In the beginning of our discussion of episode 3, “How to Recognize Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away”, I begin talking about how the episode had originally had one of MPFC’s rejected names… and then my memory fails me. I begin saying “Bun, Wackett, Buzzard, Stubble, and Boot” but then I trail off into a string of syllabic nonsense when I realize I can’t actually remember any of the correct words.
When Nathan and I originally recorded this, he corrected me with the actual listing, for which I glad and at which I was impressed, as I have already Googled that phrase three times just to write this blog entry. However, once the audio got to me to chop out the silences, I found that he’d edited out his moment of saving grace. Which then just left me slowly dying on mic with no respite.
I’ve left the moment in, knowing that I would have this corrective venue to try and redeem myself, but I cut out commentary on the subsequent point I was going to make. I don’t know for certain that this catalogue of nonsense words is specifically supposed to sound like a law firm, as I claim in the episode, but it has the ring to it. And to my ear, the reason that it does is because there’s a comedy tradition of silly lists of names ending with “Attorneys at law”. In my personal experience, I date it back to the Marx Brothers. In Animal Crackers (1930), Groucho’s character dictates a letter to the law firm of Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunda, Hungadunga, & McCormick. And the BBC went on to commission a series of recreations of the Marxes’ mostly lost radioplays Flywheel, Shyster, & Flywheel, based on the recovered scripts, the title of which uses the same comic conceit.
Regardless, the connection is mostly tenuous. Blogs and articles will occasionally claim that John Cleese has said that Groucho Marx “was a personal hero“, but I can’t lay my hands on an actual quote. And while the works of Richard Lester are clearly an influence on Python and have a certain Marx-ist energy, that remains a few degrees of separation too many to declare a definitive connection.
By the way, Nathan’s claim that “Trees” has the longest title is mostly true. It clocks in at 68 characters, including spaces, whereas “Man’s Crisis of Identity in the Latter Half of the 20th Century” comes in at 64… unless you spell “Twentieth” out, in which case it wins at 69! (hashtag: Up top, my brotha.) Soooo… victory?