The television series, broadcast by the BBC from 1969 to 1974, was conceived, written and performed by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Loosely structured as a sketch show but with an innovative stream-of-consciousness approach (aided by Terry Gilliam's animations), it pushed the boundaries of what was then considered acceptable, both in terms of style and content.
A self-contained comedy team responsible for both writing and performing their work, they changed the way performers entertained audiences. The Pythons' creative control allowed them to experiment with form and content, discarding the established rules of television comedy. Their influence on British comedy of all kinds has been apparent for many years, while in America it has coloured the work of many cult performers from the early editions of Saturday Night Live through to more recent absurdist trends in television comedy. "pythonesque" has entered the English lexicon as a result.
There are differing accounts of the origins of the Python name although the members agree that its only "significance" was that they thought it sounded funny. In the 1998 documentary Live At Aspen the group implied that "Monty" was selected as a gently-mocking tribute to Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, a legendary British general of World War II; requiring a "slippery-sounding" surname, they settled on "Python". On other occasions Idle has claimed that the name "Monty" was that of a popular and rotund fellow who drank in his local pub; people would often walk in and ask the barman, "Has Monty been in yet?", forcing the name to become stuck in his mind.
In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, three of the six members were voted by fellow comedians and comedy insiders to be among the top 50 greatest comedians ever - Palin was at number 30, Idle at 21 and Cleese at two, just beaten by Peter Cook.
Palin and Jones met at Oxford University, while Cleese and Chapman met at Cambridge. Idle was also at Cambridge, but started a year after Cleese and Chapman. Cleese met Gilliam in New York while on tour with the Cambridge University Footlights revue Cambridge Circus (originally entitled A Clump of Plinths).
Chapman, Cleese and Idle were all members of the Footlights, which at that time also included the future Goodies (Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden), and Jonathan Lynn (co-writer of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister). During Idle's presidency of the Club, feminist writer Germaine Greer and broadcaster Clive James were members. Recordings of Footlights revues (called "Smokers") at Pembroke College include sketches and performances by Idle and Cleese. They are kept in the archives of the Pembroke Players, along with tapes of Idle's performances in some of the college drama society's theatrical productions.
Python members variously appeared in or wrote, or both, the following shows before Monty Python's Flying Circus. The Frost Report is credited as first uniting the British Pythons and providing an environment in which they could develop their particular styles:
Several of these featured other important British comedy writers and/or performers of the future, including Marty Feldman, Jonathan Lynn, David Jason and David Frost, as well as members of other significant upcoming comedy teams, Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker (the Two Ronnies), and Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie (the Goodies).
Following the success of Do Not Adjust Your Set, originally intended to be a children's programme, with adults, ITV offered Palin, Jones, Idle and Gilliam their own series together. At the same time Cleese and Chapman were offered a show by the BBC, having been impressed by their work on The Frost Report and At Last The 1948 Show. Cleese was reluctant to do a two-man show for various reasons, including Chapman's supposedly difficult personality. Cleese had fond memories of working with Palin and invited him to join the team. With the ITV series still in pre-production Palin agreed and suggested the involvement of his writing partner Jones and colleague Idle—who in turn suggested that Gilliam could provide animations for the projected series. Much has been made of the fact that the Monty Python troupe is the result of Cleese's desire to work with Palin and the chance circumstances that brought the other four members into the fold.
The Pythons had a very definite idea about what they wanted to do with the series. They were all great admirers of the work of Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore on Beyond the Fringe, and had worked on Frost, which was similar in style. They also enjoyed Cook and Moore's sketch show Not Only... But Also. However, one problem the Pythons perceived with these programmes was that though the body of the sketch would be strong, the writers would often struggle to then find a punchline funny enough to end on, and this would detract from the overall quality of the sketch. They decided that they would simply not bother to 'cap' their sketches in the traditional manner, and early episodes of the Flying Circus series make great play of this abandonment of the punchline (one scene has Cleese turn to Idle, as the sketch descends into chaos, and remark that "This is the silliest sketch I've ever been in" - they all resolve not to carry on and simply walk off the set). However, as they began assembling material for the show, the Pythons watched one of their collective heroes, Spike Milligan, recording his new series Q5 (1969). Not only was the programme more irreverent and anarchic than any previous television comedy, Milligan would often "give up" on sketches halfway through and wander off set (often muttering "Did I write this?"). It was clear that their new series would now seem somewhat less original, and Jones in particular became determined the Pythons should innovate further.
After much debate, Jones remembered an animation Gilliam had created for Do Not Adjust Your Set called "Beware of the Elephants", which had intrigued him with its stream-of-consciousness style. Jones felt it would be a good concept to apply to the series: allowing sketches to blend into one another. Palin had been equally fascinated by another of Gilliam's efforts, entitled "Christmas Cards", and agreed that it represented "a way of doing things differently." Since Cleese, Chapman and Idle were less concerned with the overall flow of the programme, it was Jones, Palin and Gilliam who became largely responsible for the presentation style of the Flying Circus series, in which disparate sketches are linked to give each episode the appearance of a single stream-of-consciousness (often using a Gilliam animation to move from the closing image of one sketch to the opening scene of another).
Each day of writing started at 9am and finished at 5pm. Typically, Cleese and Chapman worked as one pair of writers isolated from the others, as did Jones and Palin, while Idle wrote alone. After a few days of working in this configuration, they would all join together with Gilliam, critique their scripts and exchange ideas. Their approach to writing was democratic. If the majority found the idea to be humorous, it would be included in the show. The casting of roles for the sketches was a similarly unselfish process, since each member viewed himself primarily as a writer, rather than an actor desperate for screen time. When the themes for sketches were finally chosen, Gilliam had carte blanche to decide how to bridge them with animations, armed with his camera, scissors, and airbrush.
While the show was a collaborative process, different factions within Python were clearly responsible for different elements of the team's humour. In general, the work of the Oxford-educated members was more visual, and more fanciful conceptually (e.g. the arrival of the Spanish Inquisition in a suburban front room), while the Cambridge graduates' sketches tended to be more verbal and more aggressive (for example, Cleese and Chapman's many "confrontation" sketches, where one character ends up intimidating or hurling abuse at another, or Idle's characters with bizarre verbal quirks, such as The Man Who Speaks In Anagrams). Asked about this, Cleese has confirmed that "most of the sketches with heavy abuse were Graham's and mine, anything that started with a slow pan across countryside and impressive music was Mike and Terry's, and anything that got utterly involved with words and disappeared up any personal orifice was Eric's. Gilliam's animations, meanwhile, ranged from the whimsical to the savage (the cartoon format allowing him to create some astonishingly violent scenes without fear of censorship).
Several names for the show were bandied about before Monty Python's Flying Circus was settled upon. Some of the more memorable were "Owl Stretching Time", "The Toad Elevating Moment", "Vaseline Review" and "Bun, Wackett, Buzzard, Stubble and Boot". "Flying Circus" stuck when the BBC explained to the group that it had already printed that name in its schedules and was not prepared to amend it, leaving the Pythons no choice in that matter. Many variations on the name in front of this title then came and went. Gwen Dibley's Flying Circus was named after a woman Palin had read about in the newspaper, thinking it would be amusing if she were to discover she had her own TV show. Baron Von Took's Flying Circus was considered as an affectionate tribute to the man who had brought them together. Arthur Megapode's Flying Circus was also suggested, then discarded. Cleese then added "Python", liking the image of a slippery, sly individual that it conjured up. The specific origin of "Monty" is somewhat confused (see above).
The use of Gilliam's surreal, collage stop motion animations was another innovative intertextual element of the Python style. Many of the images Gilliam used were lifted from famous works of art, and from Victorian illustrations and engravings. The giant foot which crushes the show's title at the end of the opening credits is in fact the foot of Cupid, cut from a reproduction of the Renaissance masterpiece Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time by Bronzino. This foot, and Gilliam's style in general, have come to be considered the visual trademarks of the series.
The Pythons built on and extended the great British tradition of cross-dressing comedy. Rather than dressing a man as a woman purely for comic effect, the (entirely male) Python team would write humorous parts for women, then don frocks and makeup and play the roles themselves. Thus a scene requiring a housewife would feature one of the male Pythons wearing a housecoat and apron, speaking in falsetto. These women were referred to as pepperpots. While this accentuated the humour, it was not, in itself, the joke (had a woman played the role, the lines would have had the same comic effect). Generally speaking, female roles were only played by a real woman (usually Carol Cleveland) when the scene specifically required that the character be sexually attractive (although sometimes they used Eric Idle for this). In some episodes and later Monty Python's Life of Brian they took the idea one step further by playing women who impersonated men (in the stoning scene).
Many of the sketches have become extremely well-known outside the hardcore of Python fans, and are still widely quoted to this day. "Dead Parrot", "The Lumberjack Song", "Spam", "Nudge Nudge", "The Spanish Inquisition", "Upper Class Twit of the Year", "Cheese Shop" and "The Ministry of Silly Walks" are just a few examples.
The rest of the group carried on for one more "half" series before calling a halt to the programme in 1974. The name "Monty Python's Flying Circus" appears in the opening animation for series 4, but in the end credits the show is listed as simply "Monty Python". Despite his official departure from the group, Cleese supposedly made a (non-speaking) cameo appearance in the fourth series, but never appeared in the credits as a performer. Several episodes do credit him as a co-writer since some sketches were recycled from scenes cut from the Holy Grail script. While the first three series contained 13 episodes each, the fourth ended after only six.
In 1975 the series was first broadcast in the United States and soon gained a cult following. Ron Deveiller, an executive from PBS television station KERA-TV in Dallas, Texas, found some of the episodes on a shelf when searching for programming for his station. He watched one, then another, and before he was done he had acquired the entire series to put on the air. The series was eventually aired on PBS stations across the country, and by this chance event Python invaded America. A couple of sketches ("Bicycle Repairman" and "The Dull Life of a Stockbroker") aired in 1974 on the NBC series ComedyWorld, a summer replacement series for The Dean Martin Show.
The focus therefore shifted to a separate individual born at the same time, in a neighbouring stable. When Jesus does appear in the film (first, as a baby in the stable, and then later on the Mount, speaking the Beatitudes), he is played straight (by actor Kenneth Colley) and portrayed with respect. The comedy begins when members of the crowd mishear his statements of peace, love and tolerance ("I think he said, 'blessed are the cheesemakers'").
Directing duties were handled solely by Terry Jones on this project, having amicably agreed with Gilliam that Jones' approach to film-making was better suited for Python's general performing style. Holy Grail's production had often been stilted by their differences behind the camera. Gilliam again contributed two animated sequences (one being the opening credits) and took charge of set design. The film was shot on location in Tunisia, the finances being provided this time by former Beatle George Harrison, who formed the production company Handmade Films especially for the movie. He was rewarded with a cameo role as the 'owner of the Mount'.
Despite its subject matter attracting much controversy, particularly upon its initial release, it has (together with its predecessor) often been ranked amongst the very greatest comedy films of all time. A Channel 4 poll in 2005 ranked Holy Grail in sixth place, with Life of Brian at the top.
Python's final film returned to something structurally closer to the style of Flying Circus. A series of sketches loosely follows the ages of man from birth to death. Directed again by Jones solo, The Meaning of Life is embellished with some of Python's most bizarre and disturbing moments, as well as various elaborate musical numbers. The film is by far their darkest work, containing a great deal of black humour, garnished by some spectacular violence (including an operation to remove a liver without anaesthetic and the morbidly obese Mr. Creosote exploding over several restaurant patrons). At the time of its release, the Pythons confessed their aim was to offend "absolutely everyone".
Besides the opening credits and the fish sequence, Gilliam, by now an established live action director, no longer wanted to produce any linking cartoons, offering instead to direct one sketch - The Crimson Permanent Assurance. Under his helm though, the segment grew so ambitious and tangential that it was cut from the movie and used as a supporting feature in its own right (television screenings also use it as a prologue). Crucially, this was the last project that all six Pythons would collaborate on, except for the 1989 compilation Parrot Sketch Not Included where they are all seen sitting in a closet for four seconds. This would be the last time Chapman was filmed on screen with the rest of the gang.
Cleese and Jones had an involvement (as performer, writer and/or director) in all four Amnesty benefit shows, Palin in three, Chapman in two and Gilliam in one. Eric Idle did not participate in any of the Amnesty shows. Notwithstanding Idle's lack of participation - the other five members (together with two "Associate Pythons" - Carol Cleveland and Neil Innes - all appeared together in the first Secret Policeman's Ball benefit - the 1976 A Poke In The Eye (With A Sharp Stick) performing several Python sketches and in this first show, they were collectively billed as Monty Python. (Peter Cook deputised for the errant Eric Idle in one major sketch The Courtroom). In the next three shows, the participating Python members performed many Python sketches - but were billed under their individual names rather than under the collective Python banner. After a six-year break, Amnesty resumed producing Secret Policeman's Ball benefit shows in 1987 (sometimes with, and sometimes without variants of the iconic title) and by 2006 had presented a total of twelve such shows. The shows since 1987 have featured newer generations of British comedic performers - including many who have attributed their participation in the show to their desire to emulate the Python's pioneering work for Amnesty. (Cleese and Palin made a brief cameo appearance in the 1989 Amnesty show - apart from that the Pythons have not appeared in shows after the legendary first four.)
Elsewhere, Palin and Jones wrote the comedic film series Ripping Yarns, starring Palin with an assortment of British actors. Palin subsequently joined the establishment of British documentarians with his popular travel series for the BBC. Jones embarked on a similar career path with historical documentaries, also putting his love of the subject to use when writing, directing and acting in Erik the Viking, which also has Cleese playing a small part.
In terms of numbers of productions, John Cleese has had the most prolific solo career, having appeared in 59 theatrical films, 22 TV shows or series (including Cheers, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Will & Grace), 23 direct-to-video productions, six video games, and a number of commercials. Most notably, his BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers (written by and starring Cleese together with his then-wife Connie Booth), is generally considered the greatest solo work by a Python since the sketch show finished. It is the only comedy series to rank higher than the Flying Circus on the BFI's list of the greatest British TV shows, topping the whole poll. The first series of it was made while the rest of the troupe were concerning themselves with the last series of Flying Circus.
Idle enjoyed critical success with Rutland Weekend Television in the mid-70s, out of which came the Beatles parody The Rutles (responsible for the cult mockumentary All You Need Is Cash), and as an actor in Nuns on the Run (1990) with Robbie Coltrane. However, his greatest success has come when returning to Python material, including taking their most famous song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, to no. 3 in the UK singles chart in 1991. The song had been revived by Simon Mayo on BBC Radio 1, and was consequently released as a single that year. The theatrical phenomenon of the Python musical Spamalot has made Idle the most financially successful of the troupe post-Python. Spamalot "lovingly ripped off" from the Holy Grail film. Written by Idle, it has proved an enormous hit on Broadway, London's West End and also Las Vegas. This was followed by Not the Messiah, which repurposes The Life of Brian as an oratorio. For the work's 2007 premiere at the Luminato festival in Toronto (which commissioned the work), Idle himself sang the "baritone-ish" part.
In 1998 the five remaining members, along with what was purported to be Chapman's ashes, were reunited on stage for the first time in 18 years. The occasion was in the form of an interview (hosted by Robert Klein, with an appearance by Eddie Izzard) in which the team looked back at some of their work and performed a few new sketches. One of the show's more memorable moments occurred when the ashes were "accidentally" spilled. The person responsible for upsetting the urn was Gilliam – who then hurriedly cleaned up with a mini-vacuum cleaner and a broom and dustpan (with Cleese even dipping his finger into the substance and tasting it). A significant amount of the ashes were brushed under the rug.
On 9 October 1999, to commemorate 30 years since the first Flying Circus television broadcast, BBC2 devoted an evening to Python programmes, including a documentary charting the history of the team, interspersed with new sketches by the Monty Python team filmed especially for the event. The program appears, though omitting a few things, on the DVD The Life of Python. Though Idle's involvement in the special is limited, the final sketch marks the only time since 1989 that all surviving members of the troupe appear in one sketch, albeit not actually in the same room.
In 2002, four of the surviving members, bar Cleese, performed The Lumberjack Song and Sit On My Face for George Harrison's memorial concert. The reunion also included regular supporting contributors Neil Innes and Carol Cleveland, with a special appearance from Tom Hanks.
In an interview to publicise the DVD release of The Meaning of Life, Cleese said a further reunion was unlikely. "It is absolutely impossible to get even a majority of us together in a room, and I'm not joking," Cleese said. He said that the problem was one of business rather than one of bad feelings.. A sketch appears on the same DVD spoofing the impossibility of a full reunion, bringing the members “together” in a deliberately unconvincing fashion with modern bluescreen/greenscreen techniques.
Idle has responded to queries about a Python reunion by adapting a line used by George Harrison in response to queries about a possible Beatles reunion. When asked in November 1989 about such a possibility, Harrison responded: "As far as I'm concerned, there won't be a Beatles reunion as long as John Lennon remains dead." Idle's version of this was that he expected to see a proper Python reunion, "just as soon as Graham Chapman comes back from the dead", but added, "we're talking to his agent about terms."
2003's The Pythons Autobiography By The Pythons, compiled from interviews with the surviving members, reveals that a series of disputes in 1990, over a possible sequel to Holy Grail that had been conceived by Idle, may have resulted in the group's permanent fission. Cleese's feeling was that The Meaning of Life had been personally difficult and ultimately mediocre, and did not wish to be involved in another Python project for a variety of reasons. (Not least amongst them was the absence of Chapman, whose straight man-like central roles in the original Grail and Brian films had been considered to be essential performance anchorage.) Apparently Idle was angry with Cleese for refusing to do the film, which most of the remaining Pythons thought reasonably promising (the basic plot would have taken on a self-referential tone, featuring them in their main 'knight' guises from Holy Grail, mulling over the possibilities of reforming their posse). The book also reveals that a secondary option around this point was the possibility of revitalising the Python brand with a new stage tour, perhaps with the promise of new material. This idea had also hit the buffers at Cleese's refusal, this time with the backing of other members.
The members have continued to appear in each other's films. Gilliam has directed all four other surviving members in various non-Python pictures, Chapman worked with Cleese and Idle in Yellowbeard and Palin and Cleese worked together in the acclaimed A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. Jones' 1996 adaptation of The Wind in the Willows featured all the surviving Python members except for Gilliam, who was going to play The River but could not find space in his schedule. More recently, DreamWorks' popular animated film Shrek the Third features both Cleese and Idle in voice-over roles, although they do not share any scenes: Cleese reprises his starring role as Princess Fiona's father from the previous film, and Idle had a guest star part as Merlin the magician.
March 2005 saw a full, if non-performing, reunion of the surviving cast members at the premiere of Idle's musical Spamalot, based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It opened in Chicago and has since played in New York on Broadway, and is currently entertaining audiences in Toronto. In 2004, it was nominated for 14 Tony Awards and won three: Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical for Mike Nichols and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Sara Ramirez, who played the Lady of the Lake, a character specially added for the musical. Cleese played the voice of God, played in the film by Chapman.
Owing in part to the success of Spamalot, PBS announced on 13 July 2005, that it would begin to re-air the entire run of Monty Python's Flying Circus and new one-hour specials focusing on each member of the group, called Monty Python's Personal Best. Each episode was written and produced by the individual being honoured, with the five remaining Pythons collaborating on Chapman's programme, the only one of the editions to take on a serious tone with its new material.
John Cleese was born on 27 October 1939 in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, England, making him the oldest Python. Cleese’s surname was originally Cheese, but his father changed it to Cleese when he joined the army during World War I. Cleese attended Clifton College, Bristol where he developed a taste for performing by appearing in house plays, then moved on to Cambridge, where he met his future Python writing partner, Graham Chapman. In addition to Python, he co-created and starred in, with then-wife Connie Booth, one of the most acclaimed sitcoms in British TV history, Fawlty Towers. Cleese recently played Q's assistant ("R") and then the new Q himself in the James Bond films. He has also done work for the Shrek and Harry Potter film franchises, Time Bandits, A Fish Called Wanda, Clockwise, and several Saturday Night Live episodes.
Terry Gilliam was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, on 22 November 1940. He is the only member of the troupe of non-British origin, though he married a British citizen, makeup and costume designer Maggie Weston, and held dual American-British citizenship for 38 years before renouncing the former. He started off as an animator and strip cartoonist for Harvey Kurtzman's Help! magazine, one issue of which featured Cleese. Moving from the USA to England, he animated features for Do Not Adjust Your Set and was then asked by its makers to join them on their next project - Monty Python's Flying Circus. He co-directed Monty Python and The Holy Grail and directed short segments of other Python films (for instance "The Crimson Permanent Assurance", the short film that appears before The Meaning of Life). Gilliam has gone on to become a celebrated and imaginative film director of such notable titles as Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Eric Idle was born on 29 March 1943 in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, England. When Monty Python was first formed, two writing partnerships were already in place: Cleese and Chapman, Jones and Palin. That left two in their own corners: Gilliam, operating solo due to the nature of his work, and Idle. Regular themes in his contributions were elaborate wordplay and musical numbers. Idle's initially successful solo career faltered in the 1990s with the failures of his 1993 film Splitting Heirs (written, produced by and starring him) and 1998's Burn Hollywood Burn (in which he starred), which was awarded five Razzies, including 'Worst Picture of the Year'. He revived his career by returning to the source of his worldwide fame, adapting Monty Python material for other media. He is the writer of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical Spamalot, based on the Holy Grail movie. He collaborated with John Du Prez on the music for the show. He has written another Python stage musical, Not the Messiah, this one derived from the Life of Brian film. The production premiered in Montreal in summer 2007. He had earlier strengthened his credentials as a comedic composer with the theme tune to the acclaimed BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave.
Terry Jones was born on 1 February 1942 in Colwyn Bay, Conwy, Wales. He has rarely received the same attention as his colleagues, but has been described by other members of the team as the “heart” of the operation. Recent Python literature has highlighted his lead role in maintaining the group's unity and creative independence. Python biographer George Perry has commented that should you "speak to him on subjects as diverse as fossil fuels, or Rupert Bear, or mercenaries in the Middle Ages or Modern China... in a moment you will find yourself hopelessly out of your depth, floored by his knowledge." Many others agree that Jones is characterised by his irrepressible, good-natured enthusiasm, which is perhaps the reason for his unflagging loyalty to the preservation of the group. However, Jones' passion often led to prolonged arguments with other group members — in particular Cleese — with Jones often unwilling to back down. Since his major contributions were largely behind the scenes (direction, writing), and he often deferred to the other members of the group as an actor, Jones' importance to Python was often underrated. However, he does have the legacy of delivering possibly the most famous line in all of Python, as Brian's mother Mandy in Life of Brian, "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!", a line voted the funniest in film history on two occasions. Since Python, he has continued as a film director and as a TV documentarian (normally on historical subjects). He was diagnosed with bowel cancer in October 2006, undergoing a successful operation to remove it weeks later.
Michael Palin was born on 5 May 1943 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. The youngest Python by a matter of weeks, Palin is often referred to as "the nice one". He attended Oxford, where he met his Python writing partner Jones. The two also wrote the series Ripping Yarns together. Palin and Jones originally wrote face-to-face, but soon found it was more productive to write apart and then come together to review what the other had written. Therefore, Jones and Palin's sketches tended to be more focused than that of the others, taking one bizarre, hilarious situation, sticking to it, and building on it. After Python, his comedy output began to decrease in amount following the increasing success of his travel documentaries for the BBC, beginning with one edition in the first series of Great Railway Journeys of the World. He eventually announced his retirement from his first profession in the late 1990s. His most recent travel doc was 2007's Michael Palin's New Europe.
Neil Innes, born on 9 December 1944, in Danbury, Essex, England, is the only non-Python besides Douglas Adams to be credited with writing material for the Flying Circus. He appeared in sketches and the Python films, as well as performing some of his songs in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. He was also a regular stand-in for absent team members on the rare occasions when they re-created sketches outside of Python. For example, he took the place of Cleese when he was unable to appear at the memorial concert for George Harrison. Gilliam once noted that if anyone qualified for the title of the "Seventh Python," it would certainly be Innes. He was one of the creative talents in the off-beat Bonzo Dog Band, appreciated for such nutty compositions as "The Intro and the Outro" and "I'm The Urban Spaceman." He would later portray Ron Nasty of the Rutles and write all of the Rutles' compositions for All You Need is Cash. By 2005, an unfortunate falling out had occurred between Eric Idle and Innes over additional Rutles projects, the results being Innes' critically acclaimed Rutles "reunion" album The Rutles: Archaeology and Idle's undistinguished, straight-to-DVD Rutles sequel The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch, each undertaken without participation from the other. According to an interview with Idle carried by the Chicago Tribune in May 2005, his attitude as a result of the dispute is that he and Innes go back "too far. And no further." Innes has maintained a diplomatic silence on the dispute.
Carol Cleveland, born 13 January 1942, in London, England, was the most important female performer in the Monty Python ensemble, commonly referred to as the "Python Girl." Originally hired by producer/director John Howard Davies for just the first five episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus, she went on to appear in approximately two-thirds of the episodes as well as in all of the Python films, and in most of their stage shows as well. Her common portrayal as the stereotypical "blonde bimbo" eventually earned her the sobriquet "Carol Cleavage" from the other Pythons, but she felt that the variety of her roles should not be described in such a pejorative way.
Douglas Adams was "discovered" by Chapman when a version of the Footlights Revue (a 1974 BBC2 television show featuring some of Adams' early work) was performed live in London's West End. In Cleese's absence from the final TV series, the two formed a brief writing partnership, with Adams earning a writing credit in one episode for a sketch called "Patient Abuse". In the sketch, a man who had been stabbed by a nurse arrives at his doctor's office bleeding profusely from the stomach, when the doctor makes him fill out numerous senseless forms before he can administer treatment (a joke Adams later incorporated into the Vogon race's obsession with paperwork in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). He also had two cameo appearances in this season. Firstly, in the episode The Light Entertainment War, Adams shows up in a surgeon's mask (as Dr. Emile Koning, according to the on-screen captions), pulling on gloves, while Palin narrates a sketch that introduces one person after another, and never actually gets started. Secondly, at the beginning of Mr. Neutron, Adams is dressed in a "pepperpot" outfit and loads a missile onto a cart being driven by Terry Jones, who is calling out for scrap metal ("Any old iron..."). Adams and Chapman also subsequently attempted a few non-Python projects, including Out of the Trees. He also contributed to a sketch on the soundtrack album for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard, a devoted fan of the group, has occasionally stood in for absent members. When the BBC held a "Python Night" in 1999 to celebrate 30 years of the first broadcast of Flying Circus, the Pythons recorded some new material with Izzard standing in for Idle, who had declined to partake in person (he taped a solo contribution from the US). Izzard hosted a history of the group entitled The Life of Python (1999) that was part of the Python Night and appeared with them at a festival/tribute in Aspen, Colorado, in 1998 (released on DVD as Live at Aspen).
The term has also been applied to animations similar to those constructed by Gilliam (e.g. the cut-out style of South Park, whose creators have often acknowledged a debt to Python, including contributing material to the aforementioned 30th anniversary theme night ). In this regard, some say that "Gilliamesque" would be more accurate.
From Grange Hill to Holy Grail for song and dance man Todd ; CATHERINE JONES talks to former Grange Hill and Eastenders star Todd Carty about clip-clopping out of his comfort zone with a role in the Monty Python musical Spamalot.
Jan 12, 2012; Watch the sale of coconut shells go through the roof in Liverpool this month as Spamalot - the 'lovingly ripped off ' Arthurian...