In the early 80s, I spent plenty of time watching British sitcoms on PBS. They were so “cutting edge” and much sillier! My favorite was always “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. The show ran from 1969 to 1974 and spawned several movies. The Pythoners are the late Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and American Terry Gilliam. Helping these silly men out was the very funny and very sexy “unofficial Pythoner” Carol Cleveland. But don’t think she handled all the female rolls! Cross dressing applied! Carol played the attractive and young women, the guys played housewives and older women. They called them “pepperpot ladies”. The funniest looking one was always John Cleese. No way did he even remotely resemble or even try to resemble a woman.
Python was different then most comedy at the time. Skits would have no definite endings, characters from other skits would wander into different scenes and in addition to general silliness there was also Terry Gilliam’s animation. Totally off the wall. Skits included a blancmange from outer space turning people into Scotsmen, the fish slapping dance, self-defense against fresh fruit (one of my favorites), Hell’s Grannies, twit of the year contest… the list goes on. Some of the most memorable are The Dead Parrot Sketch (He’s pining for the fjords!), The Lumberjack song , and The Spanish Inquisition (no one ever expects them!). And don’t forget to ask for eggs, bacon, Spam and Spam for your next breakfast!
The Python movies were hysterical and sometimes controversial. Holy Grail took on the Camelot legend with killer rabbits and insulting Frenchmen. Don’t forget its only a flesh wound! Holy Grail also inspired the Broadway Musical Spamelot. Life of Brian was really controversial as it told the story of Brian, a man whose life parallels that of Christ. While Christ gets glory and resurrection, Brian just gets crucified. They also did a movie compilation of skits from the show and finally their last movie was Meaning of Life, which is based on the seven stages of man. Of course it was also silly and included one of the grossest movie scenes I had ever seen. I never want a thin mint when I’m full.
After the show stopped airing in addition to movies, the Pythoners remained active in the entertainment industry. John Cleese went on to do Fawlty Towers , another British comedy classic about Basil Fawlty, harried hotel owner and operator. If it could go wrong, it went wrong at Fawlty Towers! He also gained US success in A Fish Called Wanda, which also included Michael Palin. Eric Idle did some films and some US sitcoms. America’s own Terry Gilliam went on to direct feature films including Brazil. Sadly Graham Chapman, who once studied medicine, died in 1989. At his memorial, John Cleese delivered a memorable speech both funny (“good riddance!) and touching. The surviving members then joined other friends to sing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Life of Brian.
There is a good website called Monty Python’s Completely Useless Web Site chock full of Python information. The Fountaindale Library has some Monty Python materials available for loan. A great DVD of infamous skits is Monty Python Live! Or for an overview of the history of Python, try The Life of Python. There is also a book on the Python story by the guys called Monty Python Speaks.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is funny,extremely silly, and somewhat racy. Its ……….British comedy at its best.