While I was teaching at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education in 1974 and at Box Hill Tafe College in Melbourne in 1975, the film Monte Python and the Holy Grail was produced and then released in London. I won't summarize the film's story here because readers can find the story in many places. But this classic satire of King Arthur and his knights has been part of the core of comedy's world in western society now for more than a quarter of a century. This send up of a legend, of courtly love, fidelity and bravery, among other things, symbolized, for me, my getting of humour. I had grown up in a serious household of classical music and religion; I had studied serious subjects in university for four years; I had struggled through the first six years as a teacher, experienced several episodes of bi-polar disorder and lived through a divorce by 1975. These were all pretty heavy-duty items on life's agenda.
By 1975, though, I had had four years living in Australia where humour was a way of life with its slices of skepticism and cynicism, sarcasm and irony, self-mockery and pleasure seeking. During my decades in Australia humour became, as Thomas Mann experienced the process, insensibly and by immeasureable degrees, by subtle and incremental additions and alterations, part of my soul's salvation. Humour was, as Thomas Carlyle put it at the beginning of the Bahá’í Era, "a token of virtue." Self-mockery and humour's light touch became for me, what it was for millions of others, survival tools in a spiritually parched land.1 -Ron Price with thanks to Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Four On An Island, George Ronald, Oxford, 1983, p.87.
They've been pumping laughing-gas
into lounge rooms now for over half
a century.1 I remember I Love Lucy
back in the fifties: that was where it
began for me. It's not all bad, Gore.
It's got an important role in our great,
vast brontosaurissmus society, with its
slough of despond and the phantoms
of a wrongly informed imagination.
The laughs have lightened the load,
Gore. I was, like you, once critical
of the whole thing, but I've softened
with the years in this downunder land,
this world that is just not as serious as
Canada which once housed my impulse
to believe, nurtured my imperfections
and let them grow as insidious as a seed.
Laughter came out like a baby, pushed
out, giving birth, born of the pain of life
in a grand and periodic shake-up injecting
a high seriousness with laughing-gas.
Gore, it's not all that bad.
1 A remark made by Gore Vidal in an interview in 2006.
21 November 2006