MONTY PYTHON SPEAKS (2000) – The Pythons’ story in their own words

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Monty Python member Michael Palin says, “I think there’s a danger in Pythons analyzing their own work. I think we shouldn’t do it.” Unfortunately for him, he and the other Pythons spend 315 pages doing just that in the delightful Monty Python Speaks.

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick history. Monty Python is the collective name for a group of five Britons — Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin — and a transplanted American, Terry Gilliam. They are responsible for 45 of the funniest half-hours ever broadcast on television (in Britain beginning in 1969, America in 1974) and some equally inventive movies. Chapman died of cancer on the very eve of the group’s twentieth anniversary — “Worst case of party-pooping I’ve ever seen,” said Terry Jones.
For Python fanatics (I count myself among them), the new book is akin to the Holy Grail that the group sought in their infamous 1975 movie. The surviving group members and many of their associates are interviewed by David Morgan, and as befits their comedic style, the Pythons are quite open and frank about the group’s highs and lows. Among the many illuminated topics and tidbits are:

* Graham Chapman’s alcoholism, about which he was quite open himself. (While filming one of their movies, Michael Palin came across a half-empty bottle of gin belonging to Chapman. Palin had seen the bottle completely full earlier in the day.)

* Their first American TV appearance. It was on a 1972 “Tonight Show,” where guest host Joey Bishop introduced them with the immortal line, “This is a comedy group from England. I hear they’re supposed to be funny.”

* Python didn’t have a chance in America until a PBS station manager in Texas–“Dallas, of all places,” says Cleese — took a chance on them. Friends of the station manager were afraid his station would get burned down.

* Their then-manager absconded with the funds from their 1980 appearance at the Hollywood Bowl. They made no money from the gig until they released their 1982 movie of the concert.

* When ABC-TV brutally edited three of their TV episodes for a 1975 special, the Pythons sued the network, on the grounds that they’d rather make less money than have someone else censoring their work.

The ABC incident points up two concrete truths about Python:

(1) Like them or not, their particular world view is uncompromised, and their fans appreciate their honesty.

(2) Said view shouldn’t be left in the hands of people who just plain don’t understand them. The people who would “sanitize” it are the same kind of people that Python’s comedy satirizes.

But maybe I romanticize Python only because I grew up with it. I completely don’t get the followings for later work such as “South Park,” but I can still recite reams of Python dialogue. For others with similar bents, the book is must reading.

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Don’t run away — THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON is here!

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To honor the 47th (!) anniversary of the world premiere of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” this blog is spending the next few days letting bloggers chime in on their favorite movies (group and solo) from members of the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Join us as we celebrate this groundbreaking comedy team!

If you are one of the blogathon entrants, please post the URL to your blog entry in the “Comments” section below, and I will link to it as soon as possible. Please have your entry posted by the end of the day on Monday, Oct. 3 (and if I may, the sooner the better!).

If you are just stopping by for some great reading, please give this blog bookmarked, as entries will continue coming in for the next three days. Enjoy the silliness!

Here are the blogathon’s entrants:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The movie version of Graham Chapman’s A Liar’s Autobiography

BNoirDetour – Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

Cinematic Frontier – Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King

lifesdailylessonsblog – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The James Bond Social Media Project – John Cleese in the James Bond films The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day

Moon in Gemini – John Cleese and Michael Palin in Fierce Creatures

The Midnite Drive-In – Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

Radiator Heaven – Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – Eric Idle in National Lampoon’s European Vacation

 

A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2012) – Graham Chapman tells a few stories

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The following is my entry in The Monty Python Movie Blogathon, being hosted at this blog from Oct. 1-3, 2016. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ reviews of group and solo efforts from the members of the British comedy group!

 

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If you’ve fantasized that the Monty Python troupe could get together one more time for one final, very special episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” A Liar’s Autobiography could be just about enough to fulfill your fantasy.

It certainly isn’t for the Pythons’ lack of trying. Based on the late Graham Chapman’s semi-autobiography of the same name, the movie uses Chapman to “narrate” his own story. (He recorded an oral version of his book shortly before he died of throat cancer in 1989.) And in best Python, multiple-casting style, most of the voices in this animated film are provided by nearly all of the remaining Python members, even Carol Cleveland. (The only holdout was Eric Idle, who was having a row with the other Pythons at the time of filming.)

The main difference between the movie and “Flying Circus” is that, other that a few clips from live interviews and the “Circus” TV series, the entire movie is animated — quite boldly and bawdily (by 14 different animation companies, no less). Otherwise, Chapman turns his life into a flight of fancy worthy of “Flying Circus,” starting out at actual points of fact in his life and then veering off into far more interesting and humorous flights of fancy.

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Chapman was quite frank about both his homosexuality and his battle with alcoholism, and those subjects get Pythonesque treatment here, with no holds barred. But it’s also fascinating to see how humor got him through more mundane aspects of his life — his formative years with parents who never quite “got him,” his collegiate years with self-satisfied professors, and his eventual boredom with the Hollywood lifestyle once he became famous.

As with most Python-based work, if you’re not tuned into their sense of ultra-dry humor, this movie is unlikely to make you a convert. As for myself, I enjoyed it the way I’ve enjoyed most of Python. It’s refreshingly honest about subjects from which more conservative folks simply shy away. It’s well-animated on all counts (think Monty Python meets Yellow Submarine). Plus, it’s damn funny.

 

And now for something completely different — announcing THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON!

 

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(DISCLAIMER: This blogathon is not in any way connected with or endorsed by Python [Monty] Pictures Ltd. or any member of Monty Python.)

On Oct. 5, 1969, the British comedy collective soon to be known as Monty Python first made its presence felt when “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” made its world premiere on the BBC. As the show was the final broadcast for BBC’s Sunday-evening programming, Python member Michael Palin said that their original audience consisted of “burglars and insomniacs.” From those humble beginnings sprang forth a laugh factory that influenced generations of British and American comedy makers.

To honor this hallowed anniversary, I announce The Monty Python Movie Blogathon. I know it’s ironic that I’m creating a film blogathon for a comedy troupe that began in TV — but let’s face it, if we allowed the Pythons’ TV entries into this ‘thon, it would be running for months! So here are the rules.

No duplicate entries about the same movie. You are about to be provided with a menu of choices generous enough that no blogs should have to overlap.

Do’s – You may blog about:

  • obviously, any of the Pythons’ team films, from And Now for Something Completely Different through The Meaning of Life. (Although not all of the Pythons participated in the three Secret Policemen’s Ball concert films, these can be included as well. If you wish, you may also review the DVD of Monty Python Live [mostly], the 2014 reunion concert of the surviving Python members.)
  • any movie — comedy or drama — in which a Python member played a starring or supporting role.
  • any movie in which a Python member participated in the writing and/or directing. (This obviously includes the vast filmography of Terry Gilliam.)
  • any filmed biography of the Pythons.

Don’ts – Please, no reviews of any of their TV work, as a group or separately, or as I mentioned, we’d be here for days. That said, I will make two exceptions to this rule: (1) any aforementioned Python biographies that happened to appear on TV; and (2) The Rutles (1978), Eric Idle’s irresistible mock-biography of The Beatles.

How Do I Join the Blogathon?

In the “Comments” section at the bottom of this blog, please leave your name, the URL of your blog, and the movie you are choosing to blog about. At the end of this blog entry are banners for the ‘thon. Grab a banner, display it on your blog, and link it back to this blog.

The blogathon will take place from Sat., Oct. 1, through Mon., Oct. 3. When the opening date of the blogathon arrives, leave a comment here with a link to your post, and I will display it in the list of entries (which I will continually update up to the beginning of the ‘thon, so keep checking back!).

I will not be assigning particular dates to any blog posts. As long as you get your entry in by the end of the day on Oct. 3, I will be satisfied. (That said, the earlier the better!)

Again, be sure to leave me a comment and grab a banner, and have fun with your blog entry!

Here’s the line-up so far:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The movie version of Graham Chapman’s A Liar’s Autobiography

BNoirDetour – Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

Cinematic Frontier – Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King

lifesdailylessonsblog – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The James Bond Social Media Project – John Cleese in the James Bond films The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day

Moon in Gemini – John Cleese and Michael Palin in Fierce Creatures

The Midnite Drive-In – Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

Radiator Heaven – Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – Eric Idle in National Lampoon’s European Vacation

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