Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Now you have tasted of our cake..."

"...you must fight Olaf, the giant." (From a Hollow Men sketch)

If you love Monty Python, you might like The Hollow Men. Their brand of absurdist British sketch comedy strongly resembles Monty Python, only with better production values and music. They also are better singers than the original Python troup. However, their sketches don't quite measure up yet; I haven't seen anything that compares to the "Argument Sketch" or "Spanish Inquisition". But they do have lots of sketches and songs that compete with more modest Python efforts. For example, the dystopian lyrics of "Everyone's a Lawyer" depict a future in which:
Everyone's a lawyer, we're all in the legal trade...
Everyone can sue anyone, as long as we all get paid!
And the sheer perversity of the lyrics to their song, "I'm Your Stalker", ensures that I cannot repeat any of them here.

Like the Pythoneers of old, the Hollow Men delight in absurd business situations, like the guidance counselor who tells a man that the computerized job matcher says he's best qualfied for the position of "King of Spain". Or, consider this Holy Grail-like exchange among advertising executives trying to promote tinned pork:
Executive 1: So what do you think of when you think of pork?
Executive 2: Pigs?
Executive 1: Exactly! And what color are pigs?
Executive 3: Pink?
Executive 1: Yes! And what comes to mind when you think pink?
Executive 2: Being gay?
Executive 1: Precisely! We'll market pork to gay people!
Hilarity then ensues, as the executives begin to equate liking pork with being gay, and vice versa, until... Well, I won't spoil the surprise for you. The title of this post comes from a running sketch in one episode, where the "new guy" at a company observes a series of rituals that are progressively more bizarre and dangerous, being played out by other staff members. He is then told that they have a little ritual for new people, and he begins begging for his life, until he realizes that they're just giving him a cupcake with a candle on it. Relieved, he accepts it as they welcome him to the company. But as soon as he bites into it, his co-workers' faces become stony, and one of them intones, "Now you have tasted of our cake. You must fight Olaf, the giant!"

Some of their live action sketches are actually reminiscent of Terry Gilliam animations, like the one where a baby is "returned" to the hospital for an exchange, and the baby is sent down a chute and bounces down a corridor. And they even do a bit on "MBS" (Marlon Brando Syndrome) that's a bit too derivative of "The Royal Hospital for Overacting" for my taste.

Now if only they could just put a little more intellectual surrealism into it, and maybe turn the crudeness down just a notch, the show would be perfect.