Formed May 11, 1969 – Hampstead, London, England
Often referred to as “The Beatles of comedy”, the five Brits and one American who comprised Monty Python were responsible for completely reshaping what television comedy could be, and having a profound influence on what was to follow. Future Pythons John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle were all members of the Cambridge University Footlights Review at the same time Terry Jones and Michael Palin were doing the same at Oxford, and Cleese met American Terry Gilliam in New York when the Footlights toured there. All six had worked together in bits and pieces on various shows and following a taping of Do Not Adjust Your Set on May 11, 1969 they all met up at a restaurant and decided to pool their creative resources. From that would come the ground-breaking series Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Absurdist and surreal, and with all the rules of how TV is supposed to work tossed aside, it was like nothing anybody had ever seen. Sketches with no ending being taking over by creeping animation, the funniest joke in the world being employed to decimate Nazis in World War II, 15th century Spaniards burst into modern day rooms whenever they aren’t expected. Revolutionary doesn’t quite do it justice.
Their first foray into film was a compilation of scenes from Flying Circus titled And Now For Something Completely Different (1971) which, while many countries had aired the series in some manner, was their first exposure in the American market. The second film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), took on Arthurian legend, and features the epic battle between King Arthur and the Black Night who refuses to back down no matter how many limbs he loses. “It’s just a flesh wound!”. Monty Python’s Life Of Brian (1979) would follow, the religious satire about a common man who is mistaken for the messiah.
Live dates had been sporadic through the troupe’s career, a 1973 tour of the UK and another the same year of Canada, a four-week 1974 run in London resulting in the album Live at Drury Lane, and with the eventual airings of Flying Circus on PBS in the U.S. building the U.S. market, a four-night run in Los Angeles would yield the concert film Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982). The troupe’s final film The Meaning of Life would be released a year later.
Pleas for a reunion were a constant, and while there had been retrospectives over the years there were no real events, until 2014, and with Graham Chapman having passed away in 1989, Monty Python Live: One Down, Five To Go filled London’s 20,000 seat O2 arena for a ten-show run that gave the troupe and their fans a level of closure.