This is a post about the influence of a father, but not my own. This father belongs to Andrew, Owen, and Luke Wilson of Dallas, Texas. While I am a fan of his offspring and their collaborators (more about that in a future post), today’s focus is his career as the first CEO of KERA and his role as importer of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. You see, my home state of Texas is a pretty conservative place (Willie Nelson, notwithstanding) and having access to comedy that was so avant garde, so mischievous, so absurd, and so revolutionary, continues to influence my perspective on the world today. Having the stones to put Monty Python on his TV station in mid-1970’s Dallas and thus introduce America to the troupe, makes Bobby Wilson someone we should all take a moment to thank.
Mind you, I am not strutting around NYC “Ministry of Silly Walks-style,” but those nights while Monty Python was pulsing on the screen left an indelible mark on my impressionable young mind. It developed my delight in the absurd, honed my suspicion of sentimentality…oh, and continually helps me remember that I’m responsible for finding the humor in life.
In direct contrast to American sitcoms at the time (set up, joke, explanation of joke, laugh track to ensure you knew when to laugh), the players in Monty Python’s Flying Circus put tremendous responsibility on the viewer to extract the laugh — wit, I believe it’s called. Wit had an illustrious past in American entertainment with practitioners like William Powell, Carole Lombard, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, but it had lost its way. Bob Wilson helped define it for me and for that I — and now my kids — will always be grateful.