Lame Stunt: Clay Aiken in Spamalot

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Cart Driver: Bring out your dead. [a man puts a body on the cart] Large Man: Here's one. Cart Driver: That'll be ninepence. Body: I’m not dead. ****************** Body: I'm getting better. Large Man: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment. Cart Driver: Well, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations. ****************** Body: I think I'll go for a walk. Large Man: You're not fooling anyone, you know. Isn't there anything you could do? Body: I feel happy. I feel happy. [the Cart Driver glances up and down the street furtively, then silences the Body with a whack of his club] Large Man: Ah, thank you very much. Cart Driver: Not at all. See you on Thursday.

-- From Monty Python and The Holy Grail

I received an e-mail from a good friend of mine the other day. A rather anguished e-mail containing only one word and an internet link. The message went like this:


And this is the link.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, the story is this: Clay Aiken, who until recently thought Monty Python was a person, and who thought Monty Python and The Holy Grail was stupid and not funny, is taking over one of the lead roles in Spamalot, Eric Idle’s Broadway adaptation of the movie he wrote, along with his fellow Pythons (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam), in the early 70s.

Yeah, you read that right. Clay Aiken does Monty Python.

Now, Broadway is known for stunt casting. It’s what producers do when a musical is dying and they’re hoping to get people to come to the show. Thus you get Rosie O’Donnell in Fiddler on the Roof, or Lance Bass in Hairspray, or Melanie Griffith in Chicago, or Larry David and David Schwimmer in The Producers. The original cast is long gone. The box office is dead. People just aren’t coming to the show anymore. So the producers pull a stunt in hopes that the suckers will return.

Thus, Clay Aiken.

Aiken’s taking on the part of Sir Robin, the part originated by Eric Idle in the movie, and originated by David Hyde Pierce on Broadway. Something just doesn’t seem right about this whole situation. Do the producers really expect me to believe Aiken has the comedic acting chops to take on Idle and Pierce? And do the producers really expect me to accept in this role someone who was so frigging stupid he thought Monty Python was an actual person? Or someone who didn’t even understand the movie and needed his tour drummer to explain the thing to him?

Todd Haynes casting Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan is inspired casting. Clay Aiken trying to channel Idle and Pierce is desperation. It’s stunt casting. It’s Usher in Chicago. Or Joey Fatone in Little Shop of Horrors. The shows start dying and the producers get desperate, doing anything possible to keep the show alive, including casting people who should be nowhere near Broadway. And I’m sorry, but Clay Aiken shouldn’t be anywhere near Monty Python.

No man who doesn’t get Monty Python should be reciting the lines of the men who wrote the Dead Parrot sketch. Or who reminded us that “no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.” Or gave us the Ministry of Silly Walks, or the Upper Class Twit of the Year. If Aiken can’t grasp The Holy Grail, then he’ll never be able to understand the Olympic hide-and-seek competition. And I’m sure he’ll need a lot of explanation for “Nudge-Nudge, Wink-Wink.”

It’s a good thing Graham Chapman’s dead, because I’m sure that otherwise he’d step on stage and shout to stop the sketch because it’s much too silly.

Spamalot might not be dead yet, but it’s damn close and the body collector is just down the street, having claimed The Drowsy Chaperone – stunt casting of Bob Saget – and headed over to collect some Rent.

Oh well, as Eric Idle taught me back in 1979, always look on the bright side of life. Because this means that at least we’re not going to have to deal with Clay Aiken coming anywhere near here for the next couple of months. And well, to anyone who thinks Aiken will work in Spamalot, I can only say that you’re a witch, which means: “Burn her. Burn her.” – John Royal

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