Series 3, Episode 31: Summarize Proust
VOICE OVER Eric Idle
ARTHUR MEE Terry Jones
HARRY Graham Chapman
RONALD Michael Palin
(The hall of the Memorial Baths, Swansea, done up for a gala occasion. There is a stage with flags, bunting and flowers. Echoing noise of audience anticipation. Muffled tannoy announcements in background.)
Voice Over: Good evening, and welcome to the Arthur Ludlow Memorial Baths, Newport, for this year’s finals of the All-England Summarize Proust Competition. (pull back slightly to reveal big banner across the top of the stage: ‘All-England Summarize Proust Competition’) As you may remember, each contestant has to give a brief summary of Proust’s ‘A La Recherche du Temps Perdu’, once in a swimsuit and once in evening dress. The field has now narrowed to three finalists and your judges tonight are… (cut to panel of judges at long desk; they are all cut-outs of smiling photos of the following) Alec and Eric Bedser, ex-Surrey cricketers, Stewart Surridge, ex-captain of Surrey, Omar Sharif, Laurie Fishlock, ex-Surrey opening batsman, Peter May, the former Surrey and England Captain, and Yehudi Menuhin, the world-famous violinist and the President of the Surrey Cricket Club. And right now it’s time to meet your host for tonight – Arthur Mee!
(Showbiz music, applause, and Arthur Mee appears from the back of the stage; he wears the now traditional spangly jacket. He comes forward and speaks into the mic; the sound is rather hollow and strident as in big halls with a hastily rigged PA.)
Mee: (TERRY J) Good evening and welcome, whereas Proust would say, ‘la malade imaginaire de recondition et de toute surveillance est bientôt la même chose’.
(roars of applause; quick shot of grinning faces of the jury)
Remember each contestant this evening has a maximum of fifteen seconds to sum up ‘A La Recherche du Temps Perdu’ and on the Proustometer over here…
(curtain pulls back at back of stage to reveal a true, enormous, but cheap, audience appreciation gauge; it lists the seven books of Proust’s masterwork in the form of a thermometer)
you can see exactly how far he gets. So let’s crack straight on with our first contestant tonight. He’s last year’s semi-finalist from Luton – Mr Harry Bagot.
(Harry Bagot, in evening dress, comes forward from back of stage, he has a number three on his back; Mee leads the applause for him)
Hello Harry. Now there’s the summarizing spoh you’re on the summarizing spot, fifteen seconds from now.
(Music starts, continuity-type music. The needle of the Proustometer creeps up almost iraperceptibly to a tiny level.)
Harry: Proust’s novel ostensibly tells of the irrevocability of time lost, the forfeiture of innocence through experience, the reinstatement of extra-temporal values of time regained, ultimately the novel is both optimistic and set within the context of a humane religious experience, re-stating as it does the concept of intemporality. in the first volume, Swarm, the family friend visits…
(Gong goes, chord of rausic, applause. The meter has hardly risen at all.)
Mee: Well tried, Harry.
Voice Over: A good attempt there but unfortunately he chose a general appraisal of the work, before getting on to the story and as you can see (close up of Proustometer) he only got as far as page one of ‘Swarm’s Way’, the first of the seven volumes. A good try though and very nice posture,
(Cut back to the stage.)
Mee: Harry: Bagot, you’re from Luton?
Harry: Yes, Arthur, yeah.
Mee: Now Harry what made you first want to try and start summarizing Proust
Harry: Well I first entered a seaside Summarizing Proust Competition when I was on holiday in Bournemouth, and my doctor encouraged me with it.
Mee: And Harry, what are your hobbies outside summarizing?
Harry: Well, strangling animals, golf and masturbating.
Mee: Well, thank you Harry Bagot.
Harry: walks off-stage. Music and applause.
Voice Over: Well there he goes. Harry Bagot. He must have let himself down a bit on the hobbies, golf’s not very popular around here, but never mind, a good try.
Mee: Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Mr Rutherford from Leicester, are you ready Ronald? (Ronald is a very eager man in tails) Right. On the summarizing spot. You have got fifteen seconds from now.
Ronald: Er, well, Swann, Swann, there’s this house, there’s this house, and er, it’s in the morning, it’s in the morning – no, it’s the evening, in the evening and er, there’s a garden and er, this bloke comes in – bloke comes in – what’s his name – what’s his name, er just said it – big bloke – Swarm, Swarm…
(The gong sounds. Mee pushes Ronald out.)
Mee: And now ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to welcome the last of our all-England finalists this evening, from Bingley, the Bolton Choral Society and their leader Superintendent McGough, (a big choir comes on, immaculately drilled, each holding a score, with Fred Tomlinson as superintendent McGough) All right Bingley, remember you’ve got fifteen seconds to summarize Proust in his entirety starting from now.
First Soloist: Proust, in his first book wrote about… fa la la…
Second Soloist: Proust in his first book wrote about…
Tenors: He wrote about…
(They continue contrapuntally, in madrigal, never getting beyond these words until they rallentando to say…)
All: Proust in his first book wrote about the… (gong sounds)
Voice Over: Very ambitious try there, but in fact the least successful of the evening, they didn’t even get as far as the first volume. (the singers leave the stage)
Mee: Well ladies and gendemen, I don’t think any of our contestants this evening have succeeded in encapsuladng the intricacies of Proust’s masterwork, so I’m going to award the first prize this evening to the girl with the biggest tits.
(Applause and music. A lady with enormous knockers comes on to the side of the stage. Roll credits:)
THE ALL-ENGLAND SUMMARIZE PROUST COMPETITION
A BBG PRODUCTION
WITH MR I. T. BRIDDOCK, 2379, THE TERRACE, HODDESDON.
IT WAS CONCEIVED, WRITFEN AND PERFORMED BY…
(Roll usual Monty Python credits and music. Behind them the lady accepts the cup and the singers come back on stage and admire her. Fade out.)