Fake Donald Trump on Our Fake National Emergency

It's even funnier when juxtaposed with Trump's real speech...

Monty Python’s Best Philosophy Sketches: “The Philosophers’ Football Match,” “Philosopher’s Drinking Song” & More

From dead parrots to The Meaning of Life, Monty Python covered a lot of territory. Educated at Oxford and Cambridge, the Pythons made a habit of weaving arcane intellectual references into the silliest of sketches. A classic example is "Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion Visit Jean-Paul Sartre," (above) from episode 27 of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The sketch features writing partners John Cleese as Mrs. Premise and Graham Chapman as Mrs. Conclusion, gabbing away in a launderette about how best to put down a budgie. Mrs. Premise suggests flushing it down the loo. "Ooh! No!" protests Mrs. Conclusion. "You shouldn't do that. No that's dangerous. Yes, they breed in the sewers, and eventually you get evil-smelling flocks of huge soiled budgies flying out of people's lavatories infringing their personal freedom."

From there the conversation veers straight into Jean-Paul Sartre's The Roads to Freedom. It's a classic sketch--vintage Python--and you can read a transcript here while watching it above.

Another classic is the "Philosopher's Drinking Song," shown above in a scene from Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. The song was written and sung by Eric Idle. In the sketch, members of the philosophy department at the "University of Woolloomooloo” lead the audience in singing, "Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable; Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table..."

And one of our favorites: "The Philosophers' Football Match" (above), a filmed sequence from Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, pitting the Ancient Greeks against the Germans, with Confucius as referee. The sketch was originally broadcast in 1972 in a two-part West German television special, Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus.

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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in November 2011.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda & Emily Blunt Take You Through 22 Classic Musicals in 12 Minutes

Watching James Corden, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Emily Blunt donning bad wigs to mug their way through a 12-minute salute to 22 movie musical “classics” is a bit reminiscent of watching the three most popular counselors ham it up during an overlong summer camp skit.

Their one-take performance was part of Role Call, a regular feature of the Late Late Show with James Corden. Usually, this fan favorite is an excuse for Corden and a megastar guest—Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Samuel L. Jackson—to bumble through the most iconic moments of their career.

These kinds of larks are more fun for being a mess, and the live studio audience screams like besotted campers at every goofy quick change and winking inside reference. Blunt and Miranda are definitely game, though one wonders if they felt a bit chagrinned that the film they are promoting, Mary Poppins Returns, is given pride of placement, while the original 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke is strangely absent.

As is Thoroughly Modern Millie, Victor/Victoria, and even The Sound of Music.

Maybe Corden’s saving up for a Julia Andrews-centric Role Call.

What did make the cut points to how few original movie musicals there are to resonate with modern audiences.

Of the 22, over 2/3 started out as Broadway plays.

And "You Can’t Stop the Beat" from 2007’s Hairspray was born of the 2002 stage adaptation, not the gritty 1988 original starring John Waters’ mainstay, Divine.

Is it wrong to hope that most viewers hearing "Your Song" will think, Elton John! not Moulin Rouge”?

And Beauty and The Beast is perhaps not so much a movie musical as a children’s feature-length animation, so why not The Little Mermaid, The Lion  King, or hell, Snow White or Pinocchio?

Alas, 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is as far back as this skit’s memory goes, presumably because the audience has a greater likelihood of recognizing Marilyn Monroe than say, Howard Keel.

More interesting than the jokey horseplay with Into the Woods and The Muppet Movie is the choice to blithely cast white actors in roles that were written for black women (Dreamgirls, Little Shop of Horrors). I don’t think anyone would try to get away with that on Broadway these days, even in in a spoofy charitable event like Broadway Bares or Easter Bonnet… though if they did, getting Lin-Manuel Miranda on board would be a very good idea.

As to why Hamilton isn’t one of the titles below … it’s not a movie musical—yet!

Readers—what glaring omissions leap out at you?

Cabaret

Chicago

La La Land

Beauty and the Beast

Guys and Dolls

Evita

Singin’ in the Rain

Mary Poppins Returns

The Muppet Movie

The Wizard of Oz 

Hairspray

Dreamgirls

Annie

Fiddler on the Roof

Into the Woods 

Little Shop of Horrors

Les Miserables

Moulin Rouge 

Once

Fame 

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Mama Mia

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City this January as host of  Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

 

Andy Kaufman Reads Earnestly from The Great Gatsby and Enrages His Audience

In a 1980 appearance on David Letterman, a deadpan Andy Kaufman tells a sob story about his nonexistent family leaving him. He then “admonishes the audience for laughing,” writes William Hughes at the AV Club, and panhandles for their spare change. “The genius of the bit, as always, is that Kaufman never blinks. Even as he’s led away by the show’s staff, there’s nothing about his unemotional entreaties that suggests that what he’s doing isn’t anything but the sober-cold truth.”

He pulled a similar stunt the following year, in a guest appearance on a short-lived SNL knockoff called Fridays. After belligerently breaking character during a sketch, he appeared the following week to deliver an apology, which became a bitter, sad sack appeal for sympathy, while he stared blankly at the camera in what his writing partner Bob Zmuda called his “glazed-over hostage look.” Kaufman was “more of an antagonist of his audience than an ally,” Jake Rossen comments at Mental Floss.

Rather than punching up or down, he punched out, openly exploiting our trust and abusing our patience. Kaufman invited us to mock him, only to reroute our responses into empathy, anger, confusion, or boredom. “Many crowds had streamed into comedy clubs only to endure Kaufman napping in a sleeping bag,” writes Rossen, “or reading earnestly from The Great Gatsby, threatening to start all over again if they interrupted.” Once given a choice between him reading or playing a record, a nightclub chose the record. “It was the sound of Kaufman reading.”

Just what is the proper response to this? The emotional misdirection works so well because we know we should react a certain way, for example, to a broken man in great distress—whether he’s asking for spare change or looking for all the world like a kidnap victim. In his Gatsby reading, Kaufman pulls a different lever—drawing on our innate sense of decorum during a literary event, one conducted by a vaguely European-sounding man in a tuxedo, no less. He incites his audience by making them laugh at a situation they would, in its proper context, try to take seriously.

In the clip of Kaufman reading Gatsby at the top, he begins with a couple ruses and feints: playing a snippet of a record that makes us think we might be in for a Mighty Mouse-like routine, introducing himself as an actor who plays a screwball American comic named Andy Kaufman. Once he launches into Gatsby, however, and it becomes clear he isn’t going to stop, that the reading is the act, the audience becomes incensed, expressing a palpable sense of betrayal.

You came for comedy, he tells them in his Letterman and Fridays bits; I’m going to give you humanity. You came for comedy, he announces in the Gatsby reading; I’m going to give you culture, whether you want it or not. But it's not me who's misbehaving, he says (in diabolical versions of "stop hitting yourself"), it's you. In the clip above from Man on the Moon, Jim Carrey draws out the passive aggressive impulses inherent in these maneuvers, showing Andy breaking out Gatsby as an act of retaliation against a crowd who demands that he entertain them on their terms.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Andy Kaufman Creates Mayhem on Late Night TV: When Comedy Becomes Performance Art (1981)

While there are many styles of comedy, the contract between comedian and audience is a fairly standard one. The comedian endeavors to get laughs. The audience understands that sort of currency, and is eager to lavish it on deserving candidates.

The late Andy Kaufman wasn’t much interested in that sort of exchange.

His comedy was experimental to the point of performance art, and often felt experimental in a scientific sense as well. When he read long passages from The Great Gatsby to comedy club audiences, went after professional wrestlers twice his size, or insisted he’d found Jesus and gotten engaged to a Lawrence Welk Show singer, it was as if he was conducting a stress test. How much disorientation would an audience put up with?

He was a genuine weirdo. The genius kid who seems hellbent on winning the animosity of his classmates with his cryptic remarks and odd behavior.

Knowing young comedy fans who idolize prankster Sacha Baron Cohen’s shapeshifting stunts may find it hard to appreciate just how unsettling the off-kilter Kaufman could be.

Witness his 1981 guest spot on Fridays, a rival network’s short-lived attempt to duplicate Saturday Night Live’s success.

In the sketch above, Kaufman wanders pretty egregiously afield of expected conduct. In an era where guest stars appeared not infrequently bombed out of their gourds, it wasn’t entirely surprising that one might appear confused, or have trouble reading cue cards. But Kaufman seemed to be making a deliberate choice to scupper his career, or at the very least, the goodwill of Fridays’ cast and crew, by refusing to play along in a sketch about restaurant patrons sneaking off to the bathroom to get high.

“I can’t play stoned,” he breaks character to announce, mid-scene. Hmm. Seems like the kind of thing one might bring up during the table read. An a-hole would wait till dress rehearsal, when such a move would for sure inspire the enmity of cast and crew. Kaufman waited till the sketch was being taped in front of a live studio audience.

But then, Kaufman’s experiments needed an audience to succeed.

As with Sacha Baron Cohen’s elaborate ruses, it helped to limit the number of people who were in on the joke.

Actor Melanie Chartoff recalled how she and Kaufman’s other two scene partners, Mary Edith Burrell and Seinfeld’s Michael Richards, were tipped off fairly late in the process by producer/announcer Jack Burns, who was thrilled to snap up the live wire whose antics had permanently burned his bridges with Saturday Night Live:

Andy's gonna bust out of the show tonight," he gleamed. "He's gonna mess up and break the fourth wall from the top of the monologue. It's gonna be great. It's gonna kick our ratings through the ROOF!

And so it did, abetted by benighted crew members who sprang to provide back up, when a furious-seeming Burns stormed the set as if to kick the ornery guest star’s ass.

But the piece de resistance came the following week, when producer John Moffitt went on air to satisfy the public’s need to know, confessing that the stunt was indeed a fake and piously suggesting they should take it as a reminder of the “spontaneity of live television, something that rarely happens in this basically passive medium today.”

Then Kaufman—who genuinely hated that his sleight of hand had been revealed—turned on Moffitt for the halting, miserable, and seemingly forced 4 minute apology below.

When the live audience laughed delightedly, he lashed out, insisting that his previous week’s actions were about to cost him his gig on the hit sitcom Taxi, all future roles, a number of friendships, and his marriage.

Never mind that he was unmarried.

This comedian played a long game, and easy laughs were never the goal.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this December for the 10th anniversary production of Greg Kotis’ apocalyptic holiday tale, The Truth About Santa, and the next monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Two Cats Keep Trying to Get Into a Japanese Art Museum … and Keep Getting Turned Away: Meet the Thwarted Felines, Ken-chan and Go-chan

Paging director Hayao Miyazaki.

A compelling subject for a feature length animation is hanging around the sliding glass doors of Hiroshima Prefecture’s Onomichi City Museum of Art.

In June of 2016, a black tomcat started showing up at the museum on the regular, for reasons unknown.

Those open to the sort of narrative whimsy at which Miyazaki excels might choose to believe that the beast was drawn by a cat-themed exhibit of work by noted wildlife photographer and filmmaker Mitsuaki Iwago, a portion of which would have been visible to him through the modern building’s large glass windows.

Whatever his reasons, the cat, Ken-chan, whose owners run a nearby restaurant, was refused entry by a white-gloved security guard and other staffers, whose efforts to send him on his way started blowing up the Internet shortly after his first appearance.

Eventually, Ken-chan started bringing back-up in the form of a well-mannered orange tomcat the museum staff dubbed Go-chan.

Their visits have proved to be a boon for both the small museum and the city they call home.

The New York Public Library has its lions.

Boston’s Public Garden has its ducks.

Onomichi and its small art museum have Ken-chan and Go-chan, whose Internet fame is quickly outpacing the supply of commemorative tote bags, below.

Tender hearted fans bombard the museum’s Twitter account with requests to grant the feline pair entry, but the museum brass is wisely prioritizing dramatic tension over consummation.

Meanwhile, officials in Zelenogradsk, a Russian resort town boasting both a cat museum and giant cat street monument have invited Ken-chan, Go-chan, and museum staff to be their guests in March, for a cat-centric holiday celebration.

For now, Ken-chan and Go-chan are sticking close to home, alternately entertaining and disappointing visitors who show up, camera in hand, hoping to catch them in the act.

Armchair travelers can enjoy a cat’s eye view tour of Onomichi, thanks to Google Street View-style 360-degree camera technology.

And photographer Iwago shares some pro advice for anyone seeking to capture feline subjects:

…male cats are easier to photograph. Male cats seem to have more latitude and leisure in their lives. Because females do things such as raise the kittens, they concentrate more on what goes on around them. Because males are out on patrol, it is more likely that you will encounter them. Because they have the free time, they’ll let you hang out and photograph them.

Depending on the cat, there are a number of ways to get a cat’s attention. For example, when it’s starting to get dark out, you need to use a lower shutter speed. However, this means that the cat will be blurry if it moves. To avoid this, in such situations, I say to the cat, ‘Stop, hold your breath!’ At that instant, when the cat is frozen, I snap the picture. When you speak out to a cat, they get the message. That said, you can also get shots of good cat body language by letting them roam freely. They don’t need to be looking at the camera.

Even a cellphone camera is enough. However, if you don’t have a telephoto lens, you’re going to have to get close to the cat you’re photographing. Due to this, it might be good to use a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera if you are photographing outside. However, if you are photographing the cat you live at home with, a big camera may prove intimidating. To avoid this problem, it is necessary to regularly put your camera in a place that the cat can see. It is good to start snapping pictures only after your cat has gotten over its fear of cameras. If you use a flash to photograph cats indoors, their hair will look spiky and lose its softness. Therefore, I recommend avoiding a flash. I also recommend not using a tripod, considering the line of sight will become too high. When I am photographing cats, I kneel down so that I am at the same eye line as they are. It’s as if I’m crawling forward into battle.

Follow the Onomichi City Museum of Art on Twitter to keep up with Ken-chan and Go-chan.

via The Guardian/Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this December for the 10th anniversary production of Greg Kotis’ apocalyptic holiday tale, The Truth About Santa, and the next monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Pachelbel’s Chicken: Your Favorite Classical Pieces Played Masterfully on a Rubber Chicken

Music lovers bracing against the annual onslaught of the Singing Dogs’ "Jingle Bells" may find their savage beasts soothed somewhat by Eddy Chen’s performance of Pachelbel’s Canon, above.

Never mind that the instrument on which he plays four different tracks is a rubber chicken… or more accurately, as per Amazon, a Screaming Yellow Rubber Chicken Non Toxic Bite-resistant Squeaky Toy.

It retains its relaxing musicality. Chen, one half of Australian duo TwoSetViolin, plays that bird like the disciplined, classically-trained pro he is.

Classical chicken covers became a surprise hit for Chen and his partner, Brett Yang, veterans of the Sydney and Queensland Symphony Orchestras, whose virtually sold out world tour was the first of its kind to be entirely financed by Kickstarter donations.

The duo describes its mission as “upholding the integrity of classical music” while making it “relevant to the modern generation through fun, humour and simplicity,” noting, in a joint interview with Violinist.com:

There are people out there who are ready to love classical music, and we have to actively find them. It is the way classical music has been presented so far that makes it so austere. We were lucky that we learned the instrument for 20 years; if we were not musicians, it would be very hard to get into.

Everyone has the potential to like it, but sometimes musicians alienate and scare potential listeners with our pride.

Back when classical music was new, it was not 'classical'; it was just music.

Today our (classical music audience) is very small, but there are many great musicians

 Granted, the standards for classical music are there for a good reason: people want the best art, and that is a standard we should uphold. At the same time, sometimes we see people breaking down and freaking out because of those standards. It is sad to think of all that lost potential and love for music. We feel we are losing audiences; we are losing people who used to love music.

The chicken definitely appeals to young listeners, though surely there’s no age limit for enjoying its take on Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1...

Or Johann Strauss’ "The Blue Danube" Waltz, wherein Yang squeezes a chicken in each fist whilst Chen mans the violin…

Or the opening trumpet solo of Gustav Mahler 's Symphony No. 5

Or Beethoven’s "Für Elise," a favorite first classical piece for pianists and chicken players alike…

Others on TwoSetViolin’s classical chicken playlist include Handel’s "Hallelujah" chorus and the "Waltz of the Flowers" from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

Catch up with TwoSetViolin on the final leg of their American tour and subscribe to their YouTube channel for their insights into the classical musician's life and the importance of practice.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this December for the 10th anniversary production of Greg Kotis’ apocalyptic holiday tale, The Truth About Santa, and the next monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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