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Waxing Python

The Rutland Isles (with your host Nigel Spasm)

Eric Idle

By Kevin Gibson

It's been a long time since Monty Python's Flying Circus graced us with its highbrow-meets-slapstick brand of comedy. It's been sorely missed. And if this new concept album from former Python member Eric Idle isn't quite on par with the comedy troupe's original inspiration, it isn't for lack of trying.

The Rutland Isles is a faux audio documentary of sorts that focuses on a fictitious strip of islands inhabited by well-hung apes and gay dolphins and offers tourism that goes a step or two beyond what you'll find anywhere else. The story is told through extensive dialogue and song, some of which works and some of which feels forced.

Often, Idle and his supporting cast simply try too hard. Intentional visual bits (which, obviously, the listener can't see) just aren't funny, because the comic intent is too obvious. But occasionally Idle's comic misdirection brings a chuckle, though it is often overdue by the time it arrives.

But Idle's sense of the ridiculous is still reasonably sharp, even if it sometimes comes across as a Monty Python parody (that's a tough one to overcome, because the comparisons to - and generally wide familiarity with - original Python material are unavoidable). Example: During "The Over Friendly Isles," Idle's character asks for a hotel room. The clerk asks if he would like a bath, he says yes and she says, "Then come upstairs." Surprised, he declines and she tells him, "I can give you a shower." He says that will be fine and she says, "Just let me take off my clothes." And on it goes.

"Civil War" is another that works reasonably well in a Monty Python-throwback kind of way. The people of the Rutland Isles are so friendly, that "their Civil War never even began."

"All right then, this is war." "When?" "Tuesday." "Tuesday's not good for me." "What about Friday?" "Oh, that's almost the weekend ..." You can predict where it goes from there.

Bottom line, this is worth adding to your Python collection if you're a fan. You'll enjoy it, but my guess is you'll go back to Matching Tie and Handkerchief before you'll listen to this twice.