Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  "Second Best" Compilation, Quiz, Biography
Length:  55 Minutes
Release Date:  August 30, 2005

"If you're going to split hairs, I'm going to piss off!"

Film ***1/2

Ah, Monty Python's Flying Circus...that revolutionary BBC comedy that made international stars of five Brits and one Yank.  Who could ever forget the zaniness, the naughtiness, the Montyness?  Especially since the lads are so willing to market and re-market their comedy to their fans.  Hey, it's a living.

Now from A&E comes the Personal Best series.  Six Pythons, six editions, each compiled by one of the fellows into nice, tightly packaged discs full of mirth and mayhem.  Being a devout Monty Python fan, I of course know that one of them is deceased, so I'm keenly interested to see how he managed to pick his favorite sketches...

But that's a matter for another time.  Now, I just want to concentrate on Eric Idle.  He's one of the living members, and Eric Idle's Personal Best is a testament to that fact.  This hour long DVD is filled with his selections from both the Flying Circus and the legendary Hollywood Bowl live performance.  And he adds his own personal introduction to boot!

Watching this disc is a rib-tickling reminder of just how damn funny these guys were.  There's not a wasted sketch in the lot.  From Eric's misadventures with a children's storybook to World Forum with some prominent Communist guests, from The Money Programme to his own take on the Lumberjack Song, this DVD is a guaranteed laugh riot.

Idle had, I think, an easier time of it than his fellow Pythons being that he was nominally a solo writer.  While Graham wrote with John and Michael wrote with Terry J. (and Terry G. did the animations), it probably wasn't hard to pick out which sketches really had Eric's personal stamp on them.  I thought ahead of time which Idle bits I most wanted to see...Storytime, the Hermit Sketch, Nudge Nudge Wink Wink...they were all included.  And then some.

The Olympic film from Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl is here, highlighted by the classic philosophical football match...tear inducingly funny.  The Travel Agent sketch is included, which is one of Idle's highest moments, and proves how long he can maintain a gag as he literally carries it out into the audience and back again. 

You'll cheer for the Queen Victoria Handicap and howl at the man who speaks in anagrams.  Terry Jones' rendition of "Never Be Rude To An Arab" is here for good measure, as well as Graham Chapman in drag.  Hairdressers ascending Mount Everest?  How to Rid the World of Diseases?  All here.

As a Python devotee, I have to say I still prefer watching the Flying Circus episodes in their entirety (16 Ton Megaset, anyone?), but as far as a best-of compilation goes, you can't go wrong with this disc.  Eric Idle was a comedy genius, but he was only one of six, and this showcase both reveals him at his very best and whets your appetite for future Personal Best discs as well.

Video ***

A&E did a nice job in remastering these shows for disc, and the quality shows through on these compilations as well.  The video footage looks remarkable for its age.  The filmed bits like The Hollywood Bowl show a bit more aging artifacts, but not really enough to complain about.  A fine effort.

Audio **

Spoken words are clean and clear throughout...not a lot of dynamic range or panning effects, but given the nature of the comedy, they aren't really required or missed.

Features *1/2

You can peruse Eric Idle's biography, take an interactive 15 question quiz, or view a ten minute clip of Idle's "Second Best".  I was grateful for that extra, because it included possibly my all time favorite Python sketch, which is "Salad Days" as directed by Sam Peckinpah.  The horror!


You'd have to be a hermit not to laugh yourself silly with Eric Idle's Personal Best...nudge, nudge, wink, wink.  Know what I mean?

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