January 29, 2008

This isn't a very good conversation

I was just sitting here ruminating about a skit from the Monty Python movie, The Meaning of Life. In this skit, a couple take their seats in The Dungeon Room: "real Hawaiian food served in an authentic medieval English dungeon atmosphere", where they're offered a chance to choose something to talk about from a menu of possible conversations they can have over dinner. They choose philosophy: "Oh that sounds wonderful... Would you like to talk about the Meaning of Life, darling?"

I find this particularly funny because I often find myself having the same lack of connection and miscommunication with other people as the couple suffer in this skit. Small talk... It can be so awkward. I often wish I could call: "Oh waiter... this conversation isn't very good," and simply choose a different topic from the menu.

Without further ado, or delay, or explanation....Here is a clip of the skit from YouTube (just click on the Monty Python cast picture):

The Cast of Monty Python

Back row: Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam

Front Row: Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin

And, if you hate YouTube..... I have provided the script of the skit (simply because I care).

Courtesy of "Screenplays for you":

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Part 4: Middle Age
Waiter: Good evening... would you care for something to talk about?

[He hands them each a menu card with a list of subjects

Mr Hendy: Oh that would be wonderful.

Waiter: Our special tonight is minorities...

Mr Hendy: Oh that sounds interesting...

Mrs Hendy: What's this conversation here...?

Waiter: Oh that's football... you can talk about the Steelers-Bears
game, Saturday... or you could reminisce about really great
World Series -

Mrs Hendy: No... no, no.

Mr Hendy: What's this one here?

Waiter: That's philosophy.

Mrs Hendy: Is that a sport?

Waiter: No it's more of an attempt to construct a viable hypothesis
to explain the Meaning of Life.

[The fish in the tank suddenly prick up their fins.]

Fish: What's he say, eh?

Mr Hendy: Oh that sounds wonderful... Would you like to talk about
the Meaning of Life, darling...?

Mrs Hendy: Sure, why not?

Waiter: Philosophy for two?

Mr Hendy: Right...

Waiter: You folks want me to start you off?

Mr Hendy: Oh really we'd appreciate that...

Waiter: OK. Well er... look, have you ever wondered just why you're

Mr Hendy: Well... we went to Miami last year and California the
year before that, and we've...

Waiter: No, no... I mean why *we're* here. On this planet?

Mr Hendy: [guardedly]... N... n... nope.

Waiter: Right! Have you ever *wanted* to know what it's all about?

Mr Hendy: [emphatically] No!

Waiter: Right ho! Well, see, throughout history there have been
certain men and women who have tried to find the solution to
the mysteries of existence.

Mrs Hendy: Great.

Waiter: And we call these guys 'philosophers'.

Mrs Hendy: And that's what we're talking about!

Waiter: Right!

Mrs Hendy: That's neat!

Waiter: Well you look like you're getting the idea, so why don't I
give you these conversation cards - they'll tell you a little
about philosophical method, names of famous philosophers...
there y'are. Have a nice conversation!

Mr Hendy: Thank you! Thank you very much.

[He leaves.]

Mrs Hendy: He's cute.

Mr Hendy: Yeah, real understanding.

[They sit and look at the cards, then rather formally and
uncertainly Mrs Hendy opens the conversation.]

Mrs Hendy: Oh! I never knew that *Schopenhauer* was a

Mr Hendy: Oh yeah... He's the one that begins with an S.

Mrs Hendy: Oh...

Mr Hendy: ... Um [pause]... like Nietzsche...

Mrs Hendy: Does Nietzsche begin with an S?

Mr Hendy: There's an S in Nietzsche...

Mrs Hendy: Oh wow! Yes there is. Do all philosophers have an S in

Mr Hendy: Yeah I think most of them do.

Mrs Hendy: Oh!... Does that mean Selina Jones is a philosopher?

Mr Hendy: Yeah... Right, she could be... she sings about the
Meaning of Life.

Mrs Hendy: Yeah, that's right, but I don't think she writes her own

Mr Hendy: No. Maybe Schopenhauer writes her material?

Mrs Hendy: No... Burt Bacharach writes is.

Mr Hendy: There's no 'S' in Burt Bacharach...

Mrs Hendy: ... Or in Hal David...

Mr Hendy: Who's Hal David?

Mrs Hendy: He writes the lyrics, Burt just writes the tunes... only
now he's married to Carole Bayer Sager...

Mr Hendy: Oh... Waiter... this conversation isn't very good.


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