Fascinating Facts To Mark The Return Of Monty Python

The five surviving members of Monty Python regroup for one last hurrah in London. Here's a look at some fascinating facts of this band of merry men.

The five surviving members of the famous English comedy troupe, Monty Python, regroup for one last time in London in July. Here's a look at some fascinating facts behind this band of merry men.

Original line-up of Monty Python
(top) Chapman, Idle, Gilliam; (bottom) Jones, Cleese and Palin (© Monty Python)

There’s scarcely a comedian alive who has not been influenced by the anarchic comedy troupe Monty Python. Robin Williams says they are ’a great combination of intellect and silly’, and that ’you can start any routine and people finish it for you’. Python’s impact in the late 60s and early 70s was so revolutionary and so enduring that they have been dubbed The Beatles Of Comedy. In July the English group reunites, briefly, for a handful of London performances at The O2. Here are some little-known facts about the famous group who first met as students at Oxford and Cambridge: John Cleese, Michael Palin, the late Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones.

  • When the series Monty Python’s Flying Circus was first broadcast in 1969, the BBC’s Head Of Comedy suggested ‘Circus’, since that’s what the six crazy youths reminded him of. The seriousness of ‘Monty’ World War I general Lord Montgomery, and the slipperiness of ‘Python’, were combined because John Cleese and Eric Idle felt it sounded like a sleazy theatrical agent. 
  • Beatles guitarist George Harrison funded their then controversial film The Life Of Brian, released in 1979, when no one else would dare because of its theme of religious satire (in fact a major production company pulled out at the last minute). Harrison started a company called Handmade Films especially to bankroll the film.
  • When the five surviving members (Graham Chapman died in 1989) announced in May that they were reuniting for their last show, Monty Python Live (Mostly), tickets sold out in 43 seconds. More dates at The O2 Arena were added, topped by a live worldwide broadcast on 20 July.
  • From the fame of Monty Python, the word “Pythonesque” is now a word in the Oxford English Dictionary – proof that they have become the very Establishment they previously ridiculed.

The five surviving members of the original line up of Monty Python
Monty Python perform in London in July

  • The famous Dead Parrot sketch was adapted from the Car Salesman sketch, which was written as part of a one-off TV special, How To Irritate People, before Monty Python’s Flying Circus was screened.
  • In 1990, then prime minister, the late Margaret Thatcher, used extracts of the Dead Parrot sketch during a speech at the conservative party conference.
  • South Park’s cut-out animation style was inspired by Monty Python.

Monty Python Live (Almost) at The O2 Arena, July 1-5 & 15, 16, 18, 19 & 20. www.theo2.co.uk