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Friday, November 22, 2013

Monty Python Not Dead Yet

Written by Kyle Slagley

I was rather an unusual child. While my peers were referencing shows like Beavis & Butthead, I was prattling on about dead parrots, African v. European Swallows, lumberjacks, and knights who say “Ni!” For folks out there that understand all (or any) of those references, the following announcement will be very welcome news. *Nudge nudge wink wink* Know what I mean?

On Wednesday, the five surviving members of British comedy troupe Monty Python announced that they are indeed reuniting in the summer of 2014 for one night only. The show will take place at the London O2 Arena on July 1st of next year, and according to Eric Idle will include “comedy, pathos, music and a tiny piece of ancient sex.”

Sounds about right from the group who achieved legendary status on a mixture of dry wit, absurd slapstick, and sexual innuendo. The July 2014 performance is a monumental event for the five members, who haven’t performed together since 1980.

The members of Monty Python (John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Graham Chapman [1941-1989]) all worked on various British TV shows during the 1960s prior to the kickoff of their breakthrough series Monty Python’s Flying Circus in October 1969. Between 1964 and 1969, the six men collaborated in various combinations and eventually ITV offered Gilliam, Idle, Jones, and Palin a series together, while at the same time BBC offered Chapman and Cleese a show. Cleese would then invite Palin to join the BBC show, the other three would follow, and Flying Circus would be the hilarious result.

Flying Circus ran on BBC from 1969 through 1974. The series was introduced in Canada in 1970 on CBC, but was pulled after Christmas that year. It would be another four years before the show made its way to U.S. audiences on PBS in 1974, after the series had finished for good on BBC.

Between seasons three and four, the group filmed their first fully original movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Having left Flying Circus following the third season, Cleese returned to film the movie. As I’m sure you know, the film is a farce on the Arthurian legend and is full of bits that are still staples in pop-culture. Holy Grail was the group’s second feature film, their first being And Now For Something Completely Different, which was composed of reshot footage from the first two season of Flying Circus.

Though Holy Grail is probably more widely known in the U.S., it was the group’s third film, Monty Python’s Life of Brian that is often considered the best of the troupe’s work, and also one of the best comedy films of all time. Funded by former Beatles band member George Harrison, the film was released in 1979 and follows a man whose life parallels that of Jesus Christ.

The troupe’s last film, Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, was made with a structure similar to that of their original Flying Circus days. A series of sketches loosely follows the timeline of man from birth through death. Some of the best musical numbers in the troupe’s repertoire came out of this film, most of which are available on their album Monty Python Sings. The group freely admits that by the time the project rolled around, their aim was to offend “absolutely everyone.”

In recent years, the musical Spamalot has been the most visible Monty Python work. Based on Holy Grail, Eric Idle wrote the book for the hit that would star some of the biggest names in Broadway theatre and ultimately be nominated for 14 Tony Awards, winning three.

There is no word yet on whether the troupe’s one-off show in July will be recorded, but I would be shocked if it weren’t. There have been quite a few specials and shows over the years billed as “Monty Python Reunion” events, but none of them involved every surviving member as this one will. If and when Monty Python Live (mostly) is released on video, you can be sure we’ll let you know.

For a complete listing of all our available Monty Python titles and documentaries, click here.

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