Eric Idle's Personal Best

Eric Idle's Personal Best (2005)
A&E Home Video
Cast: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam
Extras: Trailer

Monty Python is the Beatles of comedy. The group of six (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin) set the standard for sketch comedy and branched out to influence the film industry. As many of us were, I was introduced to their quirky humor with "Monty Python And The Holy Grail". That horrible quality VHS, probably watched hundreds of times, was a revelation of intelligent, layered comedy that demanded multiple viewing. With the evolution of DVD and BBC America, "Monty Python's Flying Circus" became more accessible. "Eric Idle's Personal Best" is an affordable look at hilarious characters and catchy songs. You have to wander if a small collection of skits book ended by a DVD release and re-release of the complete series is worth a look.

This is basically a glorified double dip. "Eric Idle's Personal Best" is the Monty Python equivalent of "The Best Of…" SNL series being released on DVD. Rather than take the standard double dip, Idle changes things up a bit by providing a narration of sorts. He provides an "E! True Hollywood Story" type of insight into Monty Python that opens and closes the 55-minute collection of sketches. It gives something a little different to a disc many may pass on since the "Monty Python 16-Ton Set" is set to release in September. The skits, centered around Eric Idle, are a mix of live and taped shows circa 1969-1974. It is a great way to introduce people to Monty Python by giving them a quick overview of a great show.

Camaraderie is where one can see a major difference between Saturday Night Live and Monty Python. SNL has always seemed to be a group of individuals coming together to present good comedy. There are moments when we see a great chemistry between comedians, but in the ever-changing world of SNL it is difficult to create a solid bond without it being disrupted when the season ends. The Python crew had great comedy chemistry and timing that was developed over years of collaboration. The skits are timeless, centered around situations rather than pop culture or current events. This makes the series much more approachable, explaining how Monty Python finds new life with each generation.

The quality of the 1.33:1 full frame presentation is nice. Considering the some of the footage is over 35 years old and captured from various film and video, the look of the DVD is varied. Some of the clips are grainy and speckled with dirt, but others are very polished looks at excellent comedy bits. Colors are on the soft side and really only suffer on a handful of the skits. The dated look is no fault of the DVD, rather the quality of the source material.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The music and dialogue are both at a good level throughout the DVD. There are no real surprises for those who saw "Monty Python's Flying Circus Collection" that was released in 2000. The only reason I could see for adding a 5.1 track would be for the laugh tracks. It would be great to have surround sound applause to add to the enjoyment of the comedy. It may be a silly idea, but a fun one nonetheless.

There is a promo for the "Monty Python 16-Ton Set" that opens the disc.

For fans of Eric Idle, this is a great collection of his most popular characters. Monty Python's mega set is right around the corner, so this disc isn't quite a must-buy. Great performances, either from the show or live, are coupled with an original opening. If you aren't interested in purchasing the entire "Flying Circus" series, then this would be a good dose of Monty Python at a nice price.