By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
When writer-director-producer David Eric Brenner arrives at 7 a.m. to oversee an open casting call for Pythons and extras for the upcoming Hippofilms feature Gin and Tonic — the story of Graham Chapman’s rise from the depths of Cambridge medical school through the plateau of Monty Python’s Flying Circus to the heights of death at age 48 from cancer — he finds about 100 people outside the casting office on Hollywood Boulevard, many in zany and/or wacky costumes, including French knights, Spanish cardinals, Gumbys, King Arthur and some kind of goat boy. Twenty of the highly motivated auditionites stayed overnight on the sidewalk.
Inside, each auditionist is given a bracelet with a number, for easy cross- referencing. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition,” auditionist X-122 informs Brenner and his co-writer, Jim Yoakum (also director of the Graham Chapman Archives), on the power side of the audition table, with precisely the affect Dick Cheney might muster to read aloud a laundry list or the names of the people he’s killed so far this year. “Our chief weapon is surprise, surprise and fear, our two weapons are fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency, our three weapons are fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, our four, no, amongst our weapons, amongst our weaponry are such elements as fear, surprise, I’ll come in again.”
“Thank you. That was great. Thanks.”
Next, to expand on X-122’s theme of Monty Mamet’s Flying Beckett, X-125 performs John Cleese’s dead-parrot routine with a funereal stiffness rivaled only by your reading it quietly to yourself now, with the following punctuation: “It is not pining, it has passed on. This parrot is no more, it has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone on to meet its maker, this is a late parrot, it is a stiff, bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn’t nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies. It has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot.”
“Thank you very much. That was great.”
Several less and more accomplished actors perform, and just as I begin to lose hope, in walks X-120, looking every inch a heartland hooker or junior-college cheerleader circa 1974. It’s not a costume. (Remember, though: These auditions — with New York, London and Tokyo to follow — are not only for the parts of Jones, Palin, Idle, Cleese, Chapman and Gilliam, but also of remarkable characters/extras of natures yet to be determined. So don’t write off X-120 yet.)
“What is your favorite color?” Brenner asks her.
“Black, red and black-and-red,” she replies. “And blue. Black, red and blue.”
“Whenever you’re ready.”
“Okay.” X-120 seems lost, spaced out. Utterly unlike anything Python that anyone’s ever seen, or wanted to see. And yet, here she is, on Earth, for us to watch.
“I cahnt believe you came!” she begins. “I will make. You believe. Oh — the laundry’s over there, Dahling. Be careful. I don’t want you to get dirty. Let me put this robe down. For you. Your Highness.” At this last bit, the “Your Highness,” X-120 composes a subtle but extremely disturbing sneer that triggers a mild sensation of freaking out in at least one of us. This is not a healthy parrot.
“Tell me,” X-120 continues, “did you wash your hand? I hope you did. Because you know how it is when you get dirty. You might just get hepatitis, probably. Or, it could be something else. Or worse. Hepatitis A is just for, you know, when you eat something, and you get it inside your body. And after this, you might just end up getting a hepatitis B that could beeeeeeeeee . . . you know, you get the sexual kind of disease, mostly. You get your John Dice. And. Okay. We’ll meet again, and hopefully soon. And when we do meet, I will make you believe. And from then on, Dahling, when we meet again, I will see you then. And I shall sing a song before I go. Oh. Goodbye. Goodbye, Dahling.”
And she sings: “This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine. This little light. Of mine . . .” As she sings, she flips us the bird — extends her middle finger in brazen disdain and passes it around as if it were a candle and she’s illuminating us. Slowly, she flips us all off, so very, very frighteningly slowly. After the song ends, she continues to show us her flipped bird in silence for a few more seconds, so that we . . . actually, I’m not too sure why she’s doing it. But she does, and it’s quite disturbing.
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