Monty Python is the greatest sketch-comedy group ever.[citation NOT needed]
We're not going to bother putting in quotes, as nearly every line out of their mouths is quotable, and plenty of other quote sites exist. Besides, most of the geeks who frequent this site can recite most of Monty Python and the Holy Grail from memory anyway (and have you ROTFLOL).
According to Terry Jones, most people don't realize that Monty Python is an anagram of his name.
Various sources have mentioned that other proposed names for the TV show included The Toad Elevating Moment; Owl Stretching Time; Glen Dibley's Flying Circus; A Horse, a Bucket, and a Spoon; and It's.
- John Cleese (1939–): The only one to have a real movie acting career to this day (admittedly because he's been through some bad divorces and is, by the standards of famous actors, penniless). He left the TV show project after the third season and became the ever hilarious Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. Classic belly laughs all round.
- Eric Idle (1943–): Creator of The Rutles projects.
- Graham Chapman (1941–1989): The tall, gay, alcoholic one. The first one to die. Played the lead in the Holy Grail and Life of Brian films.
- Terry Jones (1942–2020): The Welsh one. Co-directed Holy Grail with Terry Gilliam. He was a fan of Geoffrey Chaucer and medieval history, and wrote several books and even a documentary series on the subjects. After living several years unable to communicate, he succumbed to degenerative aphasia in 2020.
- Michael Palin, CBE, FRGS (1943–): Has made travelogues for the BBC, and the Ripping Yarns series. Also former president of the Royal Geographical Society for what it's worth (not much really). No longer the world's funniest Palin.
- Terry Gilliam (1940–): The only American in the group. He wasn't in many of the sketches,[note 1] but created the absurdist, highly influential animations. He has made a career as a director, with his work including such cool movies as Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. In 2006 Gilliam renounced his US citizenship and became solely British.
- Carol Cleveland[note 2] (1942–): A bit of tail, played the sexy young female roles. The unsexy old female roles were played by the male cast members.
- Connie Booth (1940–)[note 3]: Another bit of tail, brought in by John Cleese, whom she later married and unmarried.
- Neil Innes (1944–2019): Wrote on occasion, and stood in for absent Pythons at later appearances as well as performing minor parts in the live shows. He also worked on the songs, usually with Eric Idle.
- Douglas Adams (1952–2001): Contributed to some scripts.
- The Fred Tomlinson Singers: Professional singers used as a backing/chorus, most notably in "The Lumberjack Song" and "Camelot" (Holy Grail).
There were several TV sketches in which each of the members appeared in blackface (and once in redface) as racist stereotypes, something that was already becoming widely disfavored, particularly beginning with the US civil rights movement of the 1950s. Needless to say, these sketches do not stand the test of time, and have not appeared in the live reunion performances. John Cleese also briefly appeared in blackface as "Wise Man #1" in Life of Brian in a not obviously stereotyped performance.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Their first feature film (unless you count And Now For Something Completely Different, essentially a feature-length clip show), Grail is a spoof of the legend of King Arthur, and a musical. It stars Graham Chapman in the lead role, which he plays straight, with hilarious results. It was directed by the two Terrys, with them taking the reins on alternate days of production. The subsequent films were directed by Terry Jones alone, since the dual-director idea was nerve-wracking in practice.
Each of the players takes on several roles, both male and female, in the film. This would be repeated in their later films.
While most of the film is a classic, some scenes stand out in the public memory:
- The Constitutional/Syndicalist peasant ("Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!")
- The Ballad of Camelot ("It's only a model...")
- The Knights Who Say "Ni!" ("Brrring us... a shrruberrry!!!")
- Taunting French Soldiers ("I fart in your general direction!")
- "Bring out your dead!" ("I'm not dead yet!")
- Lancelot in the convent ("I bet you're gay...")
- The Killer Rabbit ("That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!")
- The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch
- ("...and there was much rejoicing." "Yay.")
And, last but not least, the greatest credits roll in movie history.
Terry Gilliam, heretofore seen little, also took on several roles, usually covered in mud, the most notable of which is Arthur's horse and squire, "Patsy."
In 2007, Eric Idle, with the help of John Du Prez, wrote a stage musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail called Spamalot. It's considered lulzy and amazing even by the Philistines who don't enjoy culture and art.
Life of Brian (1979)
The closing theme from the crucifixion scene, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", remains a perennial favorite. It was sung by survivors of the Welsh Guards as their landing ship, Sir Galahad, was bombed and on fire in the Falklands War. It was also sung at Graham Chapman's funeral.
The oratorio Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy), based roughly on Life of Brian, was written by Idle and John Du Prez, and first performed live in 2007. A 2009 live production was filmed and released on video.
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)
This film, which is more of a series of elongated sketches, is their most uneven post-television production. They still argue about why, but one reason that is given is that for various reasons, Cleese did not want to sit down and work on rewriting it one more time to tie it together better. Originally planned as the story of one Everyman's life, probably once again using Chapman as the lead, it ends up having its only continuous thread being that it proceeds from birth to death. Some of the individual sketches are very good, but others fall short of the Monty Python standard.
The phrase "every sperm is sacred" has been used to criticise the anti-masturbation lobby (a group of
non-wankers), and has become like a proverb in discussions of animal and human discourse as a result of the song, with the song being used to criticise those who believe that every embryo is sacred – whether it be cloning, abortion, or anything involving stem cell research. The phrase has been used in Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, and the song was also seen as symbolic of a watershed moment, whereby the tenets of Catholicism were allowed to be ridiculed openly.
As much as they still accord some grudging respect to each other, rifts have formed between some of the surviving core members to the point where they refuse to all gather in the same place at the same time. One of their DVD extras makes some fun with this, by having a discussion with all five surviving members apparently in the same room, achieved through electronic trickery and deception. Eventually money did bring them together, and the surviving five reunited on stage in 2014 after losing an expensive court case to producer Mark Forstater.
Chapman, Cleese and Idle were all members of the Cambridge University Footlights Revue, which at that time also included the future Goodies — Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden. The Frost Report brought them together with Jones and Palin at the instigation of Barry Took (a bloody good scriptwriter/comedian/show host in his own right).
God is said to be the only character to have appeared in all the Monty Python films.
- Fun:Biggus Dickus
- Fun:Upper-Class Twit of the Year
- Not an argument — No it's not!
- Philosopher, for Monty's philosophers' song lyrics. What do you mean you don't already know it?
- Official website
- See the Wikipedia article on Python (programming language). (Named after Monty Python. Code examples tend to contain less "foo" and more Monty Python references. The IDLE IDE is most likely named in honour of Eric Idle, in keeping with the language's Pythonesque theme)
- He had a few small parts. He was one of the Spanish Inquisitors, for instance. After the fun they had using him on camera more in the films, the other five expressed regret that they didn't use him more in the television shows.
- Aka "Carol Cleavage."
- There's some dispute about her date of birth. See the Wikipedia article on Connie Booth.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic - White & Nerdy (Official Video) on YouTube
- Tributes paid at Graham Chapman's Memorial Service on YouTube
- Terry Jones, Life of Brian director and Monty Python founder, dies aged 77, The Guardian.
- Blackface in Monty Python Monty Python Wiki.
- Monty Python's Life of Brian - Three Wise Men YouTube.
- "Every Sperm Is Sacred" on YouTube
- See the Wikipedia article on Every Sperm is Sacred § Influence.
- See the Wikipedia article on Monty Python Live (Mostly).