always showing up as midnight movies on campus theaters.
But I also figure that MP is enough a part of our culture that most people have come across it, on some comedy channel or BBCAmerica or some such thing. Certainly there are plenty of people who, if you start saying that their choices for dinner are spam, spam and spam, will know what you're talking about. (Not that I would ever say that.) I like to think that if you said something about an injury being "just a flesh wound," most people would get the reference. (I am so confident that my limited readership will that I'm not going to provide a link.)
But of course people have to get their first exposure somewhere. I remember seeing the Lumberjack song in the 1970s when I used to watch Monty Python with my dad on whatever night it aired, so it's been part of my consciousness for a long time. I mentioned it a year or so ago to a couple of friends and was horrified that they'd never even heard of it, so of course I had to find a clip and send them a link.
I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but I taught high school for a year on an Apache Indian reservation. We could order items for the school library, and something I ordered was "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." I justified it because the curriculum included Beowulf and Shakespeare and British lit, and this commented on all sorts of themes in British lit. The important thing is, the students LOVED it. I wouldn't necessarily have expected British humor to appeal so thoroughly to Apaches, and pretty rural Apaches at that, but they got it.
And if someday they hear someone insult someone else by saying, "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries," they'll know what's going on. Hell, they might even say it themselves.
And can I just tell everyone how awful it was in the olden days, when if you wanted to share with someone what happened in some tv show or movie, you had to relate it or act it out yourself, or else hope that it some day showed up on TV? We didn't have YouTube when I was young.... Not that YouTube always provides the clips you need.... A few days ago I wanted to show someone the SNL skit where Gilda Radner as Roseanne Roseannadanna sings about the annoying ball of sweat suspended from Dr. Joyce Brothers' nose. I couldn't find that, so I ended up substituting this instead. It's brilliant and hysterical, but it's not the link I wanted.