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Infinite Jest and Monty Python

July 15, 2009

When I first read IJ the concept of a lethally-entertaining Entertainment rung a bell somewhere way back in my mind, but I didn’t get around to digging it up until today. And that rung bell turned out to be the Monty Python skit entitled “The World’s Funniest Joke,”* in which a writer pens a lethally funny joke that kills him and everyone else who reads it. I did some digging around the interwebs and didn’t see a whole lot of discussion relating The Entertainment to The World’s Funniest Joke, but the parallels are mind-blowing and obvious, right down to the little humorous vignettes in the beginning of IJ showing more and more people becoming ensnared in the video sent to the Near-Eastern medical attaché. And, holy crap I just realized this — the whole schtick involving British and German forces in World War II researching ways to make a weapon of the joke, which has a close parallel in the AFR’s alleged attempts to unleash The Entertainment on the American public and the OUS’s efforts to thwart them.

IIRC a lot of the humor in IJ, particularly some of the oddball situations, struck me as having a heavy indebtedness to Monty Python. Anyone know if Wallace was a Monty Python fan?

* Note that two different versions of the skit exist: the one above and the one shown here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2009 3:51 pm

    Ah yes, I just saw that skit for the first time recently, though for whatever reason the connection didn’t occur to me. (And it seems highly probable that Wallace would gone through a Monty Python stage, as have most nerd-ish males above a certain age. (Do teen-nerds still watch Monty Python like they used to? I don’t know, but I suspect it has waned.))

  2. Margaret permalink
    April 4, 2011 6:47 am

    I had the exact realisation today, and feared that I had missed some huge previous discussion about the obvious parallel. Apparently not?

  3. Daniel Kornguth permalink
    February 22, 2018 12:26 am

    There are countless references to pop culture and urban legends in each person’s back story. I only saw this skit for the first time and knew there could be no doubt that Wallace was intentionally referencing Monty Python, perhaps as the ultimate homage.

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