Monty Python

Monty Python
Real
Background Information On The World Famous TV Show
6R84
1997/01/26
British Humour: Monty Python

Author:
James Crook

Date:
1997/01/26


Background

In 1969 a team of writers merged to become the entity and persona known as "Monty Python". Graham Chapman [1], John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin had all worked for BBC (British Broadcasting Corp.) before in various capacities. John Cleese had worked on a show called "The Frost Report" and with Graham Chapman he co-wrote "At Last, the 1948 Show". Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam had been working on a show called "Do Not Adjust Your Set". With the help of the BBC's script editor and head of comedy the two groups merged and were thrown straight into a series without a pilot for a run of 13 shows.

The show's title "Monty Python's Flying Circus" was derived from the BBC's initial idea of "John Cleese's Flying Circus". John did not want the show to revolve around him and as a result he suggested "Python" and Eric Idle suggested "Monty".

The Shows

In total there were four series of "Monty Python" containing 45 shows. By the start of series 4 however John Cleese had left the group to work on his own projects with his wife Connie Booth. The shows (for anyone who has not seen them) were mainly a mix of zany madcap humour, satire and school boy pranks and jokes. Memorable sketches include "Spam Sketch", "Nudge, Nudge", "Upper Class Twit Of The Year" and the unforgettable "Parrot Sketch". The main "theme" that the shows revolved around was that there should be no beginning or end to the sketches but more of a stream of consciousness instead. The Pythons inherited this idea from a show which Spike Milligan did called "Q5" in which the same sort of idea was expressed.

Writing The Shows

The MP team soon had their own writing styles and groups. John Cleese would write with Graham Chapman and often create surreal humour. Terry Jones and Michael Palin (like John and Graham) kept their old writing partnership and Eric Idle wrote on his own, normally a witty verbal sketch. Terry Gilliam was not involved with writing the shows as such but instead provided animations for the shows. According to John Cleese there were a lot of "Artistic Fights" within the group over the show's content and now and again furniture would be thrown and people would storm out of the room. This was probably the main disadvantage with having five writers all battling for the biggest ego.

The Films

There were three films made by the Monty Python team and they proved to be big successes on both sides of the Atlantic and at least one of the films created a huge uproar of complaint.

The first film was called "Monty Python And The Holy Grail" and was a basic parody of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. "The Holy Grail" was an instant success on both sides of the Atlantic in 1975 despite the fact that the budget was limited.

The second film was called "Monty Python's Life Of Brian" and was about a character that lived in the same period as Jesus Christ. It caused great uproar in the church and was marked as being an attack at religion. The film was banned in some southern states in America and for a time banned in the UK from being shown on TV.

The final Monty Python film (although members of the group did make other films together) was called "The Meaning of Life". The basic idea behind this film was to follow the stages of life from birth to death in a series of sketches rather than a continuous flowing film with the same characters. Appearances from Simon Jones (who played Arthur Dent in the Hitch Hiker series) were featured as well as more appearances by Terry Gilliam.


[1] Sadly Graham Chapman passed away on October 4th, 1989, the day before the 20th anniversary of the first Python broadcast.
Subtitle: 
Background Information On The World Famous TV Show
Factuality: 
Real
PGG Author: 
James Crook
PGG Number: 
6R84
PGG Index: 
British Humour: Monty Python
PGG Date: 
1997/01/26
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