By Calvin Palmer
When it flashed across the news Web sites that John McCain had chosen Palin as his running-mate in the forthcoming presidential election, my first thought was one of surprise. Michael Palin had never really struck me as Republican material but with an educational background of Shrewsbury School and Brasenose College, Oxford, perhaps he was.
I am eagerly looking to forward to his first speech on the campaign trail. No doubt the Republican strategists will advise against Palin wearing the red robes of a cardinal.
“Nobody expects the Republicans! The main issue of this election is the war in Iraq; the war in Iraq and the economy. The two issues in this election are the war in Iraq and the economy, and health care. The three issues are the war in Iraq, the economy and health care, and immigration. The four… No. Among our policies in this election are those relating to issues such as the war in Iraq. Could I start again?”
Out in the sticks, a rendition of The Lumberjack Song should go down well in the Republican heartland. The line, “I put on women’s clothing, and hang around in bars,” will show that he is in the same mold as J. Edgar Hoover, thus establishing his credentials on law and order.
To assure the Republican Party has the necessary funds to mount a winning presidential campaign, Palin will host the TV show Blackmail.
The dollars are sure to flow in as he threatens to expose those party supporters he used to meet in the bars referred to in The Lumberjack Song.
Of course, his role will be subservient to that of John McCain and will mainly involve warming up an audience in readiness for an appearance by the presidential candidate. Palin will excel at performing this task. In Robinson Crusoe garb, he can announce, “It’s…” only to be then cut off by the entrance music for McCain and the man himself.
His biggest test will come in the televised head-to-head debates with Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s candidate for vice president. Here, Palin’s skills at argument will come to the fore and ensure that Biden is in for a hard time.
That might not have been the case if Palin had found himself up against Barack Obama’s first choice. Long ago, Obama had penciled in Michael Richards, Kramer from Seinfeld, as his vice-presidential running mate. But after Richards’ infamous outburst during his stand-up routine, his chances went the same way as the Norwegian Blue parrot. They passed on. They were no more. They ceased to be. They expired and went to meet their maker. They became bereft of life.
The selection of Palin rounded off quite a week in terms of Monty Python nostalgia. On Sunday, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, gave a Pythonesque speech in Beijing after the Olympic flag was handed over. His reference to ping-pong coming home could easily have been written by Eric Idle and Johnson’s delivery was redolent of the late Graham Chapman at his blimpish best. I half expected Johnson to conclude, “This speech is getting too silly,” the camera to pan to John Cleese and for him to announce, “And now for something completely different.”
It was good to see the Python influence in evidence almost 40 years after Monty Python’s Flying Circus first aired on the BBC in 1969. Boris was only five years old at that time, 10 years old when Monty Python came to an end in 1974, but the show’s comedy legacy has endured, helped by feature films such as Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
In 1975, Monty Python’s Flying Circus received its first TV broadcast in the United States, airing on the Dallas PBS station. It met with such success that it was soon being broadcast by PBS stations throughout the country. It must have been around that time when McCain spotted Palin’s vice-presidential potential.