On this day in 451, Attila the Hun sacked the town of Metz. This was part of an attack on the Western Roman Empire. Some day, I must set down and really get straight on all this history. But the truth is that I’m bad at it. This is why I’ve always liked math: you don’t have to remember anything. Generally, Attila the Hun is depicted today as a barbarian. But you know the definition of a barbarian: “not a Roman.” So that doesn’t actually mean that much. Regardless, I just don’t have the time to read up on the man for an anniversary post. I want to talk about something much closer to my heart: the worst Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch ever.
That sketch was, of course, “The Attila The Hun Show.” It has all the signs of being a Terry Jones and Michael Palin kind of thing. But then it quickly becomes nothing but a straight parody of old 1950s family situation comedies. The only humor in it is that there is no humor in it. It is a bunch of tired jokes that are supposed to be funny because old situation comedies weren’t funny. For example, Attila the Hun gives his children a severed human head as a present, saying, “I want you kids to get ahead.” It is filled with canned laughter that makes it all the more annoying.
In addition to this, we have Eric Idle doing a black-face servant — “Uncle Tom” — that is offensive even coming from England. I blame John Cleese for the whole thing, but they all to blame. Thankfully, it doesn’t last long and they quickly transition into what strikes me as a very Terry Jones kind of sketch where a bunch of perverts in trench-coats watch as Graham Chapman plays a doctor examining Carol Cleveland. Any sketch where “The Stripper” is played was probably written by Jones. And this transitions to Jones himself doing a striptease, something he seems to have rather enjoyed.
Eventually, the whole thing gets to the high point of the episode, which is the documentary about Village Idiots — which still makes me laugh. And it is blistering social satire, especially once it moves to the “city idiots,” where one says, “Father was Home Secretary, and mother won the derby.” And then it goes into this great bit on Masonic conspiracies. It is, in other words, a great episode. But I rarely watch it because I can’t get past “The Attila the Hun Show” and, “I want you kids to get ahead”!