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Monty Python's reign of terror began in 1166, when William the Conker invaded Baldock, England. Conker quickly laid waste to much of Bulgaria, planting horse chestnut trees here, there, and everywhere. Conker had a pet python called Monty. But Monty was too compassionate for Conker's liking, so ended up in the Crusades in 1756, where he was used as a portable bridge. One day, Monty caught sight of Mathilda Python, deserted his post, and 100,000 souls drowned (Monty was quite big). Python was court-martialled, but, luckily, six bakers took pity on him and adopted him.

The bakers decided to name their pub, Monty le Python, but the 'le' was soon dropped for reasons of etiquette. The bakers were nasty bastards, in truth, and they all wanted to have Monty to themselves. Thus, they would have contests whereby the man who punched the most holes in the most doughnuts, without using his hands, would win Python. The girls loved all this, and all six bakers were soon wed, but as they all scored 1,603 the ownership of Monty was still to be settled.

Thus, they formed a wrestling troupe called Monty Python, and they consisted of the six men who were to be immortal: John 'Cleaver' Cleese, Graham 'Chopper' Chapman, Eric 'Innocent' Idle, Terry 'Garotter' Gilliam, Michael 'Poker' Palin, and Terry 'Jabber' Jones.

They were to fight to the death. The winner gaining Monty. On the road to their first venue at Scrotum Grab - a treacherous 362 mile walk in camel slurry - the group kept their spirits up telling jokes, and performing sketches, including those which were to be famous evermore: 'The Dead Parsnip Sketch', 'Upper Class Twig In The Rear', and 'The Ministry of Sunny Forts'.

They didn't fancy wrestling anymore, went home, wrote a history of Belgium before bedtime, and were signed up in 1869 by the Bermuda Broadcasting Company, and then they made some films. Monty became their manager.

- Paul Rance.
Mr. Rance began his career as a writer some time ago, and wrote novels such as 'David Copperfield' and '1984'. He then became a successful singer with The Beatles, played football (soccer to you Americans), cricket, rugby, and water polo for England. He was the first man on Mars in 1934.

Monty Python, or The Pythons, is the collective name of the creators of Monty Python's Flying Circus, a British television comedy sketch show that first aired on the BBC on October 5, 1969. A total of 45 episodes were made over four series. However, the Python phenomenon was much greater, spawning stage tours, a musical, four films, numerous albums, and several books, as well as launching the members to individual stardom.

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 a highly 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. The group's influence upon comedy has been compared to that which The Beatles had on music (George Harrison regarded them as taking over where The Beatles left off and in fact became friendly with the cast). Their influence on the British comedic spectrum has been apparent for years, while in America it is especially evident in more recent absurdist trends in television comedy. The six members of the team had got to know each other gradually in the preceding years, firstly through university - Chapman, Cleese and Idle were at Cambridge together, while Jones and Palin were at Oxford - and later through their work on various television comedy programmes, most notably The Frost Report.

In 1967, John Cleese and Graham Chapman co-wrote and starred in At Last, the 1948 Show (above), which also starred Marty Feldman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Aimi MacDonald, with occasional appearances by Eric Idle. The following year, Idle, Michael Palin and Jones Terry wrote and starred in the children's show, Do Not Adjust Your Set (DNAYS) (below left), which also featured animations by Terry Gilliam.

In early 1969, Michael Palin and Terry Jones wrote and starred in a short-lived series called The Complete and Utter History of Britain (above right), in which they presented various periods in British history as though television cameras had been there. The series was seen by John Cleese, who decided that he would like to work with Palin. A similar thought was had by Barry Took, a producer at the BBC, and he arranged a meeting between the two. Cleese brought writing partner Chapman along, and Palin brought DNAYS colleagues Jones, Idle and Gilliam. The six of them hit it off, sharing a love of The Goons and Spike Milligan's Q5 television show. With no questions asked, the BBC gave them a budget to produce 13 television shows.

The first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus was broadcast on October 5, 1969. The show was buried late at night and was moved round the schedules to make way for other programmes. Occasionally it was dropped altogether4, while certain regions of the UK never got to see it at all. Despite all this, the show developed a significant word-of-mouth following; enough for the BBC to commission a second series in 1970.

Just before the second series, the Pythons branched out into the world of film, with the release of And Now For Something Completely Different. Envisaged as a way of breaking Monty Python into the American market, it wasn't as successful as they'd hoped and the team returned to television. The third series of Flying Circus was shown in 1972-73, at the end of which, Cleese decided that he'd been with the circus long enough. The fourth series, renamed simply Monty Python was shown in 1974. Having only six episodes, it is generally considered to be the weakest of the four series, with John's departure unbalancing the group. Fortunately, John wasn't gone for good...


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Here are some of our favorite bits from Monty Python. The bits presented here, in no particular order, are our favorites. They are by no means all the bits, nor the naughtiest, though some may be considered somewhat naughty so if you're offended you may contact, in writting, Nigel Incubator-Jones, Minister of Somewhat Naughty Bits!

Michael Palin

Michael Palin, 4 is the Python superstar. A brilliant humourist, Michael is the vital creative influence without whom Python could not have survived. With an I.Q. of several thousand, Michael still finds time to look up people who owe him money. Michael drives a scarlet and gold Lamborghini or else hitchhikes.

Born on May 5, 1943, the youngest Python by a matter of weeks, Palin is often lovingly 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 together, but soon found it was more productive to write apart and then come together and review what the other had written. Therefore, Jones and Palin's sketches tended to be more focused than that of the other four, taking one bizarre, hilarious situation, sticking to it, and building on it. Examples include "The Spanish Inquisition" sketch and the "fish-slapper" in the Fish-Slapping Dance.

These sketches take everyday situations (talking in the sitting room, dining out) but then introduce an unexpected, impossible to predict, rogue element (the Spanish Inquisition, a grotesquely overweight man). From here, Palin and Jones could play around with the newly created environment, taking it to impossible, unbelievably stupid extremes, for example, attempting to torture old ladies with cushions and comfy chairs, or having waiter Cleese feed Mr. Creosote until he actually explodes, showering the other diners in viscera.

In recent years, Palin has starred in a number of documentary travel series for the BBC in which he visits various — usually remote — locales, often along some predetermined route; for example his series Pole to Pole and the BBC-sponsored Around the World in Eighty Days, where he followed the route of the fictional journey of Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's novel of the same name. He also starred in Gilliam’s Brazil and Time Bandits, hosted Saturday Night Live several times and appeared with John Cleese in a Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. Palin is one of the most popular personalities in Britain today.

Eric Idle

Eric Idle, 13 is even younger than Graham Chapman and John Cleese. Eric is the real genius of the group. Much taller than a midget, Eric is, as he puts it, "little short of brilliant." Eric has brought to Python much of the anarchic humour and brilliantly surrealist performance which would have been so sadly lacking without him. Eric was born under Derry and Toms.

Idle was born on March 29, 1943 in South Shields, England. When with Monty Python, two writing partnerships were formed — Cleese and Chapman, Jones and Palin. That left Gilliam in his own corner, considered to be a sensible position in view of the arcane nature of his work, and Idle.

Idle was content to be cast as the group loner, preferring to write by himself, at his own pace, although he sometimes found it difficult in having to present material to the others and make it seem funny without the back-up support of a partner. Cleese claimed that, though he often felt his position was unfair, Idle was an independent person and worked best on his own. Idle claimed, "It was easier in a show where there were thirteen in a series than with a film, where stuff was read out all the time, and you had to convince five others. And they were not the most un-egotistical of writers either."

Idle studied at Cambridge, a year behind Cleese and Chapman. He is perhaps best remembered for composing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which closes Life of Brian and which has become something of the group's signature tune.

Since Python, Idle has starred in movies ranging from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut to National Lampoon's European Vacation to 102 Dalmatians to television shows such as The Simpsons, MADtv and Saturday Night Live and even starred in the 1996 "point-and-click" computer game Discworld, in which he voiced the game's protagonist Rincewind. Idle also directs and stars in the mockumentary, The Rutles and the Ruttles 2. Originally hatched in 1978 as a short film parody for Saturday Night Live, the mockumentary bloomed into one of Eric Idle's better projects outside Monty Python. Taking the career (and hagiography) of the Beatles and inverting them quite nicely, Idle conjures up four doppelgangers who offer the familiar mannerisms but practically none of the intelligence of their models. If that sounds like the same gag that powered This Is Spinal Tap (which emerged six years later), it is, with the crucial difference that Idle's lampoon is precise where Tap was consciously generic.

Curently Idle is the writer of the three time Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Spamalot based on the Holy Grail movie. He also collaborated with John Du Prez on the music.

Terry Jones

Terry Jones, 12 is unbelievably young, and yet his mature judgement and fine singing voice have earned him the accolade of "the biggest thing since Virginia Woolf." Terry has constantly refused offers for him to leave Python, preferring instead to devote his considerable talents to helping "the other, less privileged members of the cast." Terry likes steak au poivre and his ambition is to have a road named after him.

Jones was born on February 1, 1942 in North Wales. All the Pythons have an eclectic range of talents, but Jones is particularly hard to compartmentalise. 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 and in a moment you will find yourself hopelessly out of your depth, floored by his knowledge."

However, not everyone considers Jones a "show-off", merely that he has a good-natured enthusiasm. It is this same cheery devotion that has led to his unflagging loyalty to the preservation of the group. As long as there is Jones, there will be, in some way, a Monty Python. Jones' dedication to Python is not a recent occurrence however. As well as writing with Palin, he committed himself to directing the Python films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Life of Brian, and Monty Python's Meaning of Life, when it was felt that a member of the group should be in charge. One of Jones' major concerns was devising a fresh format for the Python TV shows, devising a stream-of-consciousness style which abandoned punchlines and instead encouraged the fluid movement of one sketch to another and the cross-referencing of jokes. This allowed the team's conceptual humour and one-line ideas room to realise their full potential which conventional formulas would arguably compromise. Jones also objected to TV directors’ use of sped-up film, over-emphatic music, and static camera style. As a film director, Jones finally gained fuller control of the projects and devised a visual style that complemented the humour, and, once again, concentrated on allowing the performers room to breathe; for instance, in the use of wide shots for long exchanges of dialogue, and more economical use of music. His methods encouraged many future television comedians to break away from conventional slapstick or studio-bound shooting styles, as demonstrated by Green Wing, Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen.

Of Jones' innumerable contributions to the show, his parodic, screechy-voiced depictions of middle-aged women are among the most memorable. His humour, in collaboration with Palin, tends to be conceptual rather than situational; the central joke in a typical Palin/Jones sketch tends to be an illustrated idea taken to extremes. Examples of this include the "Mouse Organ" sketch, in which a tuxedoed man (Jones) bashes mice who have been trained to squeak at a select pitch and are then played in the appropriate order to render the "Bells of St. Mary"; cunningly, no laughs are wrung from the violence of the situation but rather from the madness of the idea itself. The crime-fighting bishop sketch also contains many typical conceits, such as a crook that doubles as an emergency telephone.

In 2004, Jones was the presenter and actor for the BBC's miniseries, Terry Jones' Medieval Lives. He has also directed and starred in Erik the Viking, and in 2006 presented a series on BBC2 entitled Barbarians.

Jones is arguably the most underrated member of the group, even by diehard fans. His major contributions were largely behind the scenes (direction, writing) and he often deferred to the other members of the group as an actor. However, recent Python literature has gone some way in reclaiming him as a vital factor in maintaining the group's independence and unity.

The last film Jones directed was the 2015 comedy Absolutely Anything, about a disillusioned schoolteacher who is given the chance to do anything he wishes by a group of aliens watching from space. The film features Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale and the voices of the five remaining members of Monty Python playing the aliens (appearing together for the first time since 1983's Monty Python's The Meaning of Life) and Robin Williams (in his last film role) as the voice of Pegg's dog.

Later that same year Jones was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a form of frontotemporal dementia that impairs the ability to speak and communicate, and was no longer able to give interviews. He had first given cause for concern during the reunion Monty Python Live (Mostly) shows in July 2014 because of difficulties learning his lines.

Graham Chapman

Graham Chapman, 19 is the youngest member of the group. A modest, soft-spoken loud mouth, Graham feels that without him the show would have been a complete disaster. A brilliant and prolific writer, Graham wrote many of the I.T.M.A. Shows as well as most of E.M.Forster. Graham's favourite colour is off-white and his favourite heavy gas is Helium. Most often seen with a pipe in his mouth, Graham is said to have liked nothing better than a rough shag after filming.

Born in Leicester, England on January 8, 1941, Chapman was originally a medical student, but changed to theatre when he joined Footlights at Cambridge. Chapman was perhaps best remembered for taking on the lead roles in The Holy Grail, as King Arthur, and Life of Brian, as Brian Cohen.

The movie roles were fairly straight, the comedy deriving from the stereotypical lead in bizarre situations, encountering eccentric characters, still being played as serious, and unflinching. These roles, however, were unusual for the Graham Chapman the public had come to know on the Flying Circus, where he figured as the tall, craggy pipe smoker who gave the impression of calmness, disguising a manic unpredictability as real in his characters as they were in reality. For behind the pipe-smoking, rugby-playing exterior lay an alcoholic with whom the rest of the Pythons often had trouble dealing. This was one of the reasons that Cleese left the television show after series three.

Chapman particularly had trouble filming Holy Grail in Scotland, where he got a case of delirium tremens, often called DTs. During his worst alcoholism, he was reportedly consuming two quarts of gin every day. However, by the time his definitive role of Brian arose, he was sober and continued to produce some of his best work with the Pythons.

Besides starring in Monty Python features, Chapman starred in movies such as The Odd Job (he was also the producer) and Yellowbeard (which he also directed), also making several appearances on Saturday Night Live. Chapman died of spinal and throat cancer on October 4th, 1989. Thanks to the nature of the other Pythons, he is now lovingly referred to as "the dead one." Cleese also made a point to be the first person to say 'fuck' in a British eulogy, but only because the deceased (Chapman) was the first person to say 'shit' on British television.

John Cleese

John Cleese, 18 is even younger than Graham, the youngest of the group. John refers to himself as a comic genius, a manic wild-eyed wizard of wit, and one of the most popular men since Ghandhi. His special role in Python, he feels, has been the complete integration of writing and performing into a viable and successful whole. John's favourite colour is fish, and his pet hate is insincerity.

Born on October 27, 1939 in Weston-super-Mare, England, Cleese’s surname had originally been Cheese. His father, however, had the name changed to Cleese when he joined the army during World War II. Perhaps the best known of the Pythons, Cleese attended Clifton College, Bristol where he developed a taste for performing by appearing in the house plays. He moved on to Cambridge, where he met his future Python writing partner, Chapman.

His work with Chapman was, aside from Gilliam's animations, perhaps the most surreal of the Pythons' work and almost certainly the most intentionally satirical. Unlike Palin and Jones, Cleese and Chapman actually wrote together, in the same room. Cleese claims that their writing partnership involved him sitting with pen and paper, and Chapman sitting back, not speaking for lengths at a time, but when he did speak, it was often brilliant. Without Chapman's input, the "dead parrot" sketch would have been about the duller subject of a car (it is much harder to imagine Cleese throwing about a car in the same way he threw about the parrot).

Their work often involved ordinary people in ordinary situations, doing incredibly strange and surreal things. For example, Cleese and Chapman transformed the ordinary sight "a civil servant in black suit and bowler hat makes his way to work" into a bizarrely unforgettable scene; the straight-faced Cleese used his physical potential to its full force as the crane-legged civil servant performing an athletic, grotesque, utterly unique walk to his office at the "Ministry of Silly Walks".

This sketch was in fact written by Palin and Jones, but Cleese made it his own, showcasing his talent for physical comedy (also famously used in Fawlty Towers) and playing characters who could remain serious, even impassive, while doing something utterly ludicrous. His role as Sir Lancelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail also showcases this, as he fights his way through a castle to save a damsel in distress, much like, say, Kevin Costner in films such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, although completely oblivious to the fact that he is actually savaging wedding guests.

Another popular device used by the two was highly articulate arguments over completely arbitrary subjects, such as in the "cheese shop", the "dead parrot" sketch or the "argument clinic". All of these roles were opposite Palin, who Cleese often claims is his favourite Python to work with.

Fawlty Towers was a British sitcom created by Cleese and first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975. Only twelve episodes were produced, but the series has had a lasting and powerful influence on later shows. The show is set in a fictional hotel named Fawlty Towers in the Devon town of Torquay on "The English Riviera". The series was written by Cleese and (then wife) Connie Booth, who also played two of the main characters, and was broadcast in two series: The first, in 1975, and the second, in 1979.

Fawlty Towers was inspired by the Monty Python team's stay in the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay. Cleese and Booth stayed on at the hotel after filming for the Python show had finished. The owner, Mr. Donald Sinclair, was very rude, throwing a bus timetable at a guest who asked when the next bus to town would arrive and placing Eric Idle's suitcase behind a wall in the garden in case it contained a bomb (actually it contained a ticking alarm clock). He also criticised the American-born Terry Gilliam's table manners for being too American (he had the fork in the wrong hand while eating), possibly inspiring Basil's treatment of an American visitor in the episode "Waldorf Salad". Sinclair died in England in 1981 — despite rumours that he had emigrated to Canada, he never left Torquay. Interestingly, Basil Fawlty displayed an affinity for Canada on a couple of occasions in the series, once joking that he would move there to escape his wife. Mr. Sinclair and some of his relatives have not appreciated the way he has been portrayed, although former staff and visitors have remembered actual events there that were allegedly as ludicrous as those depicted in the programmes. Also, the two daughters of Donald Sinclair confirm that it is an accurate rendition of their father. In fact, his eldest daughter Beatrice (Ann) left England for the United States at age 17 to escape her controlling parents, who had pulled her out of schooling at age 12 in order to work full-time at the hotel.

In 1988 Cleese wrote and starred in A Fish Named Wanda with fellow Python Michael Palin. The movie was a major critical and commercial success when it was released and has remained a popular favourite since. Kline received wide acclaim and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work. The principal cast reunited in 1997 playing different roles for Fierce Creatures.

Cleese played Q's assistant ("R") and finally the new Q himself in the James Bond movies. He also has done work for Shrek 2 and 3, and appeared in the first two Harry Potter movies, Rat Race, and several Saturday Night Live episodes. Cleese has recently had a species of lemur named after him, Avahi cleesei (or "Cleese's Woolly Lemur"). This was in recognition of his promotion of conservation issues after the release of his film Fierce Creatures, which featured such an animal, and Operation Lemur with John Cleese, which highlighted their plight on the island of Madagascar — their natural habitat.

Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam, 10 1/2 is the real baby of the group. He is so young and talented that it is almost presumption to mention his name along with the others. "I think I can safely say that without me there would have been no Monty Python, no United Nations and quite possibly no end to the Second World War," says Terry disarmingly. Terry has written over 40 symphonies and his greatest likes are his own cartoons and having his inside leg measured.

Gilliam, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 22, 1940, is the only non-British member of the troupe. 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 then joined Monty Python's Flying Circus when it was created.

He was the principal artist-animator of the distinctive, surreal cartoons, which frequently linked the show's sketches together, and defined the group's visual language in other mediums. He mixed his own art, characterised by soft gradients and odd bulbous shapes, with backgrounds and moving cutouts from antique photographs, mostly from the Victorian era. The style has been mimicked repeatedly throughout the years: in the children's television cartoon Angela Anaconda, a series of television commercials for Guinness, the JibJab cartoons featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the online comic strip The New Adventures Of Queen Victoria, and the television history series Terry Jones' Medieval Lives. The title sequence for Desperate Housewives and the visits to the land of the living in Grim Fandango are also highly Gilliamesque. The style of animation used for South Park was inspired by Gilliam's paper cut-out cartoons for Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Besides doing the animations for the Flying Circus, he also appeared in several sketches, usually playing parts that no one else wanted to play (generally because they required a lot of make-up or uncomfortable costumes, such as a recurring knight in armour who would end sketches by walking on and hitting one of the other characters over the head with a plucked chicken) and played side parts in the films.

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 Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Brothers Grimm and Tideland.

Unofficial Associate Pythons

Several people have been accorded unofficial "Associate Python" status over the years. Occasionally such people have been referred to as the 'seventh Python', in a style reminiscent of George Martin (or other associates of the Beatles) being dubbed "the Fifth Beatle." The two collaborators with the most meaningful and plentiful contributions have been Neil Innes and Carol Cleveland. Both were present and presented as Associate Pythons at the official Monty Python 25th-anniversary celebrations held in Los Angeles in July 1994.

Neil Innes (above left) is the only non-Python besides Douglas Adams (above right) to be credited with writing material for 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 recreated sketches. For example, he took the place of Cleese at the Concert for George. 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. He would later portray Ron Nasty of the Rutles and write all of the Rutles' compositions for All You Need Is Cash (1978). By 2005, a falling out had occurred between Idle and Innes over additional Rutles projects, the results being Innes' critically acclaimed Rutles "reunion" album The Rutles: Archaeology and Idle's straight-to-DVD The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch, each undertaken without the other's participation. According to an interview with Idle in the Chicago Tribune in May 2005, his attitude is that Innes and he go back "too far. And no further." Innes has remained silent on the dispute.

Carol Cleveland (right) was the most important female performer in the Monty Python ensemble, commonly referred to as "the female Python". She was originally hired by producer/director John Howard Davies for just the first five episodes of the Flying Circus. The Pythons then pushed to make Cleveland a permanent recurring performer after producer/director Ian MacNaughton brought in several other actresses who were not as good as she was. Cleveland went on to appear in about 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.

Cleese's first wife, Connie Booth, (below) appeared as various characters in all four series of Flying Circus. Her most significant role was the "best girl" of the eponymous Lumberjack in "The Lumberjack Song", though this role was sometimes played by Carol Cleveland. Booth appeared in a total of six sketches and also played one-off characters in Python feature films And Now for Something Completely Different and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Douglas Adams (author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) was "discovered" by Chapman when a version of 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 in numerous senseless forms before he can administer treatment. 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. In addition to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Adams also wrote Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988), and co-wrote The Meaning of Liff (1983), The Deeper Meaning of Liff (1990) and Last Chance to See (1990). He also provided three stories for the television series Doctor Who and served as script editor for the show's seventeenth season in 1979.

Other than Carol Cleveland, the only other non-Python to make a significant number of appearances in the Flying Circus was Ian Davidson (top left). He appeared in the first two series of the show, and played over 10 roles. While Davidson is primarily known as a scriptwriter, it is not known if he had any contribution toward the writing of the sketches, as he is only credited as a performer. In total, Davidson is credited as appearing in eight episodes of the show, which is more than any other male actor who was not a Python. Despite this, Davidson did not appear in any Python-related media subsequent to series 2, though footage of him was shown on the documentary Python Night – 30 Years of Monty Python.

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 The Life of Python (1999), a history of the group that was part of Python Night and appeared with them at a festival/tribute in Aspen, Colorado, in 1998 (released on DVD as Live at Aspen). Izzard has said that Monty Python was a significant influence on his style of comedy and Cleese has referred to him as "the lost Python".

Series director of Flying Cirus, Ian MacNaughton (left bottom), is also regularly associated with the group and made a few on-screen appearances in the show and in the film And Now for Something Completely Different. Apart from Neil Innes, others to contribute musically included Fred Tomlinson and the Fred Tomlinson Singers. They made appearances in songs such as "The Lumberjack Song" as a backup choir. In addition, various other contributors and performers for the Pythons included John Howard Davies, John Hughman, Lyn Ashley, Bob Raymond, John Young, Rita Davies, Stanley Mason, Maureen Flanagan, and David Ballantyne.


Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)

The group (including Cleese) reformed in 1974 to write and star in their first feature film of new material (a feature film And Now For Something Completely Different was produced in 1971 but was comprised entirely of old material, which was re-shot, often shortened, and sometimes slightly changed for the film. The group did not consider this film a success, but it enjoys a cult following today). The film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, was based around Arthurian Legend and directed by Jones and Gilliam, who also drew the film's linking animations and opening credits. Along with the rest of the Pythons, Jones and Gilliam performed several roles in the film, but it was Chapman who took the lead as King Arthur. Holy Grail was filmed on a budget of only about £150,000, which is roughly £1,000,000 in 2005 when adjusted for inflation. This money was raised in part with donations from rock groups such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

The film was shot on location in Scotland, particularly around Doune Castle, Glen Coe, and the privately-owned Castle Stalker. Because of the small budget, the film had to make do without horses. This led to one of the film's most memorable gags, as every time the script calls for the knights to be majestically riding their steeds, they are actually play-riding along on foot while their squires behind them (also play-riding) carry coconut shells to bang together to imitate the sound of horses' hooves (once a radio sound effect now actually shown on screen for comic effect). The chain mail armour worn by the various knights was actually silver-painted wool, whilst the many castles seen throughout the film were either Doune Castle shot from different angles, or cardboard models held up against the horizon. The filming was apparently unpleasant. The weather was poor and the "chain mail" soaked up water, the budget only allowed for low-quality hotels, Gilliam and Jones argued with each other and with the other Pythons, and the extent of Chapman's alcoholism became apparent when he began to suffer from delerium tremens during the filming. The Pythons recall that the filming of Holy Grail is the only time any of them can remember the usually amiable Palin losing his temper. This occurred when Jones and Gilliam insisted on consistently re-shooting a scene in which Palin played a character called "the mud eater". The scene was ultimately cut from the movie. The film proved a success and in 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Monty Python and the Holy Grail the 5th greatest comedy film of all time.

Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)

Following the success of Holy Grail, a reporter asked Idle what the title of the next Python film would be. It is reported Idle replied "Jesus Christ - Lust for Glory", which soon became the group's stock answer as they realised that it shut reporters up. Though the rest of the group originally laughed the joke off, they soon began to seriously consider a film lampooning the life of Christ in the same way Holy Grail had lampooned King Arthur. However, after some research the group decided they could not do this as they felt Jesus was a good person with a solid message. However, they agreed that his followers would be easy to poke fun at, and so Monty Python's Life of Brian was made. The focus therefore shifted to a separate individual born at a similar time, and a legend was born. When Jesus does appear in the film (as he does on two occasions — in the stable and speaking the Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-48)), he is portrayed according to Christian beliefs. The comedy only begins when members of the crowd mishear his statement 'Blessed are the Peacemakers...' ('I think he said, "blessed are the cheesemakers"'; also, later, there is some debate on whether the 'Greek' should inherit the Earth). With regards to funding, Python again had help from a rock star in the person of George Harrison, who set up Handmade Films purely to finance the film. He claims he did so because he simply wanted to see another Python film. The Pythons often joke that it is still the most anyone has ever paid for a cinema ticket.

Learning their lesson from Holy Grail's unpleasant setting, the team chose to write the film in the Caribbean (where they were visited by Keith Moon and Mick Jagger) and film in Tunisia. In contrast to Holy Grail, many of the Pythons remember this as their most enjoyable experience working together as a group.

The experiment with co-direction on Holy Grail proved to be a one-off, as it led to creative friction. Instead, Jones was left to direct by himself. Though Cleese had originally wanted to play Brian, the rest of the group favoured Chapman, whom they considered as the best actor amongst them. Though Chapman only plays Brian and Biggus Dickus, the rest of the cast, between them, play over 40 characters. It also featured cameos from Harrison and Milligan (who just happened to be on holiday in Tunisia at the time). Moon was also set to appear but sadly died before he could film his part.

Upon its release, protests against the film were organised based on its perceived blasphemy, not the least of which because the film ends with a comical song sung by the victims of a mass crucifixion (Idle's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"). On its initial release in the UK, the film was banned by several town councils (some of which had no cinemas within their boundaries). The film was also banned for eight years in the Republic of Ireland and for a year in Norway (it was marketed in Sweden as 'the movie that is so funny, it was banned in Norway!'). The film was not released in Italy until 1990, eleven years after it was made. The film was not shown in Jersey until 2001. The Bailiff of Jersey, Frank Ereaut's government, wanted it to be watched only by adults, even though the BBFC rated it suitable for those aged 14 or over.

Mary Whitehouse and other campaigners launched waves of leaflets and picketing at and around cinemas that showed the film, ironically boosting the publicity. Shortly after the film was released, Cleese and Palin engaged in a debate over it on the BBC2 discussion programme Friday Night, Saturday Morning, in which Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark put the case against the film. Cleese has frequently said that he enjoyed the debate, since he felt that the film was 'completely intellectually defensible'. Palin, however, was visibly angry. This discussion was later parodied by Not the Nine O'Clock News with a debate about The General Synod's Life of Christ, in which a guy named Jesus Christ is mistaken for the Comic Messiah John Cleese. For their part, the Pythons contend on the DVD commentary that the film is heretical because it lampoons the practices of modern organised religion, but does not blasphemously lampoon the God that Christians worship.

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)

Python's final film was more like the style of Flying Circus. A series of sketches loosely followed the ages of man from conception to death. Directed again by Jones, The Meaning of Life is embellished with some of Python's most bizarre moments, and various elaborate musical numbers. At the time of its release the Python's confessed their aim was to offend "absolutely everyone". The film begins with a short film by Gilliam - The Crimson Permanent Assurance - that was originally planned as a sketch within the film but eventually grew so ambitious that the Pythons felt it needed to be separate from the main film (although the characters from the short do make a brief return to "invade" the main film).

Though a commercial and critical success, The Meaning of Life is generally not regarded as being of the same quality of its predecessors. Many feel it lacks the structure of Holy Grail and Life of Brian. Idle claims it was just "one re-write away from being perfect". The Pythons had originally wanted to do one final re-write introducing one lead character (such as Arthur or Brian) who could be followed through the ages of man. However, Cleese refused as he had grown tired of the already protracted writing process for the film. Crucially, this was the last project that all six Pythons would collaborate on, except for the 1989 compilation Parrot Sketch Not Included where we see the Python cast sitting in a closet for 4 seconds, which would be the last time Chapman was filmed on screen with the rest of the Pythons.


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